Choosing A New Dog


This is Frida, the newest addition to my household. She is a nine week old Australian Shepherd puppy. It took a long time to find the right dog who would be a good fit for everyone. There is Sadie, an almost 9 year old mixed breed dog who is happier with humans than other canines. She also weighs only 13.5lbs and has been roughed up several times by bigger dogs, either on purpose or simply by being stepped on. Then there is Lorraine, a large cat of indeterminate age, maybe 5 or so. She likes dogs, probably more than Sadie. I didn't want a new dog with too high a prey drive who would see her as a chew toy.

I tried a border collie rescue group. There was a dog who looked, by his online description, to be perfect. He was good with other dogs and, "great with people." I drove two hours to meet him. When he saw me, he was neutral, neither wagging his tail or running away. The foster exclaimed that she was glad to see his reaction to me because, "he doesn't like everyone."  When I very gently and politely tried to pet him, he not very gently and politely tried to bite my hand. So much for, "great with people."

I tried for an English Shepherd puppy last fall, whom the breeder said had been well socialized and exposed to lots of different experiences. When I got to her home, I found the puppies had been kept on a porch after the first few weeks, with little exposure to much of anything. I walked away.

There were many trips to shelters to meet numerous dogs and several meet and greets with Sadie. None went well enough that I felt I had found the right dog. I finally decided that, given Sadie's special needs, I would have to look for a purebred puppy that had had a great beginning. One whose breeding and first weeks of life told me I had a better chance of a good fit.

The happiness of the animals already in your household is of primary importance.

I researched breeds and decided on an Australian Shepherd. They are bred to want to care for other animals and I thought I would have a better chance. After a long search and corresponding with many breeders, I found Chris. A half hour from my home and she only breeds when she wants another dog, about every three years. The best possible situation! I got to be involved in their socialization, and got to know every one of the nine puppies. It became more and more clear to both of us that Frida would be mine.

So here she is, in my home for four days now. Lorraine has only had to smack her twice, and really, they were small infractions. And Sadie is playing with her!

The 'moral of the story' is this: Do your homework. Remember that the happiness of the animals already in your household is of primary importance. Bringing another pet in to your home only based on looks or because you like it or only to save its life, without taking in to account how it will affect everyone else, is bad for all involved. This includes the new pet. You may be thinking that you saved a life, but at what cost to the quality of life of all involved? And that includes your own quality of life.

I could have gone to a shelter and gotten a dog I wanted simply because I liked it. I could have brought home a dog that jumped on my 9 year old little dog and chased my cat. And I might have felt too guilty to return it. All of us would have been miserable and for the rest of at least one of my animals' lives, I would have spent countless hours managing all their interactions to prevent disasters, and possibly even the injury or death of one of them. Instead, I did what fit the best for my household at this time.

I know there will be people reading this blog who will disapprove of me buying a purebred puppy instead of getting a rescue. I wish getting a rescue dog had worked out, but this time it did not. I am responsible for the lives of the animals in my home, for both their physical and mental health. Giving them not just a life, but a happy one, is so important.

Whether you adopt or buy your next pet, please do so responsibly and mindfully.


About the Author

Joanne Ometz is a holistic dog trainer in Durham NC. She uses only humane, science based, force free methods to achieve successful outcomes with dogs of all breeds and sizes.