Friday, January 05, 2007

Advice from doggie-lovers sought

So here's the deal.

Brian tends to be a lonely kid. He is not very active. When he was a pre-schooler he was the most friendly child I had ever met. He was sweet to little kids. When Hubby's parents took everyone to a dude ranch for a week to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Brian was three and after just a couple of days everyone there knew him. I anticipated him going to school and making friends with everyone.

But something happened, I know not what. He never made a lot of friends. He makes a few, but they don't seem to hang a lot. He tends to be sad.

A couple of years ago he asked for a dog and I finally decided that it might be a good idea. We are a cat family, but he really wanted a dog. I understood -- a dog will come when you call and will give you attention when you want it. Though I have always preferred cats, and we always had cats, I confess that the dog that I had as a child (it was either a Lhasa or a Shih-Tzu) was my best pet ever.

So we looked for dogs at the shelter. We got a dog. She is a Good Dog. Hubby thinks she is fantastic. She is smart, wanting to please, and obedient. She understands and quickly follows the commands: sit; stay; down; off; drop it; come; "where's your ball?"; go to bed; and go away (used mostly in the kitchen). She is learning "bring your ball" (meaning pick it up and leave it by the back door so we can find it next time). She understands "wanna go out?"; and "walk? do you want to go for a walk?" She however is not cuddly. If you are a boy feeling sad and you call her she will sit in front of you, trembling with anticipation, waiting to be told what you want her to do. If you pet her, she will continue to wait to find out what's going to happen. You can tell her "down" and she will lie down, but she won't cuddle. She will continue to look at you waiting to find out if you are just drilling her on her skills or if you are about to ask her to round up a herd of cattle.

So, it was the wrong dog for Brian. He told us he wanted a lap dog, a cuddly dog. I remember when we visited found her in the shelter that she did not seem to be very affectionate and that I was not certain this was really the right one. He was though and I let myself believe that he knew what he wanted. I took a dog obedience class with him. I did most of the work outside of the class, but he took turns during the class. At the end of the class she could heal off leash -- unless a squirrel ran across her path. (After Hubby started walking her that is gone.) Brian bonded to her a fair amount that summer, but she was never really meeting his needs.

So, now, two years later, he is asking for another dog.

Here's my issue. On one hand I am willing to get him a dog. However, I am concerned that I won't be able to find the dog that he wants. I am not worried that the dog won't get fed, because I am prepared to feed it. I have very realistic expectations about his skills in that area. The dog will get plenty of attention, and we have a decent-sized back yard. My concern is that the dog won't attach to Brian the way he wants. I am afraid that Brian's feelings will be hurt if the dog doesn't think that he is the most wonderful person in the house. I am nervous that the sort of devotion he wants is the sort of thing that exists only in dog movies.

There is of course the additional consideration of the needs of the current dog and cats. The cats already get along with the dog, so we just need one who will return the favor. The Cattle Dog can be quite aggressive to other dogs she has met when walking on a leash, but has got along very well well with male dogs she has been able to play with loose in yards. Female dogs however are another story. Our dog once spent two weeks of our summer vacation at a doggie kennel that had private kennels (10x10' rooms with 10x15' runs) and a large common kennel. The owner reported that our dog did fine in the common area, although she and the other female Cattle Dog had to take turns because they would not get along with each other.

Every cat or dog we have ever had has been a rescue. The shelter for this county and the one near The City are both pretty good. The local shelter now has some sort of animal behaviorist. Before you can even visit the dogs you have to fill out a questionnaire and they are very good at telling you that they don't think any of their current dogs fit your needs. (This Hubby and Brian learned last week. Whether they are equally good at telling you that some dog WILL fit your needs is yet to be seen). The shelter at The City will let you fill out a special request sheet. Brian has filled one out that I have not yet mailed in requesting a male, cuddly lap dog of any breed or mixed-breed.

I've done some on-line research and found this article on testing the temperament of dogs in shelters. The author is controversial but I am wondering if the testing method would be helpful in our case. The Cattle Dog would not have passed the test, and she is a wonderful dog. I am thinking though that a dog who would pass the test would be a good dog for Brian.

So...those of you who have had lots of experience with dogs, what do you think? Is the test in that article a good one? Is there a better way to test dogs? Is it likely that if we are careful we can find the lap-dog that Brian wants so very much or are we going to end up with another family dog and a boy who still wants us to find the right dog?


  1. Read some of Cesar Milan's stuff on dogs and dog training.

    As for what kind of dog, I'm partial to Lab crosses. Don't get a pure one, because they are big dogs that need a lot of food. Get one that's crossed with a smaller breed.

    I had one for 16 years and she was a great dog. I had her all through college and she was just the right combination of play, affection and obedience.

  2. Anonymous10:55 AM

    I agree - a lab mix would be my preference- and believe it or not I have found my male dogs to be more "loving" then my females - besides it always works better to have one of each sex as opposed to 2 of the same.

    Now comes the part you don't want to hear --- you need a puppy - yes sorry this is the truth - a puppy that can sleep in Brian's room and bond with him exclusively at first -- a puppy will come to you seeking affection -- Brian will become mama --

    Good Luck!

  3. This is my life!
    Honestly how do you think I ended up with 4 freaking dogs!

    Just kidding, to a degree but as short as I can make it:
    BB our oldest was 12 when our old dog died and we got a new one, only it was not cuddly at all. Lovely animal just not interested in that kind of thing and frankly fairly reserved anyway.

    Talked and talked with him about what he wanted. Made him do research with my help about the kind of dog he thought he might want. Went out and met people with that kind of dog (dachshund-sometimes referred to as a hot water bottle dog). Then when we finally figured out that was what he wanted and would be appropriate we sat down together and wrote out a letter (he was responsible for a large chunk of it) outlining what we were looking for and why.
    Someone to cuddle with when he was reading, someone to sleep on his bed with him or at least in his room, someone who might like to play and walk with him sometimes and someone who had silky ears just like the dog that had died.
    We also decided against a puppy because it was just too much work for a 13 year old to be expected to handle.
    We sent the letter out via email to all the breeders that we could find online and to rescue groups )that we could feasibly drive to and from in a day or so.
    It took a few weeks but we did find a GOOD breeder that was interested in placing a retired show dog (who had been raised with kids in their family). This was a woman who was as interested in finding the best family possible for her dog as we were in finding the best dog possible.
    After some long email conversations and about a month elapsed waiting time (neither of us wanted to fly the dog and the timing to meet up took a while to arrange) we finally got my son's dog.
    she was terrified.
    My son petted and talked to her non stop for the whole evening that they were together and then stayed with her in his room for nearly the entire next day and night.
    She growled (not in a menacing way but in a "I'll bark if I have too!" way) almost non stop. BB stayed crouched on the hard wood floor by her kennel for hours and hours. I would bring him food and drink and he would occasionally dash off to the bathroom.
    When she felt more comfortable in the house, he realized that he had to carry her up and down our stairs because she just couldn't do them.
    What at first seemed like a liability became a real asset because it opened up a whole new area of physical bonding.
    That was three years ago.
    She is a member of the family but still very devoted to him specifically.
    Although I had to do some of the care for the dog, because she needed someone so badly when she first got here and becasue he was willing to step up to the plate and do it - it has become something special.

  4. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Maybe you and Brian could research breeds you think would be good, and then contact rescue societies for those breeds. Typically, with a breed's rescue society, the rescue dogs are fostered in people's homes and the dogs' "foster parents" can tell you a lot about the dog's personality. My mother has gotten three minpins from rescue, one of whom is pretty cuddly and another who is such a cuddler she demands to be held and petted by everyone. (I wouldn't recommend minpins necessarily though, many aren't good with cats.)

  5. We were actually looking for a small dog when we came across ours and it all came down to temperament and intelligence. Certain breeds are more people friendly and trainability will always be a top concern for me.

    One concern might be that 2 dogs will behave in a more "dog-like" behavior. We thought about a 2nd dog at one point but after dog-sitting one weekend we realized that it was way too much to handle.

  6. What about finding a pet through a pet-fostering family? The family who is currently sheltering the dog would have a really good sense of it's temperment and cuddle-factor.

    We have 2 lab mixes and while both are very friendly, the older one is TOO cuddly. I would actually define her as completely needy - which isn't all that fun.

  7. From my very humble personal experience with dogs, as pets and showing, a lot will have to do with the personality of the individual dog. I've seen labs that were not cuddly and I've seen rotweillers that thought they were tiny lapdogs who needed to be held.

    The other thing is just like with people dogs know who it is that really cares for them. Gawdessness had a great example of this. So maybe timing the new addition for a vacation when he can really have a lot of time to bond.

    Just my humble thoughts.

    PS Like the Yondalla graphic.

  8. i've always had doberman's who were convinced they were teacup poodles. they were gentle, sweet, fun and funny, but that's probably way too big. i agree about the lab mix being a really good size and it would probably be really friendly. bad, sad news is that you need to get him a puppy that he can bond with from the get-go. the pup can be crated during the day and will do just fine. males are just as friendly and will get along better with your female than another female. good luck!


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