Monday, March 26, 2012
Since I was raised with dogs and have never had a time when I didn't have a pet, it's hard to imagine people having doubts or fears about adopting a dog. I do understand the importance of making sure you can handle the dog breed you bring into your home. I've dealt with aggressive dogs, small dog syndrome, fearful dogs and confident ones. To me, it's no big deal, but to someone not as comfortable working with a dog, it is. It's like trying to learn a math formula or anything else. The teacher knows the information and the student wants to learn, but sometimes it's not that easy.
When I think about the dogs I've had in my life, there has been a variety of mixed breeds and purebreds. One thing I know as a longtime dog owner is that it gets better when you take the time to ask questions and learn. I've never hesitated to take in another dog because I am active and they all fit into my lifestyle. I have never met a dog I couldn't handle. So to me, it's hard to imagine hesitation when it comes to adopting, but that's because I've always had dogs.
What got me thinking about this topic was an article written by my friend Julia Williams, where she was pondering her fear of being a bad dog owner. Knowing how responsible and caring she is with her cats, I know she would be a great dog owner, but I can understand where she's coming from. Caring for a dog is different, but both dogs and cats need love, attention, exercise, and a responsible pet owner who understands their needs. In order to have a positive and lasting relationship, it's important to pick the right dog.
No pet is perfect, and neither are we. I've made mistakes over the years with my dogs and then learned the right way to interact with them. It's a learning process we all have to go through. Dogs don't read the “How to be a Good Dog” manual, and we have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and work with them. Don't fear the unknown but rather, seek out answers to bring it out into the open where it can be dealt with and set free.
To ward off behavior problems, we have to be the dog's leader from day one, but I understand why someone might be wary of adopting their first dog and having concerns about taking care of him the right way from the start. It's not hard to love a pet, but it can be hard to know how to correct and discipline a dog so you aren't making matters worse.
People adopt dogs for a variety of reasons and some adopt for the wrong ones. Dogs are not accessories to outfits or furniture. They are not status symbols to make you look cool or something to tie up in the backyard for protection. How can a dog protect you chained to a tree? I've never understood that concept. Dogs have emotions and feel pain just like we do. A dog will be your very best friend for life no matter what, and he wants to be with you, not tied up outside.
If you've researched dog breeds, know why you want a dog, are willing to meet his needs and expectations, and you're ready to commit to training (don't forget the CANIDAE treats!), exercise and learning how to listen to him, then you're ready to adopt.
Never be afraid to bring love and joy into your life. Some dogs can be a challenge, but that doesn't make them bad dogs or make you a bad owner, as long as you learn how to help them. Talk with other dog owners, dog trainers or your vet, or consult with an animal behaviorist. There are plenty of dog lovers who are happy and willing to help solve a particular problem. On the other hand, as long as you lead your dog, most people don't have any problems with their dog. It really is in your hands.
There are wrong reasons to adopt a dog, but there are also many right ones. I almost turned a puppy away two years ago when my neighbor decided she wasn't right for them. I already had multiple dogs and the last thing I needed was another dog. I love all of my dogs, but Keikei found a special place in my heart. If you don't take a chance on a dog, you will never know what you've missed, but you will also never know the power of a dog's love and how deeply they can affect you in a positive way.
Photo by Jens Aarstein Holm
Read more articles by Linda Cole