Who's your doggy?
11 Jun 2015
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Living space and environment
For animal lovers, there are few things more exciting that bringing home a dog. The love that you share with Man’s Best Friend isn’t often equalled by any other kind of love, the key word being ‘unconditional’. However, as in the case of friendships or romantic relationships, looks only go so far; it’s compatibility that counts in the long run. Before you choose the right dog for you and your family, take a good long look at yourself, your circumstances, and your environment. The Who’s your doggy? column deals with important questions that need to be considered before you bring home a new dog.
In this edition, let’s talk about your living space and environment, and how that should play a huge part in the kind of dog you bring home.
Do you live in an apartment? How big is it? Are there balconies and/or access to a yard or a garden? Do you live in an independent house? What is your street like and how gorgeous (or not) are your neighbours? The most important thing to own when you’re welcoming a dog into the house is, without doubt, a large heart. Once you’re sure of that, you’ll have to start thinking about the practical aspects. If you live in an apartment, pick a dog that isn’t too high on energy and that doesn’t need a lot of running around space.
Pomeranians, pugs, and several types of terriers do very well in smaller spaces, provided they have enough access to regular exercise and walks. Older dogs and dogs with physical handicaps also do well in smaller spaces; these are also the cases where that large heart comes into play. Young and active Danes, Mastiffs, Indies, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Rottweilers, and Boxers do well in houses that have independent gardens or yards attached, because they need the space to stretch their relatively long legs.
And then there are beagles. I receive several calls from people asking if there are any beagles up for adoption. Why? “I live in a small apartment and beagles are small-sized dogs: it’s obvious.” Well, it isn’t. Beagles are scent hounds and will follow their nose to great distances, when allowed to do so. At a pinch, a well-secured yard will give them some sniffing room. This breed is also amongst the most intelligent, and a bored beagle ranks somewhere near a tornado, on the destruction scale. If you live in a small apartment and are away at work for several hours a day, I’d consider adopting out a sedate old Great Dane to you, if you promised adequate exercise, but not a young intelligent hyperactive beagle.
The last point to discuss about your environment, is the humans in it. I am fortunate enough to be renting a house in a building that actually encourages its tenants to have dogs. This doesn’t happen often. Too many under-informed building associations think they have the right to make up rules about pets as they go along and, as a result, too many animal lovers have to suffer these bizarre rules. No pets in the building. No pets in common areas. No pets in the park. No pets in the elevator. No pets, period. Fact is, no building association is allowed to make up these rules and you’re well within your rights to tell them so. You also have to remember that, once you’ve “won” that round, you’ll have to live with these people for a long time.
If you plan on living with animals, choose a suitable neighbourhood at the outset, or be prepared for long, often insensitive battles with people who simply cannot see beyond human existence. If you live in a cranky neighbourhood, consult your local shelter about dogs that don’t tend to bark much. Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, some Mastiffs, Whippets, and Great Danes are listed as perhaps the quietest dog breeds around, but if you’re adopting from a local shelter, you might want to consult the workers there about specific cases. I used to live in a cranky neighbourhood with a really little but really loud Dachshund. Thankfully, the crankiest neighbour also had the crankiest infant who cried all night. Barring exceptionally lucky cases like this, where the complainant also wins the competition, you’ll do well to assess your neighbourhood before picking a dog to adopt.