An un-tapped resource
As dog trainers we regularly see people who have chosen to add a dog to their home that isn't always the best match for them. Our job is to teach them how to live together in spite of the challenges a mismatch may bring with it. Most of the time we can help, but sometimes sadly the dog ends up in rescue instead, despite our best efforts.
What I don't understand is why more people don't ask trainers their opinion in finding the right dog for them. We see and work with more breeds and shelter dogs regularly than they will ever meet in a lifetime. Some of us even live with multiple breeds in our own homes. Not to mention the fact that dog trainers know about dog behavior and breed traits because it is our job to know this information.
I know some people end up with a puppy because they are cute and people can be impulsive, but that isn't everyone. There are also people who go to shelters, or try to find breeders, that do have an idea what they want. Unfortunatly looking at a dog in a shelter can bring up emotional responses and people can then make a bad choice based on that emotion.
Or maybe people don't know how to find a reputable breeder that will tell them the truth about any negative traits of the breed they choose to share their life with. Those breeders also conviently say nothing of the health issues that their breed may be prone to. Non-reputable breeders, who don't do any health testing nor care about temperment, only care about making a sale.
My favorite adoption technique comes from large volume breed rescues. They typically show potential adopters only 3 dogs that they have pulled as the best match for the home in question after an interview with the whole family. This keeps the potential for mismatches at a minimum. I've seen this done with greyhound rescues and a pitbull group. Breed specific rescue groups are also very good at letting adopters know before hand all the breed traits and health issues their dogs can have.
Considering a purebred dog from a breeder? Visit the breeds rescue website first for lots of valuable information on the breed of your choice. If you are looking at mixed breed dogs at a shelter, sometimes knowing what breeds are in the mix can also be helpful for knowing some of the future behavior traits you might expect from that dog.
Slumber parties, or "trial period" adoptions, can also be helpful to see if a specific shelter dog is the right match for your family. Be forwarned though that some dogs take a few weeks to settle in and really show some of their true behavior. We call that the honeymoon period.
This started me wondering, that we can do as trainers to help make people more aware that we ARE a valuable resource in their search? Should we advertise this as a free service? I know I am happy to help people find the right dog at a shelter, or even find a reputable breeder to keep them out of pet stores. Sometimes just a discussion about breed traits is enough information for them to make a much more informed decision.
If you are considering adding a canine companion to your family, or know someone who is, consider talking to some of your local trainers for their opinion. Talk to as many as you can to get as much information as possible. Trainers love to talk about dogs, we love to help dogs, and we love to help the people who also love dogs. Educating yourself before adding your next family member is a great way to make the best start, for all of you.
Tail wags, Marie http://k-9solutionsdogtraininginc.blogspot.com