The Importance of Choosing the Right Dog

I’ve always believed that the decision to bring a dog into your home could be one of the most important decisions you will ever make and, for this reason, should not be taken lightly. This weekend gone has reinforced my conviction that making sure you choose the right dog for your family circumstances and lifestyle is very important.

Let me explain.

As you already know from Last Wednesday’s post, it was Brianna’s birthday on Friday, which meant a whole weekend of celebration, parties and visitors. There has been a sea of people coming and going to and from our house over the past few days, and one of the things I was the most pleased with was the way George behaved under these circumstances. He’s always happy to welcome family and friends that he knows well, but he’s never too keen on strangers invading his territory. We did, however, have a few ‘new’ guests around our house and George simply had to deal with it.

Since we knew how wary he is of humans and dogs he doesn’t know, we kept a close eye on him during the initial minutes of being introduced to our guests. The last thing we wanted was our dog attacking someone, especially a child. Although we trust him completely with Brianna and her little cousins, you can never tell how a dog will react in new situations, so we were prepared to restrain him if he started to display any aggression. His crate was also ready, waiting for him in the office as a last resort.

But what a good boy George proved to be! Yes, he got a bit nervous, growled a little (in a talking kind of way – no teeth showing) and ran around with his tail between his legs for about 5 minutes. Then he settled down and went to assess the newcomers by sniffing them, accepted a little pat on the head and settled down in his bed. Eventually, he ended up sharing cuddles and kisses with everyone and chasing the kids around. He even decided to join in a little photo session! After all of our initial worries, the challenge of the day was to keep George off the party food, not our guests’ ankles. I was really proud of my furry boy and happy that we did not have to lock him away and he could enjoy being part of the family. Like he should.

Which brings me back to my initial point. It is very important to do your research properly and choose the right dog. When we decided to take this step, Brianna was 5 and we knew that our dog had to have a nice, even temperament and be good with children. This was our number one criteria, especially since I’d heard a few horrific stories of little children being mauled by their family dog. We therefore overruled a lot of breeds, including all guard dogs. Although I am aware that Rottweilers, Dobermans and Pitbulls can make wonderful pets in the right hands – the softest Rottweiler in the world lives around the corner and is one of George’s friends – I’ve always been wary of their strength and propensity to ‘lose their temper’ if little kids poke them in the eye or pull their ears. The damage these dogs can cause is so great that we thought it was just not worth the risk.

We also considered adopting a rescue dog. We visited the local dog shelter and the image of those poor dogs barking and scratching at the windows of their cages melted my heart and is still with me today. We felt that adoption was definitely the right choice for us, but then, just before we made our final decision, a member of our family got bitten in the face by a friend’s rescue dog. Nobody could have predicted that, as the dog knew her well and was used to having her around. One day, however, the dog snapped. Something she did must have triggered that behaviour. Maybe she moved too fast, we’ll never know. But it almost cost her an eye and it definitely cost the dog his family, as he had to be returned to the shelter. This experienced made us abandon our adoption plans, since we no longer felt it was a good idea to bring a dog of unknown past into our young family.

So, we narrowed it all down to a whippet puppy whom we can ‘educate’ and shape the way we want from the beginning, and who can grow up with Brianna and be her childhood companion. This is how George became one of us, and we never regretted the day we brought him home. Last weekend just confirmed that we made the right choice!



Filed under General

25 responses to “The Importance of Choosing the Right Dog

  1. George The Lad

    We had two rescue dogs before George, but this time we desided we wanted a dog from a pup, as you say to educate, I grew up with a lakeland terrier so was well aware of the terriers characteristics, he is ture to this and we love him all the more for it, but terriers are not every ones cup of tea.
    You are right it pays to do your home work first

    • Terriers are, indeed, famous for their stubborness and cheekiness, but I think that’s their charm. I prefer dogs with a bit of temperament to dogs who have nothing to say. Legend says that Whippets were originally bread from greyhounds using terriers, and sometimes I can see some resemblance in George 🙂

  2. One of the reasons that so many pets end up in shelters is because they viewed getting a dog as a spur of the moment thing. They don’t think it through and evaluate whether adding a dog into their life is truly the right thing. They don’t understand the responsibilities of owning a dog (puppies are cute but they are a ton of work). The don’t do the research about what kind of dog they want and what is best for them (obviously some dogs have different needs than others). I definitely agree with you that a lot of thought should go into choosing a dog and bringing it home.

    I’m so glad that George proved to be the perfect dog for your family 🙂 Good job this weekend George!

    • Thanks for the comment, Kristen. You’ve summed up the issue beautifully. Doing things on the spur of the moment, as you say, seems to be a bit of a modern disease – we buy clothes, cars, furniture, food and a lot of other things that we don’t really need just because we feel like it, and we do the same with dogs. The problem is that dogs are living creatures with feelings and emotions, which should be considered.
      You’re right about puppies – just like babies, they are a lot of work. But, as Robin said, you get out what you put into it, so it’s worth the effort.
      As for the perfect dog, I’d say you’d found yours in little, gorgeous, award-winning, blogging champion Bailey 🙂

  3. Kristine

    I am so happy that your weekend gatherings and celebrations were so successful! Our dog Shiva is so not a party-having type dog and we knew that before we brought her home from the shelter. Since we don’t have children and don’t have a lot of people over, we knew we could take the time to work with her to get her more comfortable with strangers. It was a decision we needed to make. Lucky for us, she fit right in to our lifestyle, issues and all.

    I want to congratulate you on making some hard choices and looking within yourselves to decide what dog would suit all of your family members best. Not only did you prevent a potential problem, but you saved a dog from having to be returned to the shelter – or worse. I am so glad you found George at just the right time. He is very fortunate indeed!

    • Thanks, Kristine. I don’t know if George is the fortunate one or us. A bit of both, I suppose.
      Thank you for sharing the story of how Shiva came into your life. I admire the work you’re putting into her to erase the traumas of the past and help her develop into a confident, happy dog. I think she’s lucky to have you and, since she’s a clever girl, she’ll get there. I’m learning a lot from your posts and can’t wait to see what the next steps in Shiva’s development will be.

  4. George must be every bit as suave and debonair in person as he seems in his photos.

  5. Totally agree that doing your homework is so important. My sister volunteers at a shelter in her local area and works many hours every week on adoption activites. She first learns what she can about the dog and his/her needs, then meets, listens, and talks with the potential family. Despite all the efforts, it doesn’t always work out, but as Kristen noted, it is often because the adopting family has not done enough research to understand the full extent of the commitment. It’s a big job and, as with so many things in life, you get out of what you put into it. These wonderful creatures deserve our best. Thanks for the post, Didi. Great message.

    • I admire your sister for devoting a lot of her time to help abandoned dogs find the right home. I think it’s a worthy cause and rewarding activity when it works out. I admired the enthusiasm and passion displayed by the volunteers at our local shelter. If everybody was like them, there wouldn’t be any shelters needed in the first place. I completely agree that dogs (and animals in general) are wonderful, honest creatures who deserve to be treated with love and respect. Thanks for your nice comment, Robin.

  6. lifewith4cats

    a very nice story about how george came to live with you. I plan to do a lot of research before I finaly get my dog. At this point I know I want one known for inteligence. But there are so many kinds of dogs, and each breed is so unique. But that day is a long way off.

    • So you’re slowly giving in to the idea of getting a dog 🙂 I’m quite happy to hear that, and if you make sure you get one who’s been brought up with cats, you should all have a lot of fun together. I still think George would like a cat companion one day, I’ve seen hundreds of photos of whippets cuddled up together with their feline friends, and they always look so sweet.
      As you say, there are quite a few different breeds that are renowned for their intelligence, so there’s bound to be one that will appeal to you at the right time. Collies, German shepherds and Poodles seem to be top of the list as far as intelligence is concerned. I’m not keen on poodles, but I love collies and they were number 2 on our shortlist. The little whippet won, though 🙂

      • I love the personality of poodles and snhnauzers so I hate to say it but looks are also important to me. So they are off the list. There is a dog called Basenji.. I have heard they are most cat like in their ancestry and personality and they have a nice streamlined look. I think that might be the one for me. I am so hooked on this idea of agility that I have been learning from ‘daily bailly’
        A cat for George? Look into a breed called Ragdoll. Renowned for cuddlyness and mellowness. (some say pure orange colored cats are also exceptonaly friendly and easygoing.)

      • I’ve never heard of Basenji dogs, I’ll have to Google the term and see what I get. They do sound interesting, I have to admit. I love streamlined-looking dogs, so I expect to find them very appealing.
        Thanks for the tip about cats. I’ll check that out, too. You never know, I might be able to convince my family to consider getting one much sooner than we’d even anticipated. I didn’t know that ginger cats are more friendly…You sure know your feline friends, cat-woman 😀

  7. Great post Didi. I can tell you from experience that not only do you have to know what kind of dog you’re getting, but people need to realize what they are getting into as far as ownership and care is concerned.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lionel. I completely agree about the ownership and care issue you’re pointing out. I’ve heard of people giving up on their dogs because they require too much grooming or are too expensive to keep. Infuriating, really, since all of this should be considered in advance.

  8. I very much agree with Kristen!

    None of our dogs have been here with us since puppyhood, but three of them have been here since they were quite young. I knew a lot about the breed before we decided, and we took our time deciding on the individual dogs before they came to live with us. I’d say that we’ve done pretty well with our pups and I’m happy to share our lives with them!

    • I’d say you’ve done brilliantly with your girls, Carrie. They’re not only gorgeous, but they’re good citizens, too. You being able to take them into school and them interacting with the kids in such a wonderful way is a testimony to your efforts and the great job you’re doing with them.

  9. Research is so critical when getting a pet of any kind, from anywhere. With a lot of pound dogs, it can get a bit difficult though since so many are mutts [no breed specifications here], with unknown history.

    The other thing I might add is that sometimes, we can do the best research in the world and find that a change in circumstances makes the previously “perfect” dog not so perfect anymore. For example, one of Georgia’s boyfriends was a much loved member of his family until a baby unexpectedly arrived. Monty did NOT like the baby and was unable to make the adjustment so had to be rehomed 😦

    Lately, I’ve had a knee op and The Other Half has been diagnosed with both gout and osteoarthristis. This means that the big walks we used to do with our big dogs are getting increasingly more difficult. Another unexpected change in circumstances and rather sad really. There is every likelihood Georgia will be our last dog.

    A happy belated birthday to Brianna 🙂

    • Thanks for the add-ons 🙂 You make a good point about how family circumstances can change and a dog may no longer fit within it if he/she can’t adapt the the changes. I’ve known a few people whose dogs had dificulties in accepting a new baby, but all of them managed to overcome this problem as the dogs eventually learnt their new role and position within the family. It’s sad when this does not happen and the dog has to leave. I do, however, believe that the new baby has to be the priority in such a situation. The best way to avoid such an unfortunate outcome is to adopt a dog after the child/or children are born, but I’m aware that life doesn’t always work out like this.
      I’m sorry to hear about your health issues, I had no idea. I can only imagine how difficult a nice little walk can prove to be, and I admire you for pushing yourself for your babies’ sake. That walk in torrential rain has suddenly got a new dimension for me, now that I know what you’re going through. Hats off to you for considering not to adopt other dogs after Georgia for fear that you may not be able to give them the active life they deserve. Most people are too selfish to ever think like that. I know of an 80-ish years old woman, who hasn’t been able to go for a proper walk for ages, but has recently acquired a new puppy. However lonely she may have felt, it was a selfish thing to do in my opinion.

      Anyway, back to a happier mood – thanks for the birthday wishes, I’ll pass them on to Brianna 🙂

  10. Bravo, George! It’s amazing how much they can surprise you and make you so proud.

    What we’ve noticed since starting our blog was how many people bag on those who choose a non-rescue dog. While I understand and appreciate their rescue efforts, I ultimately believe you need to do what’s best for you. I’m so glad George fits in so well with your family!

    • Thanks for your nice comment. So far, I haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of being ostracised because I’ve got a pedigree, non-rescue dog, but I’ve heard of people who had been given a hard time on various forums because of this. I think it’s silly, really, as all dogs are equal and, as you say, we all need to make the right choice for us. George is the perfect dog for us at this moment in time. 20 years from now, it could well be a rescue dog.

  11. Sounds like a perfect party, Didi! I love when things work out that way — but it doesn’t just happen by accident. You did so many things right, that I never even thought of. I love that you stayed by your dog when the guests first arrived, just checking him to make sure he and the guests were interacting well, and that you had a backup plan, the crate in the office.

    I was chased by a dog when I was a kid on my paper route. The event turned me away from dogs for years. I was alone, I was on my bike, and that dog tried to bite my ankles as he growled and drooled and jumped and chased me up and down the hills on my route.

    Finally, terrified and panting I swung into the driveway of a house where I knew the front porch would be unlocked, bolted from my bike, ran into their porch, and slammed the flimsy screen door behind me. The dog stood out there and growled for a while, I cried, and finally he left.

    I took the longest way home I knew, to avoid going by the house where that dog lived, shaking and crying and alone and scared. I’d never had an animal try to attack me like that.

    Later on, we learned that the dog’s owners had actually trained the dog, for whatever sick reason, to bite the cuffs of their son’s jeans when they rode their bikes. I guess they thought it was funny. For me, I was wearing shorts, and I had no clue why the dog kept trying to bite me.

    Needless to say, it’s only been in very recent years (this almost-attack was more than 20 years ago now) that I’ve come to realize it’s not the dog I should be afraid of. It’s the owners. Good and conscientious owners are aware of what their dogs are doing, and their dogs are aware of them.

    I know you can’t “control” an animal. But when I see an owner who truly cares about everyone’s comfort in the home, residents, guests, animals alike, I find I can relax a little and actually smile at a dog running around.

    Once I realized that, I started watching the owners as much as I watch their dogs, and if I see a connection between them, I feel at ease, and have even let my children around my friends’ dogs.

    It’s a hard balance, and it sounds like you got it just right. Underneath it all, animals are wild. And we can’t expect them to behave 100% of the time. But as long as we’re paying attention, we can co-exist beautifully like you described at your party.

    • Thank you so much for your contribution to this post, Melissa. That is a terrifying story, and it’s obvious that, even after all these years, you’re still not completely over it. I don’t blame you. The details in which you’re retelling it are so vivid that I was biting my nails. I’m not making it up, I was a compulsive nail-biter as a child and had to work very hard to shift the habit, but it sometimes re-emerges if I’m stresses, worried, hard at thought or fully absorbed in something. Which I was reading your comment. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, it’s all down to the owner to ‘make’ or ‘break’ a dog. I’ve seen dogs of the same breed behaving themselves or being a threat to everyone, depending on how they’d been brought up. It’s like rasing kids, really. Parenting has got a lot to account for.
      Whatever possessed that owner to teach their dog to chase bikes and bite the riders’ ankles is beyond my understanding. “Funny” things like that can have disastrous consequences. Luckily, in your case, it ‘only’ put you off dogs.

      • Hi Didi,

        Thank you for your understanding, and natural sweetness. I’m glad I was able to share this story with you, and even get some encouragement! Though of course I’m so sad you were biting your nails (my husband does that too, and it drives me crazy). Didn’t mean to make you worry — it’s a process. Getting over a fear. And you’re helping! So thank you.

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