Tuesday, January 15, 2008


It's no secret that I'm not much of a pet lover. At best, I'm a pet tolerator. It's not that I have NEVER loved a pet. Oh I could wax poetic about how I used to love to ride our beautiful and fast horse, Prince. I could probably even conjure up tears - or at least a lump in my throat - if I thought long and hard about what it was like to lose Curly, our longtime family dog. And I remember with fondness what fun it used to be to hunt for the new kittens on the farm, when we were certain Snappy had given birth to yet another litter.

But in my adult years, I have never wanted a pet. I have to be honest - caregiving is not one of my greatest skills. I'm just happy I managed to keep three kids alive - I'm not sure I want to have the survival of yet another creature (that's not even part of my bloodline) reliant on me for its care.

And yet... here's the really scary part... are you ready for it? We are considering getting a dog. Yeah, let that sink in for awhile.

You see, if I don't consider it, Julie may go through life believing I am an ogre of a parent, depriving her of her heart's desire all these years. And I'm not sure I want to live with that legacy. (Though if she starts asking me to help provide the kind of pet care Michele has had to live with in the last couple of years, I think I'll stick with being an ogre.)

Julie's Christmas list looked something like this:


You get the picture.

She has become obsessed with this singular goal in life. At Christmas time I told her "well, if we were to get a dog, it wouldn't be in the dead of winter. Ask me again in the Spring." And then I told her, "if this is something you're serious about, then you need to do some research to find the right breed of dog for our family - one that won't shed and mess with your dad's allergies, one that won't require constant attention and frequent exercise, that's good with kids, etc."

Well, since she heard that tiny offering of hope, she has done little else but research dogs. She is fast becoming an encyclopedia of dog breeds. At first, she wanted an American Eskimo, but that long hair looks like it would end up all over the house (keep in mind that this is a girl who doesn't even like to brush her OWN hair, so I'm not convinced she'd do the weekly grooming required.) Then she began to set her sites on a Pug.

So, here's the thing... I know alot of you are fond of pets. In fact, I think that among my blog readership, I am seriously outnumbered in my lack of deep affection for pets. So I need your advice...

1. What would be the best breed of dog for a family like ours, that tends to be a little on the lazy and "less-than-meticulous" side? (I need a non-shedder who's okay with not being walked half a dozen times a day.)
2. Which breeds are good with children?
3. What's the one thing you wish you'd known before committing to having a dog around the house?
4. Is it possible to have a dog trained well enough that it can go 8 hours without having to go outside? I'm really not interested in a pet that will dramatically impact our schedules.

And speaking of pets, hearing Andrea talk about her love for her recently-departed dog Zappa has definitely given me moments when I've thought "hmmm... I wonder what it would be like to love a pet like that?" You really should check out her new painting of Zappa. I love it when she shows the progress a painting goes through before the final product emerges.


Lindsay said...

Check out getting a Bichon Frise. They do not shed, they are one of the "recommended" dogs for people who are alergic to pets, they are good with children, they are good family dogs, they have short hair. We have one that is almost 8 years old. They don't need to be walked zillions of times a day but they do like to go. They are somewhat difficult to train (or so the "experts" say) but with perseverance and positive reinforcement it is possible. They love to cuddle. The are quiet energetic but love to run around the back yard, play fetch and lots and lots of playing!! Ours is never a lack of entertainment. You don't have to keep them groomed like the show dogs are. We keep ours with shorter hair.

Sorry if I shouldn't have posted but I stumbled across your blog from one of the Van Aertselaer girls. I grew up with Pam.

If you ever do decide that you'd like to meet a Bichon Frise then I'd be more then happy to introduce you to mine or to send you some pictures of her.

Michele said...


of course i think that coonhounds are ideal. redbone that is. one of the least likely breeds to bite, get very very lazy when raised indoors, have short hair so shedding isn't horrible...

but those part poodle, or bichons, it's true they don't shed at all. (they need haircuts, though. i'd be kind of cheap on haircuts.)

Anonymous said...

We have a non-shedding cockapoo who is the friendliest dog on the planet. Now that she is older, she can go all day without being let out (although she does get lonely)
She was not difficult to housetrain.
We got ours in the summer, when people were home more, to ease the transition.
the one thing I would have done differently is asked for the breeder to keep her for another two weeks - she was very hard to teach not to nip when she's playing, especially our youngest, because she's figured out he's the bottom of the totem pole here :) and apparently alot of that teaching-not-to-bite thing is taught by the mother in the first 3 or so months. Ours was 8 weeks old when we got her, and I think 10 would have been better for that reason.
I have many many friends who have Bichons, or Bichon crosses, and I have found that our dog barks a lot less than most Bichons I've met.
ALSO - the dog WILL bond with the primary caregiver. The one who gets up in the night and lets her out when she's a puppy, who feeds her and walks her and makes sure she's looked after.
Okay stepping down off the Cockapoo Bandwagon - okay not quite. I don't think you can go wrong with a cockapoo. Ours is smaller than most of them are. And your dog could come to our house any time :)
let me know how serious you are when - I have a transitional crate or two you could use :)

Stephanie said...

Ooh, ooh! I know the answer to this one! :)

What Julie should be researching are dogs that are considered hypo-allergenic. These dogs have hair that is more in line with the consistency of human hair, and while they do require haircuts it's because they don't shed very much. Jason gives our dog haircuts, and this is a task that Julie could learn to do with some practice.

We have a shi-tzu (and so do my parents, my brother, and my cousin), and they are consistently rated very good with families and kids. Because they are small they don't require a lot of exercise, or at least they can get much of their exercise indoors with a nice round of fetch. Our dog can go upwards of 12 hours without having to go outside, although as a puppy she required a bit more maintenance (as all puppies do). I HIGHLY recommend them.

Poodles can be good with families, but a standard sized poodle can be overwhelming for smaller children (and while your kids aren't small, I'm sure you'll have Abby and Jack over). Cocker spaniels have good hair, but be careful: many of them have had the brains bred out of them. They can be a bear to house train. This is why a cocker-mix is usually preferrable to a pure-bred cocker spaniel. Lhaso apsos are also hair-friendly, but they can be yippy (and I don't prefer their looks either).

One thing I wish I knew about having a dog? Even the best and cleanest of dogs brings dirt into the house. And even a well trained dog will have accidents too. It's a fact that sometimes drives me crazy. Also, getting a dog fixed early in their life saves you further mess when they're in heat (something I wish we had figured out sooner than we did).

I admit I complain about Daisy sometimes, but Sydney adores her and they snuggle together on the couch. That makes it worthwhile.

ccap said...

And I'll likely hate you a little bit. Because SO FAR Abby is a little unsure of dogs and I was soooo okay with it staying that way indefinitely. But NOW, she'll have close contact with one and it will all be downhill from here.


Linda said...

Ccap, you're right. That's what happened in our family. First Yvonne, then us and finally Michele. It will happen. Be warned.

Heather-Julie is doing exactly what Wes did when he finally broke me.

I think it's a good idea to get a dog that doesn't shed. That is one thing I don't like about Dixie.

If I were you, I'd get that puppy in the summer when someone will be home to train it. I'm sure ccap will be happy to dogsit if you end up going away on vacation!

karla said...

No labs then! :)
I am not well versed on dog breeds, but I know my cousin has a pug, and although he isn't a big shedder, his short hair weaves into the furniture, which is harder to vacuum up than say, loose hair.

My only advice here is to definetly go through with some professional training. I can't even imagine what a crazy nut Samson would have been without all the training. We went through petsmart, level one and two, and it's done wonders.

Each course is just over $100, but well worth it, I would say, especially for the socialising and corrective behaivour.

I would also highly recommend crate training, especially if the dog will be left alone during the day. This has been a life saver with Samson, and his seperation anxiety, which sounds silly, but it can be destructive.

Anonymous said...

A Minature Schnauzer. They absolutely DO NOT shed whatsoever; they are VERY easily trained (in doing my research, they have been studied by professionals to know at least 200 commands); they are WONDERFUL with children -- very affectionate, loving, kind, sensitive and smart; being an individual with HUGE allergies, they are one of the VERY few dogs that I am not affected (also in doing my research, they are considered a hypo-allergenic dog); they don't require a lot of walking -- as they are a small dog, they get enough exercise just being around the house and backyard; they are very easy to feed and have a tolerant stomach for most foods. I know a few people that have these dogs, and not one person or family has one bad thing to say about them... A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED CHOICE!

Michele said...

don't get a cocker spaniel!!!

Vicki said...

I've done this research before.
I have a list of do not gets as well. LOL

Do not get the following
Dalmation, Jack Russell, or Lab for inside dogs. I have done this and it is not fun.

We have Westhighland Terrier. Easy to take care of, but they do shed and require for you to cut their hair. (Or you could NOT cut their hair like myself and they do just fine).

Minature Schnauzer are good. A friend of mine has one and they love it.

Dog training is the pits. My sister is a trainer for assistance dogs and she said potty training is much harder than training to do things like open doors and pick up things from the floor.

We had a Basset Hound and I love him! He never moved unless you made him and you could not say the word Hot Dog infront of him or he would howl at the fridge until you got him a hot dog.

OR you could get her that game NinDogs and let her play with a digital dog. Tell heryour trying to keep up with the future.

Liz said...

Both of our dogs are mutts that we adopted from the local shelter. One was a puppy when we got him. The other was around two or three years old. I would recommend you go to a shelter and get a young dog that has grown out of the young puppy phase.

Mutts seem to have fewer health problems than purebreds. Although most breeders are probably pretty careful about who they breed their dogs with, there are some unscrupulous people out there who take advantage of people who want the breed of the week.

Most likely, you will have to choose between short-haired dogs that shed some, or curly type coated dogs that need grooming.

Good luck Heather!

andrea said...

Thanks, Heather but here's some perspective: I don't think I'm normal... But to equate it to your situation: my parents refused to let me get a dog as a child and yes, I still think they're ogres! :) Our situation was perfect, they just didn't want to bother and were unable to see what a huge difference having a canine friend would make to me, so if Julie is reasonably responsible, I'm pretty sure she'd be a devoted and conscientious pet owner. But be careful: a dog that doesn't match your family's needs can be a huge heart breaker. Breed is way less important than temperament, and rescuing an adult dog is great because you see exactly what you're getting and it's WAY less work for you. I adopted Zappa as an adult so I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for and didn't have to go through the housebreaking, teething, etc. of a puppy.

A rescue mutt is usually a healthier choice and larger dogs tend to be more easy-going with kids. Of all the small, non-shedders mentioned in the comments I only like the miniature Schnauzer, personally.

As a dog geek who matched rescue dogs with new owners for a couple of years, I'm happy to answer any questions!

Anonymous said...

Andrea, you just haven't met MY small non-shedder :) She is a very sweet dog.

Anonymous said...

We have a dog (a Westie) that is often home for 8 - 10 hours alone and does well. He was purchased in the summer when the family would be home to train him and gradually left for periods of time. I grew up with and love dogs (incidentally I am a dog sitter for a number of families) and never beleived in kennels. However, I have now seen them work really well. Initially, the puppy was left in the kennel for the day and he really does see it as his bedroom. He was left there while we went to work until he got through the dreaded chewing everything stage. Now he stays on his own in the house and is fine. Although his little face says something else altogether when we leave and we are greeted like long lost loves on our return.


Anvilcloud said...

I really like dogs but for ease and convenience cats will have to do. Maybe someday. I think Labs are great in temperament but too large.

Here's a quiz that will help you select a breed. I've had it shrunk if it goes cold, search for animal planet. It picked a Saluki (or Gazelle Hound) for me, but there were many others that ranked almost as high.


joyce said...

you're right! "dog" gets the lurkers out a lot quicker than "god". Too bad I'm dyslexic.

I have no advice for you. You know, of course, that we are trying to challenge the garden of eden + Noah's Ark + the lion and the lamb...
Well,not to Michele's extent...

I just had to comment because our bird recently dropped dead. I think the food dispenser was empty for just a little too long.....

I blame my daughter, the pet collector. I refuse to take more guilt upon myself. (well, I want to refuse.....)

good luck with the pet thing. I share your sentiments with fearing for their lives...

darien said...

I don't see why this decision is so hard....do what I did

GET A CAT :-) (or two)

Bailey said...

We had a miniature schnauzer, and she was great. Keep in mind that most non-shedding dogs need to be clipped, though. We found a lovely woman who did a great job out of her home, and she didn't charge too much. It truly is easier to care for such dogs if you do comb them once or twice a week - the more often, the less work it is. Plus we were happier when we bathed our dog once a week.
Our minschnauzer didn't require walks - she could get enough exercise just around the house.
MOST IMPORTANT: kennel train your dog!! Our dog slept in the kennel - it is a natural thing because dogs are den-animals. Train them that way from puppyhood and it is all fine. She also was happily in her kennel when we were away from home. Also makes travelling with your dog much easier because they're happy anywhere their kennel is.
ALSO IMPORTANT: train your dog to only squat in one small area of your yard! Then you have to only clean up that one spot and you don't have to step in anything unpleasant. Plus in the winter you just have to clear snow from that one spot and you don't have a yard full of soggy crap in the spring.