Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wrong Dog, Wrong House

There is a couple in our neighborhood, older than I, and with obvious limitations on their mobility. They have a new dog. It's a mix of some kind, looks like a Labradoodle, champagne-colored, curly hair. They don't walk him, least I've never seen them or anybody else doing so. I might not know my neighbors on sight, but I recognize their dogs. 

The wife can barely make it to the car, and I've never seen the husband on foot any farther from the house than the mailbox.

A young and energetic dog that size needs to be able to move. Maybe they let it out back. They have a fenced yard, and a green space behind it, but I've never seen it there, either.

Now and again, as I walk with my critters, the dog–let's call him "Zeus"–barrels out the front door and charges across the street to see Jude and Layla. No menace, save for young dog enthusiasm. Jude growls at him and Layla yips because he wants to sniff her butt too vigorously, but he's not a threat, he's just thrilled to see another dog. 

The owner stands on his driveway and yells at Zeus to come back, but Zeus pays him no attention whatsoever. 

What I do is cross the road and lead my dogs to his house. Zeus ducks away from being grabbed by the collar, but we can herd him into the house or car and go on about our business.

This has happened to me several times, I've seen it happen to other dog-walkers, too.

I've offered to come by and walk Zeus, but the old fellow isn't having any of that. He doesn't do this unless he sees another dog, the man says. Of course, this neighborhood is thick with dogs being trotted up and down the street, every other house has at least one canine and usually a cat or two.

I feel for the couple. They love dogs and want one. But I feel for the dog, too. What they need is a small critter that can wear itself out in the house and back yard, and they need to train it to come when called. That's the first command a dog needs to know, and it's not that hard to teach it.

Dogs who are kept bottled up in the house all the time will make a break for it when they get a chance, and they are hell to catch.

When experienced people go out to get a dog, they know the breed and what requirements it needs for a happy life. Not all dogs are right for all people. 

There are entry-level dogs that are easy to live with. There are advanced-level dogs you ought not get without researching their needs. Want a Border Collie? Best you have a job for him. Think a Rhodesian Ridgeback would be fun? Not unless you are prepared to hike to hell and gone every day to tire her out. A hundred-and-twenty pound German Shepherd Dog hitting the end of his leash at speed needs more arm than a Puggle, and if you don't have that arm, it will get away. On a wet walk, even if you have the grip, you might find yourself water skiiling. When I had two of 'em, they outweighed me by thirty pounds, and I'm a large-ish fellow. 

If you are contemplating a dog, do your research. Find out what the breed is apt to be like. There are individual differences, of course, but if you don't understand breed characteristics, you will be in for some surprises, some of them unpleasant. If you need to have a good grasp of dog training principles to live with certain kinds of dogs and you don't? You will be sorry at some point until you learn them. 

If you don't want to wake up to a baying hound, then maybe that Beagle isn't for you. Don't get a dog because it looks cute as a puppy. Get a dog that can live the life you live.

Better for you. Better for the dog.

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