Getting a Pure Breed Dog (in which Honey and Pam look for a job)

Two Dogs

Shadow learns how to make friends

I used to be one of THOSE people.

Y’know, the ones who say “Why would anyone ever adopt a pure breed dog? There are plenty of wonderful dogs at shelters and rescues just waiting for homes.” I knew, because I had adopted 3 of them myself.

But when my last dog, Shadow, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her jaw back in April 2008 and given only a few months to live, I began to consider a new idea. Since we were lucky to keep Shadow with us for 2 years instead of 2 months (!), I had a lot of time to ponder.

Living with Agatha and Christie and now Shadow taught me that I loved being with dogs, that I didn’t ever want to be without dogs, and that I wanted the chance to work with dogs in a more serious way. During those 18 years, however, I had been prevented from taking advantage of everything the dog world was beginning to offer.

You see, Agatha and Shadow were both quite dog-reactive. I know some of you know what this means.

Every walk required careful attention and management so we didn’t get surprised by or come to close to another dog on a walk. Greeting neighbors walking their own dogs was impossible. Just sitting on the porch when another dog walked by sparked aggressive barking. And although Shadow improved quite a bit over the years, no walk was every casual or easy. (Sadly, I didn’t know enough when Agatha was with me to be able to help her in a meaningful way–it’s one of my greatest regrets.)

Oh yeah, and since we live in the city, we’re talking about every. time. we. leave. the. house.

I started to think about what I could do to “stack the deck” so my next dog would be more likely to accept other dogs and people easily.

First, I could wait for a puppy to come to the SPCA and do my best to start her out the right way. But I adopted Agatha and Christie at 3-4 months old so that’s no guarantee.

Second, I could try to identify a dog at the shelter with really good dog skills. But I saw no signs from Shadow that she had animosity toward other dogs when we picked her out. What I realized later was that she loved walking and sniffing so much that a dog could jump on her back and she wouldn’t notice if you were getting ready to walk her out the door. So we saw no signs of (negative or positive) interest in other dogs at the SPCA.

Third, I could research a breed that is likely to be friendly to other dogs and people and adopt a dog from a responsible breeder. And that’s what I decided to do. And was lucky to find Honey who is both friendly to people and other dogs.

Golden Retriever on a Chair

You've certainly thrust a lot of responsibility on my fuzzy shoulders. I think a little nervous paper eating is in order.

So now I’ve gone against my life held commitment to adoption and Honey and I need to justify it by finding just the right job for us to pursue.

Honey turns 1 year old on January 26–a little maturity under her belt yet still willing to learn.

What should our job be? Accepting foster dogs? Raising service dogs? Pursuing nose work or agility or obedience? Becoming a therapy dog team?

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  1. How about all six?

    I completely understand your reasons for wanting a puppy. While I’ve learned how lucky we have been with Shiva, her problems could be a lot worse, it is still a dream of mine to have a brand new young dog with which to start fresh. The sky’s the limit! Of course, then I would only have myself to blame for any issues down the road…

    Good luck. Whatever you decide, I know you and Honey will be a terrific team.

    • All six, huh? That would definitely be my choice. Now if only I could find a sponsor–someone willing to pay my mortgage so I can play with my dog all day….

  2. This is a really thoughtful post on a very difficult topic. I really think that with the right information, it is possible to adopt a dog who is totally dog-friendly from a shelter or rescue. Fostered animals can be extra great for this, because as you mention– dogs can act very different in a shelter environment than when they are in a home and in a regular routine. I know that our foster Lollie’s true personality didn’t reveal itself for a couple of weeks after she came into our home.

    Of course, it can be very difficult to get the right information, and unfortunately too many rescue groups and shelters will try to soften an animal’s challenges in order to encourage an adoption. If you can find a really stellar organization that shoots from the hip and will work with you on finding the right pet, then anything is possible. Hard to come by, though.

    I love that you and Honey are going to take on the world together as a way of balancing out the effect of having bought from a breeder. Of the options you listed, I would vote for fostering, training service dogs, or pursuing therapy work. With any of these, you will be making the world a better place for many other dogs and people. Obedience and agility are awesome activities, but don’t necessarily give back to the community in as powerful a way…
    Kudos for your thoughtful and generous idea!

    follow our foster:

    • Thanks for your kind words. You are definitely right that a collaborative search with shelter or rescue workers could also help me find just the right dog.

      One thing I had hoped to get from my local shelter or rescue organization was a team approach to making a good match. I wasn’t able to find that.

      However, Honey’s breeder worked interviewed us extensively, had us visit several times, and made her suggestion of which puppy we should adopt based on what she knew of our personalities and living situations. It was very helpful and I’d love to have had the same experience with the SPCA and rescues I’ve worked with in the past.

      BTW, I’m definitely leaning toward puppy raising or fostering. I’m not sure I’d be a good therapy dog person even if Honey was good at it.

  3. Let Honey tell you.

    With Kenzo, our dog we have since puppyhood, we tried as many different training/activities as possible when he was younger. We did agility, obedience, nosework, tracking, and also some SAR and “Schutzhund” training. Kenzo preferred obedience and tracking above anything else. Actually SAR would have been more my thing but I decided to follow Kenzo’s nose on this.

    What fun have we had ever since! He is getting onto the higher obedience level’s now (slowly but surely, we are not in it for the competetion) and he is an excellent tracking dog. We train obedience in short intervals, and go tracking in the forrest and landscapes twice a week. He loves it and therefore I love it.

    • Thank you–I’m working hard at listening.

      I’m less sure about how to know if she’d like having a service puppy around the house or a foster dog. But I guess I’d have to rely on the leaders of the program to help. I imagine that an “interview” with Honey would be part of being selected for a program.

      Interesting that Kenzo showed a strong preference for obedience. I’ll wander over to your blog to get the rest of the story.

  4. The youngest dog we’ve adopted so far has been eighteen months old, and since we’ve been married, we’ve always adopted purebred dogs. Greyhounds are absolutely wonderful for what we want to do, and the German Shepherd has proven to be amazing, too.

    When I look for jobs for my dogs, I consider their temperment to see what job they’d do best. Treat was an amazing therapy dog, ambassadog, companion and general jack of all trades. She loved visiting the nursing homes with me, but when she saw young children, she was just unbelievably happy! She was an outstanding READ dog. I had another at the time, Hawk, who was deathly afraid of children, but did wonderfully at the nursing home. On nights that he didn’t feel particularly social, he did tricks to entertain the residents. He had a knack for finding the one person there who seemed to really need a fuzzy ear to talk to. I’d say finding what your dog (and you) excel at is the best shot at finding the best job for you!

    • I’d love to know more about the trial and error in finding out what your dogs wanted to do. I know I’m not always as good a listener as I should be.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement. It’s great to hear about your dogs taking pleasure in finding their right job.