Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Finding the Right Dog

I'm a professional trainer, and please understand this -- people really, really need to research their dogs before they bring them home. Really.

I went through a couple of years in which every single Jack Russell I saw but one lived in an apartment. Why? Because Frasier on TV had a JRT in an apartment, so clearly it was a good idea, right? Uh-uh. That's why all those folks called me to complain that their dogs were eating the couch and clawing the ceiling.... Yes, it can be done, but it's not always the best option.

Likewise the lazy folks who buy a sporting breed, or the guy who gets a guardian or working breed because it looks cool, or the people who adopt a Sheltie or a Beagle and then are surprised when it's vocal. /grin/ Do you know the number one reason people surrender Mastiffs to rescue organizations? "The dog got too big." (Hello, does the name "mastiff" imply anything?)

Seriously, all nasty sarcasm aside, more people should research the breeds or mixes they're considering and honestly evaluate whether or not that's the dog for them.

For me, this was fairly simple; I knew I wanted a Doberman. And not just a Doberman, but a Doberman of working lines. This is a completely wrong dog for most households, but it happens to be what I need. I would strongly advise most clients against this dog, because most clients aren't going to put 25 hours a week or so into training. /grin/

I've had Dobermans before; they are a good match for my personality. A correct Doberman temperament is personable but not sycophantic, not too neotonized, athletic, energetic, alert, and they're absurdly easy to keep well-groomed. I have 33 acres and participate in a number of dog sports, so I can meet their needs, too.

Once I knew the right breed, then I had to find the right breeder. This is harder than it looks. There are two absolutely wrong places to find a puppy: a pet store, and a newspaper ad. You will never, ever find a carefully-bred dog in a pet store. You will almost never find one in the classifieds. If you want the best dog, do not even bother with these venues. There are other, much better options (See my article "Finding A Dog, or, But I Just Wanna Pet!" reprinted here.)

I wanted a dog bred for specific capabilities, so my search was even more stringent. I talked to a number of breeders, telling them exactly what I was looking for. I talked to a number of trainers and competitors. I let breeders tell me that their dogs weren't right for me and refer me to someone else. Finally I found a breeder I liked, who I felt produced good dogs -- Jes Poppelvig & Lisa Schuller, in Denmark.

Denmark, I thought. Well, I don't mind if my puppy barks in dansk.

Lisa and I emailed extensively, allowing me to explain my goals and my criteria (I want a working dog for multiple sports who can also live peaceably in my house, that doesn't have to be kenneled when not on the field). I told her I wanted a female, as I have a male now and working-line males can be known for same sex aggression -- I don't want to live with two layers of separation for the dogs' lives.

Every dog in this pedigree has a Schutzhund or IPO title or is a working police dog. Awesome. They also have extensive health testing, which is very important to me -- who wants to buy a dog who might well have genetic disease? (Lots of people, apparently, judging from the pet shop and newspaper puppy business.) You can see the pedigree and more here.

Because of the strong working heritage and expected genetic influences in this dog, I've taken to calling her "the crocodile puppy" in lieu of a proper name. This helps to prepare everyone for what's coming, though I doubt the name will be equivalent to the reality. She's going to have her mouth on everything! and she's going to go after anything that moves! We'll see what her real name is when she arrives. I have a list of several possibilities, but we'll see which really fits her. She's from the L litter (many working breeders name their litters by sequential letters of the alphabet), so in the style of old novels she would be known as Ascomannis L---.

Shakespeare, my neutered male Doberman, is at the moment playing with Inky, my husband's spayed female Rottweiler. This is notable because I haven't seen Shakespeare actually play with another dog in months. He generally tolerates other family dogs (Inky and my sister's Doberman) but since he's matured, he can't generally be bothered to really play with them.

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