by Cheryl Smith, DVM
What do you see when you imagine a dog in your life? A majestic protector? A fluffy, animated lap warmer? A serious, thoughtful companion? A partner in hunting, herding, search and rescue, or competitive dog sports?
One of the miracles of dogs is that they are genetically malleable enough to have been developed to do many “jobs” as well as provide companionship and partnership that fit the needs of many different situations. In fact, within certain job descriptions, there are a variety of sizes, body shapes, hair coats and temperaments to further hone in on the perfect dog for a particular person.
Unfortunately, despite the incredible choices, many people pick a dog without doing their homework. A cute puppy is picked out without any idea of its potential in ways of coat care, size, training challenges, exercise needs, and physical limitations.
One example of buyer’s remorse would be the family that goes to the pet store, sees a cute English Bulldog puppy, forks over a lot of money and they take home an adorable sweet puppy. Unfortunately, they did not consider that this dog will probably have high maintenance needs. They did not study up on the breed and learn about likely airway problems, skin troubles, orthopedic problems and absolute heat intolerance. Now they have a financial burden they were not prepared for as well as a dog whose quality of life will suffer without a lot of money, time and planning to accommodate their beloved pet’s needs. Additionally, with a little research, they could have found a knowledgeable, reputable breeder of quality bulldogs who would have been able to educate them on the breed's history, current trends in health concerns, and tips on how to obtain, raise and maintain a happy bulldog.
Another example is the single person who wants a dog and decides on the very cute and wiggly mixed breed puppy at the pound. Its heritage is unknown and isn’t obvious by its appearance. As it turns out, the puppy ends up being a very active, exuberant, perpetual motion machine and the owner works 40 hours a week. They imagined a calm buddy to walk or jog with after work and a friend to sit with after a challenging day at the office. They were not prepared to need to devote several hours per week to exercise and training just to keep this dog mentally and physically fulfilled. Also, as the pup matured into an adult dog, the coat grew out long and curly, requiring either hours of brushing and combing to keep it healthy and looking good, or to be professionally groomed every 6-8 weeks.
Those are just two examples we see every day. This is one of the reasons dogs end up in the shelter, or back in the shelter. Often the person or the dog is blamed, but really, who ever sold or agreed to place the dog in a particular situation is equally responsible for the placement failure.
For Part 2, see here