Thursday, 11 June 2009

D for Dog answers

[Name] = Bree
[County] = NC
[Country] = United States

[Training Question] = I will be about 14 years old when I get my first dog next summer in the new house we are buying. I will be the primary caregiver for the dog and my mom and step-dad said that I will be 100% responsible for the dog because my parents already have enough stress as is. I am researching different types of dogs and came across the Border Terrier. Different websites say different things about them so I want to know your opinion. Would a Border Terrier dog be good for me based on these factors: I will be at school from 8:00 AM till about 3:30 PM and my mom and step-dad will be at work during that time also -My mom wants me to get a dog with minimal shedding and will not "destroy the house". My mom wants me to get a dog that is not aggressive or does not bark a lot.

Well hello there Bree. I could not resist answering this well written letter that demonstrates some refreshing forethought on the matter of bringing a dog into a home where people have busy lives just as most of us do. Some careful thought now can save you an awful lot of heart ache later on. Despite you being in the States, and me in the UK, the things that you ask apply perfectly well to any person in any country with any dog. So let’s look at these together.

As you may have seen on my main web site I own a Border terrier so I can speak with some knowledge on this lovely breed. A lovely breed yes, but like any breed they can go very wrong if you are not careful. I have seen my fair share of problem Border terriers I can tell you, then again I’ve seen many problem Labradors also, so it all depends on the way you socialise and rear a dog…it’s not always a breed specific issue.

Let’s get this straight, Borders are tough and thick skinned that have a will of their own and the working instinct is strong in them. On the other hand, they are sweet, affectionate, highly intelligent (trainable) and make superb companion dogs in an active and well-balanced household.

So in essence I see no problem with your choice of dog. Let’s address some of the issues you raise in your letter though:

New home. Try to wait until you are all settled in before you introduce a new dog. I would wait at least 4 weeks after moving in before you undertake the big step of introducing (presumably) a puppy.

Primary Care giver. Being a parent myself, I can understand your parents saying this type of thing, but then again all members of the family need to be committed to the care and welfare of a new dog for best results. Of course you can feed, walk, train and play with the dog in the main, but all chip in to help make the dog the best it can be.

Time alone during the day. Based on your timings, the dog will be left for 7 ½ hours each day. I’m sorry to say that this is simply way too long to leave almost any dog let alone a puppy. Only an adult house trained dog can cope with this, and even then it will need to be well settled before it’s left for that period of time in your new home. The only advantage I can see with a puppy is that they do sleep a lot in the early stages, but this ‘honeymoon’ period is soon over after a matter of three or four months as the dog becomes more alert by day and in need of stimulation, play, exercise and training. I’m sorry to dampen your enthusiasm, but this fact alone for me would rule it out. I can tell you I waited for years before I took on my first dog, and looking back I’m glad I waited until everything was just right. I see many behaviour problems in my daily work that are the result of a lack of time invested in the dog. Maybe an older one might be available for you? Do ensure it’s free from behavioural problems though prior to bringing it home.

I would urge you to think very carefully about your daily commitments, and whether you can give enough time to a dog at this time.

IF you are able to overcome these obstacles, we can address your other points:

Minimal shedding? Well unless maintained, Border terriers can be very hairy and I only have to look at mine to be covered in her hair. Admittedly I don’t mess with her coat a great deal, but with regular stripping of the coat and grooming in between she’s not a big problem. Your mother will always be able to tell if the dog has been on her best white bed linen so do be warned J

Destruction of the house? Any dog if left for long periods unsupervised can make it look as if there’s been a party and the skirting boards are left chewed up. A crate from the outset is the way to go until you are confident it can be left uncrated in your absence. In my experience about 9 months is about right to start to offer more responsibility to the dog out of the crate.
Crates can be easily abused, and a puppy most definitely should not be left in one for the period you are at school.

Aggression. The bulk of my work is treating aggressive dog behaviour, and in light of this I can say that IF you spend sufficient time socialising your dog things should go well. You then also need to ensure that you keep it out of harm’s way and prevent it from being attacked by other less friendly dogs. A long line on your puppy in public spaces can greatly increase control whilst you practice lots of recalls in the mean time.
Dog to dog aggression is one thing, but dog to people aggression is another, and in many respects more serious as it’s less well tolerated. If you set in place good boundaries and rules for your dog from the beginning he or she will understand that you are all (as a family) in control and directing its life. This is the best way to ensure there is no confrontation between you and that life goes smoothly. Consider a home visit by a local trainer that is well respected, and these areas can be covered from the outset saving you a great deal of trouble potentially.

Barking. Again, implementing the above can prevent this in the first place. My little Pip is generally very quiet, and will be quiet when I ask if she starts to bark. From the outset I did not allow her to rush to the door barking at the postman or visitors to the home. I have always been loving but strict with her, and she looks to me as the person in charge and is happy to relax and let me run things. It needs to be that way as what’s the alternative?

So, a quick summary for you. No dog should be left that long each day unless it is mature and well balanced.
Wait until you are all settled in the new home before getting a new dog.
The whole family needs to be involved in the care of a dog for best outcome.
A Border requires regular work on its coat to avoid shedding in the home.
Early training and socialisation is key to a well-balanced, aggression free dog.

I can offer you a few links that might amuse/inform you from my Youtube channel. These are all Border terrier based.

Good luck in your decision and let me know how you get on!

Nick Jones MCFBA

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