The Animal Kingdom – give a dog a bone

Jason and I have talked about owning a dog, oh, since even before we got married. I think it was always a given that we would have a canine at some point, likely after we bought a house. We’ve been homeowners for over a year and said dog still hasn’t materialized…and I’ll explain why later on.

Sometime ago, we purchased this book to do some research on dog ownership:

I would highly, highly recommend it. I mean, both of us had dogs growing up but this would be our first dog that we’re solely responsible for. The book is very thorough and leaves room for the inevitable – personality.

Although we have our reasons for not being dog owners yet, aside from a garage cat, a dog is likely going to be the next addition to the menagerie. We’ve started to formulate more specific plans, and although we haven’t actively pursued any of them yet, it’s a common discussion topic for us.

The doggy facts:

Benefits
We don’t live in an intensely sketchy neighborhood by any means, but I think dogs are always a good safety measure for city dwellers. I wouldn’t mind having a dog watching the house throughout the day, or accompanying me if I take a walk on my own.

Boo and I both run on a regular basis (I’m a morning runner, he likes to go after work), and we’ve often discussed how nice it would be to have a four-footed jogging partner. This would be especially true in the winter, when an early morning or evening run would likely take place after dark.

If we ever raised chickens (or children, ha) a dog with some herding tendencies would come in handy. We had a collie/border collie mix when I was growing up that would circle the perimeter of our yard constantly whenever we were outside. She’d then come back and “check” on her humans before doing another lap. She was a great dog, and I never felt scared of being alone when she was in the yard.

And finally, I think there’s a somewhat intangible aspect of having a dog that appeals to both of us. The cat is great, but dogs are great in a different way. They are more attentive. They tend to stick closer to you. They can go exploring and have adventures with you (ever tried walking a cat on a leash? Yeah. It doesn’t work). They bond with you in a different way. They PLAY!

Potential Concerns
Where do I start…for an animal that we both feel strongly about, I do have quite a few concerns. The smell. The shedding. The piles of poop. Getting a dog with a personality that turns out to be all wrong for us. The cat not being able to handle the dog, or vice-versa. The daily commitment, and what do we do with the dog if we take longer trips (weekend trips seem doable with a pooch). Dogs cost a LOT more than cats. Dogs are much more intense than cats. We want a big dog, but I do worry a little bit about being able to control it (I’m a small person, after all). The noise. Potential training disasters. A dog turning out to need much more energy than we have for it. Friends/relatives not feeling comfortable coming over due to allergies.

(I think that’s it…)

Cost/Set-up
Doggie is doing to require a bit more set-up for us. We would like to be able to find a way for the dog to have outside access throughout the day, especially on days that we’re not around much. One thing we’ve thought of is somehow converting the garage into a shelter for the dog and having a fenced in run. All of this costs money; building fences isn’t cheap!

Typical adoption fees for dogs ranges from $300-$400, and includes shots and spaying/neutering. Yearly vet visits probably run around $200, provided there’s no problems or health issues. I have no idea how much food costs, but in an ideal world I’d like to feed the dog a somewhat-raw diet and I know that can’t be cheap. Heck, I know that even regular old kibble can’t be cheap either. The pooch will be an investment, that’s for sure.

Breeds
We’ve had many, many discussions about breeds. Like I mentioned, I had a collie mix growing up and I honestly think they’re some of the best dogs you can own. They’re highly intelligent, they’re useful, they’re playful, and they’re not over-the-top hyper. We also had a doberman and a whippet when I was very young; the doberman was very much a “one-person” dog and so I don’t think that will work for us, and the whippet had too much energy!

Jason grew up with labs and retrievers. Way. Too. Hyper. Not a good fit for us right now (and hopefully never, in my opinion!)

It seems the dogs we’re most drawn to are working dogs – huskies, collies, and shepherds. In all reality, we’re likely going to end up adopting from a shelter, which means whatever dog we get will almost certainly be a mix. A strong dog that can run with us, but not a hyper dog that will demolish the house out of boredom. A loyal and protective dog, but not a dog that will attack passerbys on the sidewalk. An affectionate dog, but not a drooling invasive mess.

Sounds like I’m hoping for the “perfect” dog, huh? Well, in some ways I am. I think that these things tend to work themselves out, to be honest. If we’re patient, we’ll end up with a doggie that’s just right for us and our lifestyle. This may mean that we have to spend some time training it, or that some small aspects of said lifestyle will have to adjusted. But I think it’s worth it. We’re excited to make this addition.

Oh, and did I mention that I think two dogs are better than one? A little dog and a big dog? Well, if I had my way, we’d also be on the lookout for a dachshund or a westie. But one thing at a time is probably a better route to go!

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3 Comments to “The Animal Kingdom – give a dog a bone”

  1. Yea, dogs are expensive…just like you said. But, then again, so are kids, having a home, etc! If you want’em, then you’ll be able to make it happen budget wise. And, dog food is kind of expensive, but you don’t have to use processed dog food. It’s pretty easy to make your dog’s meals, and healthier too! Our dog gets a lot of “scraps” so he has a balanced diet. By scraps, that includes pineapple, apple, strawberries, spinach, blueberries, bananas, etc — whatever is available. Plus, other staples like potatoes or rice and frozen veggie mixes (lima beans, green beans, carrots, etc). There are very few human foods dogs can’t eat. It might be a little pricey (but we get things at costco if we can), but it saves in the long run in terms of preventing health problems.

    You may have already looked around…just in case, though, many rescues and shelters let you spend some time with the dogs first so you can get to know them and find one that matches your personality. I think you’re 100% correct–it’s important to find a dog that matches your personality, needs, and living situation. And (I’m sure you already know this) dogs are like humans — personality is not dependent on breed. It depends on the individual dog.

    For example, we have an Australian Cattle Dog (red heeler) [by the way, have you looked them up…? they’re a herding breed!]. They are supposed to be super hyper and all that. But ours? He’s a total lazy butt all day long, with an all-I-wanna-do-is-nap-on-the-bed attitude. BUT, when we want to go for walks he is ready to go and has plenty of energy to run/walk as long as we want. He also loved, loved, LOVED agility class and was a natural. But, for most days, he’s content with lounging around on the couch. He ended up being perfect for us–lazy when nothing is going on, doesn’t damage the house because of “pent up energy”, and ready for action when it comes.

    He’s also a great watchdog, but loves other people and has never been aggressive to another person. And not a drooler. He will cuddle, but doesn’t really like to be petted. He’s basically a weirdo =) but so are we, so it works. Oh, and ACDs are supposed to be a “one-person” dog, which is not the case with us, either.

    I guess, in other words… I think would-be dog parents are better off just going around and meeting dogs to find one they like, rather than hoping for a catalogue approach defined by breeds. Besides, like you mentioned, if you get a mix, then that REALLY doesn’t work. (and, by the way, that’s my preferred way to get a dog–adopt!)

    Hmm… I think this comes off as lecture-y, which is not my intent. I’m trying to validate and say that you WILL be able to find your perfect dog! Besides, I’m a fan of the working dog breeds, too, especially in terms of size and looks.

    okay and my last comment … and then I’ll shut up … small dogs tend to be harder to control and train — and have way more energy — than bigger dogs!

    GOOD LUCK and hope you get a dog soon! =)

    • Thanks for the feedback! Not lecture-ey at all :). I’m very interested in feeding the future dog more of a raw diet, but my husband is convinced this ruin’s a dog’s manners and that they’ll forever behave poorly in the kitchen. Any thoughts on this?

      Yeah, it’s so true about individual dog personalities. Ideally, I’d like to be able to “foster” a dog for a couple of weeks before formally deciding to adopt. Your pooch sounds like a keeper – hopefully we can find something similar!

      • well, good! I always worry about my tone while writing on the internet. Oohh, fostering a dog would definitely be great! I think that sounds like a good idea. I’m sure you’ll find your perfect dog. I really am!

        And as for my thoughts on raw diet and manners:

        First, more background. We adopted our pup when he was 3 months old from a rescue. Right away, we noticed he had a “sensitive stomach” — the nice way of saying that if he got ANYTHING different than his normal dry dog food, his farts would make us run to the next room for clean air (or worse, he’d have exploding poopfests). It was awful, but we got it under control by feeding him a completely consistent diet. The same dog food (Innova, expensive and relatively “nutritious”) and the same treats. Every time. Always.

        Except, about every 4 months or so, he would either get massive diarrhea or would be constipated. It was awful, and expensive to go to the vet all the time (X-rays for dogs are NOT CHEAP!) Whenever he would get sick, there would be no apparent cause, and we’d have to cook him pain white rice, boiled chicken, and sprinkle in probiotics.

        This went on for three years. Right before his 4th birthday (December 2012) it happened again, but it was the worst it had ever been. We woke up to several piles of vomit, of poop, and both were mixed with blood. What did the vet say? No cause, just an upset stomach!

        So, NOW cue our decision — no more dry, processed foods. From now on, he gets real, whole foods. It’s now been 7 months of him getting what I mentioned above (fruits, greens, ground flaxseeds, rice, potatoes, veggies). Not only has he lost weight, much to the satisfaction of our vet who said, “he is the PERFECT weight! Which is rare to see nowadays.” , he has more energy, and is in LOVE with his food. He got a blood test, and he is in PERFECT health.

        before, we’d put it in his bowl and he’d eat it. that was about it. But now, his behavior is completely changed … he is, I’m sure, scoffed at by other dogs for being a “foodie” =) But, his manners have absolutely tanked. He is relentless! When he smells food like fruit, he wants it. and he wants it bad. But, we never really cared to train him not to beg closely. And for the most part, when we give him the command “settle” if he’s really annoying us, he lays down and just watches us (no drool, thankfully!) and becomes like any other dog I’ve seen beg from a distance. So, yes, I would say be prepared for extra training! But if you get a smart dog (which, you all seem to want) I don’t think it’ll be a problem. I was able to train my dog to play hide and seek, and go for piggy back rides with me (no joke), so if we tried we could train him to wait on his bed while we ate. But he makes cute faces, so we dont bother.

        Oh, and now, his diet is inconsistent. Some days it’s a banana. Some it’s a strawberry. I throw in spinach sometimes, and carrots another. He tries new things all the time. And all of these things are raw (except for rice or potatoes).

        Now, I didn’t just start doing this randomly. Before we officially made the switch, I spent many many nights reading and researching about it (My career is a researcher, so I can’t help but research everything!!). And I didn’t just look for blogs or things like that. I was looking up statistics and actual scientific research. There wasn’t much, but I used it to guide my decisions about my dog and to ensure a balanced diet. So, that’s my first thought — make sure you do the same.

        And my final thought is about meat. Our dog only eats cooked meat, no raw meat. Absolutely not. I looked into raw meat diets for dogs, too. I can see why people are drawn to it–I share the same concerns with processed dog food. There is a lot of misinformation out there about dogs and what dogs “naturally” want. We are told that dogs are like wolves, and in the wild they eat raw meat, and therefore that’s what they “need” because it’s similar to the way “animals in the wild hunt prey and eat it raw.” But such claims forget that dogs evolved WITH humans, to be companions to humans. While humans evolved, so too did dogs — and we influenced each others evolution. In particular, dogs evolved to better eat what humans could provide them, including cooked meat. Also…take a look at “wild” dogs who have to hunt in the wild — they are malnourished! Raw meat is dangerous because of bacteria and parasites. Cooking helps to get rid of the bad. Dogs WILL still get the nutrients, but their body wont have to fight off all the harmful bacteria in the process!

        Okay, now I’m ranting =) but I come across this from EVERYONE, so I tell this to everyone, this too: Dogs are not wolves. It’s important we dog owners remember that, always. What is told about wolves in relation to training/understanding dogs has actually been disproven (for example, all the alpha male crap). I’d recommend reading Through the Dogs Eyes for more. I don’t remember the author, but it was a really great read and was about all the latest research on dogs! Very cool stuff.

        GOOD LUCK!

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