So you want a dog? Read this first!
Let me just preface by letting you know that I’m not a dog trainer. I’m not an expert in all things canine. I’ve never worked with dogs in a professional type of capacity. So why should you listen to what I have to say? I’ll give you three reasons: Zeus, Kya, and Sundae. We have three different breeds of dogs with three very distinct personalities. I’ve been a stay at home fur mom for quite a while now, and these three have put me through a LOT in the last couple years! No, this isn’t a blog to just talk about my dogs, (although I’ve been known to show people photos of my dogs before I whip out the photos of my kids – oops!😳) but rather this is to let you know what you could be in for should you go and acquire that cute puppy or that precious rescue.
The Large, Dominant Breed:
Let me start with our rescue dog Zeus. He was adopted at about 4 years old, and he’s coming up on age 9-ish. We don’t know too much about him, other than we believe the “rescue” environment he came from was possibly an organization that dealt with pure breed animals, and he was the most expensive at $800. Zeus is a Presa Canario, and he came with a whole big personality. These dogs are impressive in size, regal is an appropriate word for him. They are extremely loyal, and very, very protective. They were originally bred for bringing down bulls in Spain, so you can imagine the strength and alpha personality that takes. These dogs have NO FEAR.
An animal that has no fear takes an owner that has no fear. We discovered very quickly that in order to have a relationship that works with him, we needed to be confident in our ability to be the alphas in our home. It was mandatory that he see the pack hierarchy and respect us as the bosses.
Zeus loves our family, but due to his nature, and whatever he went through prior to coming into our home, he will not tolerate anyone else in his domain. This means we needed to invest in a good, strong (ugly) kennel that sits unattractively in our room. So, if you’re into decorating and having an Instagram worthy bedroom, might want to pass up on large dogs that require large kennels. The kennel does need to go in our room, as we need to be able to put him someplace where we can close the door if need be.
Our lives have changed dramatically since we got Zeus. We cannot just have drop in company any more (oh darn🙄🤪) and if we want to have anyone over, we need to make sure he is secure in his kennel in the bedroom. I now lock the door to keep OUTSIDERS safe. At a weight of 155 pounds of pure muscle, and a bite force of between 500-700 PSI, (pounds per square inch) this dog is to be respected and we NEVER leave anything to chance with him. This could end up terribly for anyone who decides to break into our home.
When we take Zeus outside, we are ALWAYS mindful of our surroundings. Before going down hallways or stairs, I am always listening for people coming up or going down. I make sure that my hand is securely through his leash, and his leash is wrapped around my wrist multiple times so that he is forced to walk very close to me, and this way the leash cannot be yanked away easily should he try to go in a direction he shouldn’t. For the most part, Zeus will walk by my side and not feel the need to protect. However, he does not like men, and he does not like the way older people may tend to shuffle when they walk. When I take Zeus outside, I am sure to let any would-be admirers of this rarely seen breed know that he is protective and does not welcome attention. This brings me to my next point.
Please, please leash your dogs. I beg you. Your dog may be sweet, and obedient, and friendly, and perhaps it can walk freely by your side without any trouble. This does not mean my dog will appreciate your furry friend bounding into our space. I do not want to see anything happen to your precious dog because my dog perceived it as a threat. Although I trust Zeus to obey and I trust my ability to calm him down, there is always that tiny hundredth of a percent that he will use all his strength against mine. It’s never happened, but I attribute that to lots of time spent and a mutual respectful relationship developed over years between he and I.
Zeus has been through dog training with an expert, and although it did help with his pulling on walks, it did nothing to curb his dominant behavior. He’s seen a few therapists, and in the end, it was their conclusion that he was too set in his ways to be able to change his behavior towards anyone outside of his family. There is one boarding place that will take him, due to the fact they are able to have a “hands off” environment for him.
You may ask, “Why do you even have a dangerous dog like Zeus?” Truth be told- I don’t even know. He came into our lives needing love and a home. That’s what I can come up with. That’s a pretty good reason for people who are willing to change their lives completely.
Another small but big thing- if you do decide to get a large breed dog, remember... EVERYTHING is larger when it comes to... well, everything. Big dogs= big shadoobies. Big dogs= large amounts of vomit or diarrhea when they are sick. Big dogs= large bags of dog food. Big dogs also, fortunately, are capable of giving big, slobbery love. Do your research before acquiring a large breed dog, and for the sakes of everyone involved, do not get a breed that you are not ready for.
The Medium Dog:
Kya is our German Shepherd. She came to us one Christmas as a puppy, for our daughter Brianna. Brianna has begged for a German Shepherd for years. After much thought and research, we decided to go ahead and let her have her own dog. We warned her.
Kya is a petite German Shepherd, and sometimes people will ask if she is a mixed breed (she’s not) because of her smaller size. Kya is full grown at almost 3 years old, and she weighs in at 56 pounds of hard to reign in energy! When she was a puppy, we did our best to socialize her. We took her to Pet Smart; we took her to obedience class. We brought her on walks and encouraged people to pet her and give her treats. We did all the right things. Yet she has developed a fixation with Brianna and feels it’s her duty to protect her. This is typical of German Shepherds- fixating on one person in the household. It’s cute, yes, but it’s also maddening.
Kya needs constant dedication and constant reminding. She’s a puller, so walking her is not always easy. We have invested in all kinds of remedies, but her energy and zest for life make walking her a challenge sometimes. She has a tendency to growl at people who cross her path when she is with Brianna. This is maddening as well, and a work in progress. Sometimes she is so focused on Bri, that she would rather forgo eating a meal if it meant being able to be by Brianna’s side in her room instead.
We are lucky in that while Zeus isn’t fond of people, he doesn’t seem to mind female dogs that are smaller than he is. So, he and Kya have a nice thing worked out. She doesn’t pester him, and he lets her live. He has corrected her puppy behavior twice, but he did it with as much gentleness as he is capable of. There were no bites, and no real aggressive action taken. All he did was growl and bark at her once, and another time he got up and bumped her out of the way. Kya has a lot of love to give, and I do believe she would shower Zeus with it if he let her.
German Shepherds are shedders. We have to vacuum every day, or every other day, to keep the fur off our floors. Bri brushes her, but it is never ending. So be prepared to groom your dog constantly if you get one that is known to shed. Kya and Zeus are not allowed on furniture, due to their size along with the dominance thing, yet I still find Kya’s hairs everywhere. Sometimes when she shakes her coat, I see hairs go flying.
Kya is a good family dog and as long as she is exercised, her excitability is more tolerable. She will become destructive if she is left alone without much to do. We’ve gone through 3 kennels, as she is highly intelligent, and is a successful escape artist as a result. She is not afraid of tearing up the floor to get out. I do believe we have that issue solved, especially with her getting out of the puppy stage. It has taken time to get her out of that habit. We discovered that if we left her in the kennel for short periods of time, she developed a security in knowing we WOULD be back, and then we could work up to longer periods of time. Also, a good run prior to her having to be in a kennel works WONDERS. We used to leave toys with her in her kennel, or blankets, but she eats those. We used to give her a bully stick, or a chewy treat, but she gets the runs from those... so we don’t have too many options when it comes to keeping her occupied in her kennel.
(Kya learning to not pull up the stairs)
Unlike Zeus, Kya doesn’t do well with a firm hand. She responds better to a gentle voice and positive reinforcement. If you decide to get a dog, you will have to do some diligent observing to see what your dog responds best to. A dog like Zeus which is a dominant breed will respond so much differently to certain discipline or training than a dog like Kya, or a small breed dog. Which brings me to my final furry friend...
The Small but Mighty Breed Dog:
Sundae is the little Malchi (Chihuahua/Maltese mix) that rounds out our family of canines. Sometimes I forget she’s a dog, because she has cat-like tendencies. (Lounging in the sun on the back of the couch, pouncing on things, tearing around the house in a frenzied manner, hiding under blankets.)
Sundae is my Christmas puppy. Devante is Zeus’ human, Brianna is Kya’s human, and I was left with no sidekick of my own. So, after some back and forth, I decided to bring on the little dog with the big personality. Sundae has been the easiest dog to manage. We have properly socialized her, and although she has the Chihuahua shakes, she doesn’t snap or get aggressive with people. She is a trusting little thing, probably because everyone who meets her falls in love with her. She’s full grown at 2 years and 5 pounds. She has an apple head like a Chihuahua, but the oddly longer body of a Maltese. She sheds. It’s awful. She has allergies, and she requires a special diet. “Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “I thought you said she was the easiest dog to manage???” Well... yes, in that she is friendly. She is plucky. She came to us housetrained from puppyhood, (thank you thank you thank you Jesus) she is a good walker, she listens, and she gets along great with Zeus and Kya. She is the only one we do not have to kennel when we leave, but we HAVE discovered that in order to deal with either boredom or separation anxiety, we have had to tape down the carpet at the edges. She tends to like to tear it up when we leave. But as long as the carpet is taped, she seems to be just fine. It makes no sense but whatever.
She is the most expensive dog. Her food is a certain kind, so it costs about $32 per small bag. Yes, it lasts a long time as she doesn’t eat much, but it sucks to buy such a small bag and pay as much as I would for a bag I would buy for Zeus or Kya. She has to take her pill every day, in order to ward off itching. Her nails grow fast so there is also that. I’m constantly buying her outfits so there’s that too.
Small dogs can be so much fun as they have lots of energy and they are quite plucky. The one thing I would advise about a small breed dog, it’s not necessarily a great idea if you have little children who have a lot of tight squeezes to offer. This can result in a biting situation or create a snappy little dog who would otherwise be gentle and docile if it weren’t for little Gregory and his slobbery kisses and firm little hugs. On the other hand, if you’re ready to teach your child respect and restraint and how to learn boundaries, this may work for you. But I say a doctor visit complete with stitches and a case of the development of Cynophobia (fear of dogs) is not worth it. Maybe wait until little Gregory is at least 5 years old or something, or get a medium sized dog. Sundae is little and a tight hug from an eager toddler could even squeeze the life out of her- quite literally.
Small dogs are not necessarily yappy. I believe this trait can be toned down. It takes appropriate discipline and redirection but getting a small dog doesn’t have to mean your ankles will be a bloody mess or your dog will yip and yap all day. It’s all in what you put into your relationship with your little friend. Or maybe we just got lucky, I don’t know. It’s easy to spoil the small but mighty dog, and I say always be prepared to remind them that you’re the boss. They don’t get to be the queen or king of the castle. Unless you WANT that kind of dog, that’s your business but know that you may be the only one who thinks it’s cute. Most people don’t like badly behaved canines.
Anyway, here are some things to wrap this longer than normal blog up:
- Research your breed before you adopt or buy.
- Always carry doggy bags with you, it’s proper manners and it’s pretty crappy to leave it for someone else to step on!
- Don’t get a dog unless you’re ready to give it the attention and love it deserves. Nothing is worse than a dog spending its life chained up in your backyard or stuck in a kennel every day for long periods of time.
- Invest in a good leash and a good harness for walking.
- Know that there will be illness, and it’s your job to take care of your dog like you would your child.
- Dogs respond well to praise, consistency, and routine.
- Boarding dogs is expensive!
- You will have to walk your dog regularly; they need exercise too!
- Obedience classes can be a life saver and make yours and your dog’s life much easier and more pleasant.
- As far I know, most people don’t appreciate a dog jumping on them the moment they enter your home. Teach your dog some manners.
- If you live in an apartment, maybe think about not letting your dog pee right at the entrance of your building, unless you don’t care that what this says is, “Hi! Welcome to my urine infested dwelling.”
- I’ve had to take dogs out in the middle of the night MULTIPLE times when they’ve had the runs. It’s not fun.
- Food aggression can be a thing. Please read up about it and learn how to make sure this does not happen in your household!
- Dogs will be your best friend if you let them. They don’t care if your sad, mad or happy, they just want to love you.
- You want a dog? Wait a year. If you still want one, go for it!
Friends, thank you for letting me clue you in on all things “dog.” I realize my situation could be very different from yours, and I realize I’m not a vet or a dog groomer or trainer. This is why research is so very important.
Until next time, happy Dog Days!