terça-feira, 23 de junho de 2009

Puppy or Dog: The Debate Continues

As a dog enthusiast and trainer, I have often been asked by people to give them some guidance in regards to breed when looking for a new canine addition to the family. Time and time again, however, when being asked for advice I am asked about puppies. Why? Simply because the vast majority of people picture bringing home a cute little puppy to snuggle with and take care of, not a mature dog. So my question is: why is that? Why do people go in search of a puppy instead of the best overall addition to their family and lifestyle?

I will be the first to admit puppies have a unique draw. They are cute, playful, rambunctious, and lovable. They generally like to snuggle, and there are few things better in this world than puppy kisses or a puppy that has passed out in your lap after a long play session. The problem with puppies, though, is just that. Granted, a lot of people do actually go looking for a puppy, but that cute face and slight tilt of the head has lead to far more impulse buys than not. (Guilty as charged!) I am convinced that poorly thought out purchases are the number one reason dogs end up in shelters. Most people don’t think of the long nights that come with taking care of a small puppy, the numerous feedings, the bad habits that must be curtailed, or the expense involved in bringing a puppy home. They look at the cute face, and it’s over. Then, when the puppy gets too big, too rowdy, or just plain grown up and doesn’t have that same cute fuzziness than brought it into the home to begin with and made you look past all the annoying or destructive behaviors, it is ignored, sequestered to the back yard, re-homed on Craigslist, or taken to a shelter. But let’s even look past that. Let’s look past the impulse buys and cuteness and talk about the real issue that worries those I have had this same discussion with: Bonding.

If you were to pull the average Joe off the street and ask the simple question, “If you were to get an older dog and a puppy, feed them, water them, shelter them, play with and train them for 2 years, which do you think would be more bonded to you?”, I guarantee you the answer you would get is the puppy [which is a false assumption]. This myth is probably the number one reason there aren’t more dogs adopted out of shelters at the same rate as puppies. Think about it. [Adult] dogs are less work. You don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to take them out because they are mature enough to wait an entire night. Most dogs are also at least somewhat house broken, are usually calmer depending on the age, and less destructive because they have matured through the puppy chewing stage that comes with teething. You can also do more with the dog right away: go for runs, play fetch, go swimming. They are almost instant companions. But the misplaced fear that a dog will not bond as quickly or as strongly as a puppy has steered people away from the more mature crowd time and time again, and the loss that results for both the dog and the individual saddens me.

From personal experience alone, I can attest to adult dogs not only bonding more strongly to me than the puppies I’ve had but being an almost instant enjoyment. Of the 6 dogs I own, three were puppies when I brought them home, two were adults, and the remaining dog was already a part of my husband’s household when we met. Of these dogs, which is the most strongly bonded to me? Well, from day to day my opinion changes, but what I can tell you is the dogs I brought home as adults and the one my husband had prior to us meeting lead the pack. In fact, sometimes I think that my first dog, the one I brought home as a puppy and spent the most time with making sure that we “bonded”, is the one that could care the least about whether or not I’m around.

Take the time one day to ask anyone with a true working dog about the dog they’ve had that has bonded the strongest to them. I can tell you that more often than not, it will be a dog that was acquired later in life. It may not have been fully matured, but it will usually be one with at least several months of life if not a few years under its belt. I will say this is also true of most of the trainers I know. Why this is, I’m not exactly sure. There’s a part of me that likes to think a dog that is a bit older is grateful for the good home and attention provided to them, especially when taken from a shelter, because they have not always had the same experience whereas a puppy knows no different. But truth be told, there is no magic answer. All I know is that I have seen firsthand that a dog can and will become as bonded or more to their masters than a puppy. The true variable in the equation is the individual dog and breed, not age.

So, the next time you or a friend start looking for a new canine addition, all I ask is that you don’t disregard the older dogs that could spare you a lot of the work and bring you just as much joy. Although it may not be perfect or have the fuzziness of a puppy, it may just end up being the best dog you’ll ever have.


Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário