FEBRUARY 2009

HI THERE,

Have you ever though about the reasons why people get a dog and how it often comes about that the relationship between dog and owner does not always work out for the better.

One of the worst ways to select a dog for you or your family is to try and keep up with the latest "pet trends". Although 101 Dalmatians might have been an excellent movie for the whole family, a Dalmatian might not be the ideal pet for your household. Statistics indicate that soon after the movie, 101 Dalmatians, the breeding of Dalmation puppies increased and within a year or so afterwards more Dalmatians than ever before ended up in animal shelters and rescue centers. The same happened after the movies Lassie (Collies), The Dog From Flandres Fields (Bouviers), Jock of the Bushveld (Staffies) and the latest movie about Siberian Huskies.

People apparently think that the puppy they get, will automatically be a Lassie or a Jock and then they become disillusioned when their dog does not turn out to be as good as Lassie or Jock and the poor dog ends on death row at the SPCA. These canine movie stars were trained for their roles. Often a number of similar looking dogs are used to play a specific part, each dog performing only its best tricks. (Who will be able to tell that the Lassie you see on screen is actually played by five different Lassies?)

A dog is not a fashion trend - it is a living creature. Each dog breed (and there are about a thousand different dog breeds!) has its own needs and temperament and might or might not be compatible with you.

Therefore it is very important to do research on dog breeds and find a breed that will suit your individual needs, personality and lifestyle to ensure that the two of you spend the next 10 - 15 years in peace and harmony.

If you are a couch potato, the biggest mistake you can make is to get a dog like a Husky, Border Collie or even a Jack Russell. These dogs have extremely high energy levels and unless you can keep these dogs busy with enough exercise and training, they will eventually drive you crazy.

First consider the reasons why you want a dog: as a companion, as a lap dog, as a hunting partner, for dog sport, for protection? (Or the tragic reason: for your own ego!) Then check out the suitable dog breeds.

A Border Collie will never be just a lap dog - it needs to work. A Chihuahua is perhaps not the ideal choice for hunting. A Bloodhound might not be good at guarding, but boy, can it track! A Husky might be a good running partner, but pretty useless at protection. And size doesn't count - a Jack Russell (small dog) will definitely not be happy in your townhouse garden the size of a postage stamp. Dynamite comes in small packages. (My own favourite: A Bouvier is a good guardian and protector and doesn't shed, but my word - it is stubborn and strong-willed and not as easy to train as your average German Shepherd!)

Once you determined why you want a dog and what breed you like, then also consider the amount of training that specific dog will need and how much training you are prepared to put into the dog. Dogs don't train themselves! You have to make the effort. Some breeds need more training than others. Some dogs will need continuous training for the rest of their lives - not because they are stupid, but because they are just a little more dominant than their more docile canine counterparts, and you have to ensure that you stay top-dog at all times. Your average cheeky Chihuahua can simply be picked up and zipped up in its carry-handbag if it develops an attitude. It might be a little bit more difficult than that to sort out attitude problems with your adult Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd, Boerboel or Bouvier if you have not established your position as top dog in the pack through training. And mind you - dogs are opportunists. You will have to continue working / training these dogs if you want to retain you position as pack leader, or else Fluffy might take over the pack leadership.

If you get a dog breed whose temperament suits your lifestyle and you are prepared to spend time and effort training it properly, your relationship might be a match made in heaven. If you don't do your homework... it might be hell on earth.