Why Choosing The Right Dog For Your Family Is Critical

August 21 2017

The following is a true story from an actual Bark Busters client - only the names have been changed in case you know my mother-in-law! However, this is a family situation everyone can relate to that emphasizes why choosing the right dog for your situation is critical to your dog's health and future.

Let me give you a little background. I live in Texas and my mother-in-law lives in California. She is 84-years-old and has had dogs all of her life. She's had Pit bulls, Boxers, Labradors and terriers. She's had big dogs, little dogs, pure breeds and mutts. Her last dog - Hannah - was an adorable, senior Goldendoodle she rescued from a shelter. Although she won't admit it (trying not to play favoritism), she loved that dog like no other.

Although she has always lived with her husband (she outlived two) or children, she decided she wanted to live alone at 84. Most of us make this decision at 18, but not my mother-in-law. She decided to exert her independence at 84 and there was NO talking her out of it. Admirable but risky.

I found her a beautiful condo in a senior community. She has a bad back and mobility issues, so I did all the heavy schlepping and moved her in. Then she declared she wanted a Goldendoodle since she also found herself without a dog for the first time in her life. I figured that was a great idea so she wouldn't be lonely and would keep her active. I searched every shelter website across the United States and made numerous phone calls, but there were no Goldendoodles available. I was told that Goldendoodles are "designer dogs" and are rarely abandoned. Switching tactics, I explained there were many other breeds that were perfect for seniors. Nope. She was set on a Goldendoodle.

She contacted a reputable breeder whose female dog just had a litter of "mini" doodles. "Perfect" she thought because then it would be small enough for her to carry around. "Are you crazy?" we all said. "Do you know how much work a puppy is?" "I have nothing else to do," she replied.

Did I mention she has brand new white carpeting and bought a new white couch?

"So how is housebreaking" going I ask after 3 weeks? "Have you put some Astroturf out on your back patio?"

"Yes, I am leaving the sliding glass door open all day and night in case she wants to potty," said my mother-in-law. "However, she likes to pee and poop on the carpeting in the den."

Even though it is a nice neighborhood, I wouldn't leave the door open! I explain about marking and the damage and smell it will create in her carpeting.

"No worries," she says. "I'll just have the carpet cleaners come every month."

Problem #1: Housebreaking.

When she picked up "Lucy" at the breeder she weighed 8 pounds. Within four weeks she weighed 12 pounds, really too heavy for my mother-in-law to actively carry around. She had purchased a crate, but that was too heavy for her to carry as well. I bought her a car carrier so the dog could ride safely with her. The vet is now predicting the dog will weigh 45 pounds ... what is so mini about that?

Problem #2: Size.

She purchased a retractable leash, despite my warning that many people were hurt by them and the dog would have too much freedom. Sure enough, the first time she put Lucy on a leash they ventured downtown. Within minutes the dog pulled the leash out of her hand on a busy street, escaping into oncoming traffic and pulling her down onto the pavement. Because the dog had no training, she did not respond to "come". Although a disaster was avoided and she was able to get the dog to return, a lesson was learned.

Problem #3: Walking on leash.

I have two Labrador puppies who were trained by Bark Busters. I am not too proud to admit that without proper training, they would have been hooligans! They chewed, nipped, jumped and thought a leash was an invitation to walk me. I gently suggested to my mother-in-law that she needed a dog trainer.

"This is not my first dog rodeo," she said.

"Yes, but it's been a long time since you trained a puppy," I said.

"No worries, I bought a whole series of dog training videos," she said.

Problem #4: Recipe for disaster: no dog trainer.

This pair could have been a disaster in the making. My mother-in-law sobbed when we suggested we should rehome Lucy with my sister-in-law, but in the end she saw that it was the wisest decision. If it wasn't for my sister-in-law, this dog would have been abandoned to the shelter and potentially euthanized.

If it was only about love this would have been a match made in heaven. However, my mother-in-law chose a dog that was too big for her, too young for her, too playful for her, and in general, too much for her.

I'm happy to report that we found a senior Maltese for my mother-in-law who was already house broken. She is the perfect lap dog and spends hours nestled in front of the TV and visiting friends and family. Scarlett's days will be spent in a great "forever home".

I tell this tale so that people will understand that selecting the right dog based on your age, exercise level, lifestyle and living accommodations is key. Don't keep a dog who loves to run cooped up in a condo. Alternately, if you're a jogger, don't select a dog that is a couch potato.

Bark Busters prides itself on teaching dogs to be well behaved members of a family. Since your dog will be a part of your life for the next 10+ years (if you're lucky), choose wisely. 

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