The Wrong Dog
There are plenty of resources to help you pick the right dog for you and your family, including books, breed parent clubs and even good old Google. While there are many factors to take into consideration from coat type to energy level and size, many people end up with a pet that does not quite fit into their lifestyle or family. This can be an extremely stressful situation for you and for your dog. So what do you do when you have the wrong dog?
Scenario 1: The family has had a dog of a specific breed in the past, so they immediately go with the same breed the next time around. The breed description may say that they are active dogs and require plenty of exercise, but that simply wasn’t true of their last pet so they ignore the warning. This could be true of any pointing breed, large spaniel, retriever, etc. The family happily goes and picks up a new puppy and goes home assuming it will be just like their last dog. The problem is that this dog really is active, and it shows in their destroyed furniture and bruised arms. The family is busy with work, school, and life in general and doesn’t really want to get up at 5am to exercise their new dog. They bought the wrong dog.
Scenario 2: A first time dog owner is really excited to rescue a dog and picks out a tiny, tired puppy at a shelter event at the local pet store. This puppy was saved from a high kill shelter in the south earlier in the week. It just got neutered and vaccinated, and the rescue is not quite sure what mix of breeds it is. As it turns out, the puppy was very undernourished and it quickly grew once in a good home it was also feeling much better and was more active than it seemed at the event. The owner had wanted to take this dog everywhere with her, including long trips in a shoulder bag. She lives in a small city apartment with no real room to play and now has a large dog who would rather chew through the bag than sit in it and is not getting enough exercise. She rescued the wrong dog.
Scenario 3: A young family with three little kids recently lost their trusty old dog and is looking for a low-shedding one to join the family. They pick up a small poodle mix that they found online and allow the kids to help take care of the dog. Somewhere along the way, the puppy gets stepped on or picked up inappropriately and becomes scared of the boisterous kids. It now wants nothing to do with the kids, and even nips them. The parents are worried about potential bites, the dog is stressed out and the kids don’t get the cuddly dog they wanted. They picked the wrong dog.
So now these families have dogs that do not quite fit into their lifestyle. They love their dogs, but are not really happy with the situation they are put in and the dogs are unhappy and stressed, as well. What do you do?
First of all, take a step back and realize that in most cases the image in your head is not going to match reality. Not every Lab is going to look like the LL Bean © catalogue’s perfect dog lying by the fireplace and most dogs do not like being climbed on or pulled on by small children, no matter what online photos may show (http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/sue-mccabe/we-will-never-stop-headlines-until-we-stop-photos). In all of these cases, you have the right dog; the dog is exactly what it is supposed to be, it just may not be right for your specific situation or it may not match your idea of the ideal dog. As humans, we can do a lot to change the situation for the dog. There are also plenty of services available for dogs who need a little more than their owners can give them in a given day.
The dog from Scenario 1 for example, may need extra-long runs with a dog walker or to regularly attend daycare to help work through the extra energy and drive. These are things that exist in our society specifically for people and their dogs to help them live more harmoniously. For Scenario 2, While we generally do not recommend buying or rescuing the first cute puppy you see, temperament tests (http://perfect-pooch.com/what-is-dog-temperament/), breeders and foster parents can often tell you a lot about a puppy to guide you in the right direction. Adopting an adult dog takes a lot of the guess work out of these situations, as well.
The dogs from Scenarios 2 and 3 could both benefit from a professional trainer working with the owners to help build a solid relationship and lay the foundations in obedience and confidence. Maybe the large dog from Scenario 2 will never fit in a bag, but they could still accompany their owner to plenty of places with good leash skills and proper socialization.
Whenever you consider adding a dog to your family, it is important to try to pick the right puppy for you and to be sure you are the right home for that puppy. However, if you ever do have the “wrong” dog, realize that that dog may just need different parameters than you originally thought. With a little bit of creativity and shuffling, the wrong dog can be the best dog. If you love the dog you have, it is often worth figuring out the best services or activities for their needs so that you can both benefit. While rehoming can be an option in some situations, it is not always the only option. Training is not a magic bullet that will change your dog overnight, but it can often lead to a more stable and healthy relationship with your dog.
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator