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Why A Christmas Present for a Dog Lover Should Not be a Dog – or Puppy

When I was looking at Pets listings on Craigslist, I saw this ad:  “Cane Corso puppies available for their new homes. They would make a great gift for the Holidays.”    You know that feeling you get when you see something that you know is going to end really, really badly? It’s a plummeting blood-pressure dizzy lightheaded feeling. All the reasons why it is wrong to give a dog as a present whipped though my brain like a flash slideshow. And not just any dog. Proposing that an aggressive, dominant breed like Cane Corso would in any way shape or form make a great Christmas present for a dog lover, is so “over the top.”

Cane Corso is a hard dog that affords his master great protection. If he senses danger, he will take matters into his own hands. Cane Corso is not a beginner dog owner’s dog, for sure!

We’ll get to the specifics of a Cane Corso or other experienced-dog-owners-only breeds in a bit. Let’s discuss the general reasons why great gift for the Holidays should not include dogs or puppies.

A dog is a 7-18 year commitment

Assuming the recipient is the responsible type, you are about to saddle him or her with a 7 to 18 year commitment.

Let me assure you: If you gift ME a dog, I will haunt your grave. Forever.

This is the face to make If someone gives you dog as an unsolicited present

Is the soon-to-be new dog owner ready to socialize and train a dog?

If the dog is a puppy, that friend or relative gets to spring into action to properly socialize and work to provide basic obedience training for that puppy—a commitment that will require daily energy for a period not less than one year.

… There’s potty training.

… … There’s basic obedience training.

… … … There’s etiquette training

  • Do not eat the cat…
  • Do not jump out of a car window…
  • Do not eat the USP delivery person…
  • Do not jump on the nice old lady wobbling behind that walker.

Dogs must be taught never to exit a car without a clear command to do so.

Is the new owner set up to receive a dog? … And how does the rest of the family feel about having a dog?

Before getting a dog, a proactive person has a chance to prepare his or her house for the new dog.

Does your recipient have a secure fence, or will the dog end up on a chain in the back yard?

Is the dog already housebroken? If not, does the new owner have a crate? Enzyme cleaners? A carpet cleaner?

Has the new owner ever had a dog or puppy? What will s/he need in order to create a successful relationship with the new dog?

If the dog is an adult, is he well behaved? Will he get along with the other pets, guests, and members of the family? Even if the new owner is equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to reform a dog, is s/he prepared and willing to do so?

Will this dog fit with the new owner’s plans? If s/he wanted to do agility training, a Borzoi may not prove to be competitive with an Australian Sheepdog. If Lure coursing was the sport of choice, then the Aussie will be outpaced by the Borzoi. And not all dogs are created equal anyway.

There was a fun episode of the Beverly Hillbillies that ran the gamut of dog enthusiasts vs those who view dogs as a giant nuisance.

Your enthusiasm for a dog or multiple dogs may not be shared with your intended recipient!

Does the new owner work? If so, how much time will the new dog have to be around people?

Whose fault is it when the dog trashes the house? (Hint: Not the dog’s)?

Are there other animals in the home? If so, will this dog get along with them? And will they get along with the dog?

Before anyone gets a dog, it is best to consider what other pets are in the home and what pets might be in the home in the future.

While there are exceptions to every rule, there are some breeds that get along marvelously with other pets. But then there are others — my favorite, the Bouvier, for one– that do NOT get along with some other species. Some rescue/ shelter websites address compatibility questions such as whether or not the dog:

  • Gets along with children
  • Gets along with cats
  • Gets along with other dogs

… From those notations, you will begin to recognize a pattern. I don’t know if anyone has ever conducted an official survey, but I am pretty sure the Bouvier would rate in singe-digit percentile as a dog that is marked as one that “Gets along with cats.”

And again, that does not mean that every dog in that breed will follow the norm. But it should raise red flags if you have or plan to have children or other pets.

Do you know enough about the breed and this dog to ask the right questions?

If it is a puppy, find out all you can with regard to these issues:

  • What is the breed and pedigree of the parents. (On Craigslist I found a listing that stated, “The complete bloodline breakdown is 75% German Shepherd and 25% Labrador.” This is NOT the lingo of a responsible, purposeful breeder.)
  • What do you know of the breeder’s reputation—What details do you have about his/her breeding program, attitude and action with regard to disease/ hips, etc. testing of the puppy’s dam and sire, vaccination schedule. (If you have not already done so, read my book, Canine Hypothyroidism: Detection, Diagnosis And Prevention in which I discuss vaccinations, medications as well as breeds that have high rates of thyroid disease.) This book will give you a number of “heads up” warnings about things that can damage the endocrine system. Be proactive. Don’t damage the endocrine system.
  • How did the breeder structure the socialization program for the puppies, (or was there a program at all?) See the next post to read about the importance of proper socialization for puppies age 3 weeks to 12 weeks. 

Do you have a list of questions you should ask when considering an older dog

– Why are the previous owners letting him go? What are this dog’s vices? Typical reasons include:

  • Fearful of children, of men, of women, of strangers, of other pets
  • Aggressive – toward dogs, or cats, or farm animals, or children, or men or women or the owner…
  • Destructive – chews up everything
  • Not housebroken
  • Behaviorally out of control
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Cannot be controlled
  • Cannot be contained
  • Is an “illegal” breed for that city

What does your friend / family member know about this breed?

Dog Breed Characteristics may not match the person you are giving the dog to

My first dog was a Shepherd-Husky mix that we found at a pet shop when I was ten. He was my inseparable partner as I grew up. He disappeared at 5:30 a.m. in Seattle on March 30, 1979. I was devastated. A three-month search failed to turn up any sign of him.

When I finally conceded failure, I adopted Buck, the 6 month old GSD/Lab mix. He was as committed to his previous owner as Baron was to me. For years, Buck dragged me across streets whenever he saw a tall, thin man in a business suit.

Buck was brilliant. He had a powerful vocabulary and sophisticated comprehension of English. However, we were ill-suited.

It is not that he was not a good dog. In fact, he was a great dog. But temperamentally, we were not a good match. He was too happy, too playful. He was a classically terrific Lab!

But I wanted a more serious, down-to-business type of dog.

Years later I would find Wayne Curry, who was then breeding exceptional German Shepherds of European lines. I would meet all the puppies at 5 weeks old, hold one of them for 20 minutes and return 3 weeks later to bring one home.

I am pretty sure that the puppy I held at 5 weeks old was the one who chose me. I threw my little change purse over and over and over again, and she raced her brothers and sisters to that purse, grabbed it, and returned it to me every time.

Echo was the ambassador of the German Shepherd breed – a dog with the finest temperament I have ever known. No one could have picked out that dog for me. We created that bond from the time we met and selected one another.

When the horses were turned out to graze in the high country, Echo could always find them.

Please do not deny your friend or relative that honor.

And to bring this all back to the Cane Corso. You, yourself, may not be knowledgeable about the dog’s breed in terms of typical hereditary illnesses, or breed temperament tendencies.

Cane Corso is not a breed for a novice dog owner.

Cane Corso is a breed I might consider once my Bouvier is no longer able to protect me. They are one-man (or one family) dogs who view outsiders as potential threats. They have fewer qualms of defending their people than even a Bouvier has.

They are absolutely not a “beginners” dog as they are not touchie-feelie, love-peace-tie-dye dogs. They will attack cats, small dogs, and uninvited intruders, and their large size and solid body means that if you have not gained full control of this dog when he was a little sprout, you will have your hands full and your shoulders dislocated if you wait until he is a year old.

And THIS is the dog advertised on Craigslist as a dog that would make “great gift for the Holidays.”

How to Chose a Dog for Your Personality and Lifestyle

In K9 Well Being’s newsletter, I provide resources that can help readers make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a breed of dog that will best suit them.

As we grow older or our living situations change, so might our choice of dogs. For example, a high-drive dog may have been well suited to a life on the farm, but if you sell the farm and move to the city, that breed may not work out very well in an apartment in the city.

In our last post I spent a little time discussing the breed, Cane Corso, saying that this is not a breed for a novice owner. But if I were a single woman living in a dicey area – and I had a sound foundation training hard-dogs- this is a breed I would seriously consider.

If you are unfamiliar with the attributes of a breed, do your research. Physical attraction is only a part of your relationship equation with a dog.

My favorite breed of all time is the Bouvier. They’re like a non-whining, standoffish, stoic-to-a-fault European German Shepherd.

My first Bouv, Alice, was 12 when she did something she’d never done before.

My mom was visiting the ranch when Alice dashed after Molly-Cule — the little Jack Russel- Chihuahua mix. They ducked under and electric fence to chase one of my mules.

Molly-Cule missed the strike, but that mule nailed Alice. Broke her humerus bone. But Alice did not yelp. She did not whine. The only reason I knew she was hurt was that she broke off her chase and slunk discreetly into the horse trailer. If she’d been any of my German Shepherds, there would have at least been a quick yelp. The word “stoic” is quite the understatement for a Bouv.

My Bouvier, Alice, was a wonderful trail-mate… but she began that training at 8 weeks… and had additional mentorship with Echo — A GSD who was truly the ambassador for the breed.

I don’t want to be around a dog that whines, begs or pesters me. I want a dog that is laid back and easy going, yet will hup-to when duty calls. Bouvier, Wil, and I spent a few hours one afternoon (in 100 degree heat) moving our bull who had fallen in love with a neighbor’s heifer and was intent on tearing down all our fences so he could go say howdy-do.

That was a grueling afternoon. But a Bouv is a partner, and he will stick with you like a European Shepherd to “get’er done.’ Dang near killed us both with heatstroke.

I want a dog that will be my back up.

One day, Alice (age 15) , Wil (age 7) and I were south of Seattle at a car wash in a run down part of town. Some vagrant-looking guys approached me as I was putting things back in my truck after vacuuming it. The dogs were tied to rhododendron bushes in the shade.

“Lady, want some help?” one asked.

“No thanks.” I said

But they kept approaching. And I knew they’d heard me.

“Lady, want some help?” the same man asked again.

“No. Thank you.” I said.

But still they advanced.

“Stop!” I said forcefully, putting my hand out like a traffic cop. They did stop.

“Look at the bushes,” I said. My gaze followed my finger, and what I observed caused white tingling fear spread to across my body.

Wil was on high alert. He drilled into those guys with a look that said, “One more step, I’m taking you out.”

Not everyone wants or needs or wants a dog for defense. Some people want a companion to jog with. Others want a companion to watch television with. Some want a dog to do some sport with – dock diving, agility, lure coursing, dog sledding, ring sport…

Do you want a sports dog? A hunting dog? A companion dog? A defense dog? Choose carefully!

Whatever your reason is for wanting a dog, it is best that you identify that reason. And then do some research. Find out if that breed is suitable to your needs.

And even if you are not searching for a purebred, it is still a good idea to do your needs assessment and best-fit breed exercise.

In the case of mixed breeds, keep in mind that the dog may look a lot like one breed, but have the temperament of another. You cannot judge these “books” by their covers.

For example, let’s say that you find a basset hound – Labrador mix. He might look a whole lot like a lab, but if he has the basset temperament, he surely will not act like one! You’ll likely have a kind-hearted, hard-to-train, independent minded, loves to follow his nose dog.

Mixed breeds may not exhibit the temperament or disposition of the breed they most resemble.

Maybe he looks like the basset hound, but has the Lab temperament? Then he will most likely love kids and people, be naturally pretty good with other animals, be a wonderful, fun companion. He’ll be protective without being a menace. And he’ll always be up for playing outfield when the kids are playing baseball.

If you understand the breed characteristics of both, you may be able to project an educated guess about the kind of dog he is. And in doing so– if you are familiar with breed temperament characteristics– you may be able to determine whether or not you two will be a good match.

Of course, besides temperament and disposition, there are other things that you need to consider:

What size of dog will work best for your lifestyle?

  • Tiny?
  • Medium?
  • Large?
  • Huge?
  • How large is your house? Yard? Car?
  • Do you need to transport this dog?
  • Can you afford to feed a large dog?
  • Is this breed prone to disease, hip problems, or other medical issues?
  • Will his job (such as being a livestock guardian, for example) require a large bodied dog?

Golden Retriever with Chihuahua-Jack Russel Terrorist friend

What are the challenges of your dog’s hair or coat?

  • What is your tolerance for shedding?
  • Are you allergic to dog hair?
  • Do you like the feel of a short-haired dog?
  • Do you have the patience and/or financial means to manage the coat of a long-haired dog?

A coat like this can be a challenge in some climates (i.e. wet and muddy), vegetative habitats (eg. cheat grass, hounds tongue)

Fleas and ticks … and dogs

Environmental concerns: Is “Where you live” conducive to the dog you want?

  • Is the dog large enough to hold his own with coyotes or other wildlife or savvy enough not to pick a war he cannot win?
  • Are there weeds, such as cheat grass, that will cause harm to the dog unless monitored with some degree of obsession on your part? With the dog’s coat be resilient against such plants? (Labradors are; Bouviers are not.)
  • (My vet found a cheat grass blade WAY down in Alice’s ear canal! He also found a tick way down in her ear canal!)
  • Is the breed of dog you are considering illegal in your city or county?
  • Is your climate suitable for this dog?

Will the dog pose a threat to other people or animals that share your world?

  • Will this dog get along with other animals you have or plan to have?
  • Is this dog safe with children?
  • Will this dog be a safety hazard to old people who have mobility issues?

Dog aggression can be a factor of temperament, inadequate socialization and/or training, as well as thyroid disease! CLICK HERE  to learn more.

If you find that the dog you chose is not working out for you, it is okay to re-home him. I have done this twice in the 50 years I have owned dogs. The first was Buck – the Shepherd – Lab I mentioned in my previous post. Buck was one of the finest dogs I have ever met. But we were not “soul mates.”

Buck loved his rabbits. In fact, each time a litter was born, there was no way to pry him away from his job as guardian angel to the kits.

The second was a little Chihuahua – Jack Russell Terrorist mix. A visitor to the ranch fell madly in love with Miss Molly-Cule and asked if he could have her. She went on to be his service dog and the two are 100% inseparable. She adores him and he has gone to extreme lengths to protect, defend and care for her.

Molly-Cule — Queen of the Jungle!

In both these cases, these dogs were better suited to their new owners than to me. In the end, I was just a sort of conduit to spur them on to the people they were meant to be with.

There are a number of “breed selector” tools online. Dog Identifier has a “round up” of eight of them:

Dog Breed Selector Tools: Find Your Perfect Dog

In my email newsletter I told readers about the ones I took that provided the most authentic results. If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter, simply drop a line to Info@K9WellBeing.com and ask to Subscribe to the Newsletter.

Dogs in Hotels- Tips for Being a Welcomed Guest

Over the past few months while relocating to the wet-side of the State, I’ve found myself staying in a resort motel just outside of Tonasket. I’ve been honing my “materials list” for things that I have found to make traveling and hoteling with my Bouvier team a better experience.

Guardian Gear Cotton Web Dog Training Lead 15’x5/8″, Green


Because Alice is 98% blind and deaf, a leash and tether is essential. Were Alice a chewer, my tether would be a cable, but she’s not, so Wil’s 15 foot long-line works just fine. I use this when I’m loading or unloading the car. I tie her to a picnic table in the front yard of my rented unit. If you do this with your dog, be sure that a few things are true:

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Training aids: 6′ Leash and a Choke Collar

Training your dog to walk politely on a leash may require a new tools– a 6′ leash and a choke collar. Such is the case with Wil and me. We are ratcheting up our obedience expectations. And with that we needed two tools that we ordinarily would not use: A choke collar and a leather leash.

The Fierce Jungle Animal!

The Fierce Jungle Animal!

Wil is the third of three dogs I ever got over the age of 8 weeks of age. One was Buck, about whom I’ve written in another post. Another was a little 8 pound Jack Russel Terrorist- Chihuahua mix. In all the years I had either of them, their early leash-training (i.e. “lack there-of”)  left “ghosts” of behavior. In other words, when it suited them, they resorted to pulling my arm out of its socket. (Yes, even the Fierce Jungle Animal!)

Such is the case with Wil.

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Halloween Contests and Parades for Dogs

It’s that time of year again– Time for goblins, princesses, pirates, and three-headed Chihuahuas to take to the streets!


Three-Headed Chihuahua — Image courtesy of Petful

If you’re one to celebrate or participate in Halloween festivities you might check this out to see if there is an event near you: 2015 Halloween Events .

I’d like to point out a few things that will help keep you and your dog safe.

If you head out with your dog to partake in Halloween events, keep an eye on your dog for signs of stress.


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Wil Puts Dog-Aggression aside as we’re Herding a Heifer

I am selling my ranch, and as I’m not sure where I’ll land or when I’ll be settled, I must sell my cattle. This is a difficult thing to do, for over the past 4 years I have come to regard cows as honorable, spiritual beings. I will miss them.

And so will Wil. They have been instrumental as (Alice and I) have worked to rehabilitate this now 6 year old Bouvier to assume responsibilities of a working ranch dog. One of these skills is herding cattle!

Mab- Still on the Ranch with Moo Friends

Mab- Still on the Ranch with Moo Friends

Late yesterday morning we set up a loading zone and ushered Mab, a one year-old heifer, into the trailer. She went in quietly. I took her to East Wenatchee to her new home. Her new owners had prepared a 4-strand barbed wire fence that was about 150×150 feet. When I opened the door to the trailer, she hopped out, looked around, and started bawling. “Moooooo???” she called. “Moooooooooo!” – Where are my friends? Where is my family? Where am I? HELP!

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