Should you get a dog?

I presume many of you are like this: People in your everyday life start to figure out that you’re kind of… dog crazy. And so they ask you lots of questions (even if you’re, like me, not the most experienced dog owner). Lately, I’ve been getting lots of questions along this line: “Should I get a dog??”

Obviously, this is a big, personal decision, and it should be made with careful deliberation, but here are some of the things I tend to tell people when they say they want a dog.

Watching bugs
Baby Laszlo! Our former foster.

Instead of making a negative list (don’t get a dog if you’re X, Y, Z), here’s a positive spin on the question:

You should go ahead and adopt that dog if…

You have some ample room in your budget.

Dogs are expensive. Beyond the cost of the puppy or the adoption fee, prepare yourself for about 10–15+ years of care, including food, general accessories, routine vet care, emergency vet care, monthly preventives, boarding, grooming, etc. Seasoned dog owners can regale you with eye-popping stories of how much their dogs have cost them, and the super-organized ones can even share monthly budgets with you (e.g., the House of Two Bows). Also keep in mind that the bigger the dog, the more costly it will be.

You are OK with being (relatively) tied down.

Late nights on the town and spontaneous trips are not going to happen as much for you anymore. You have a dog that you have to get home to! Even just planning for vacations takes much more effort. If you’re like us, you will strive to mainly travel to places that are dog-friendly, and if they’re not, you’ll coerce generous family and friends to dog-sit for you (or cough up a hefty sum for a reputable, non-terrifying kennel).

Your children don’t require a ton of maintenance.

This might sound callous, but I am always a bit flabbergasted by people who adopt puppies or dogs when they have very young children at home. (I recently saw an acquaintance on Facebook announce that she was adopting a puppy, and she has three kids under the age of 5. MADNESS!) It is a pleasant, all-American image — little kids playing with a puppy who will grow up with them and be their lifelong friend — but in reality, adding a puppy to the mix is kind of like adding another baby. Are you ready for that? Granted, some people might be, and that’s great, but don’t underestimate the amount of work you are creating for yourself. And speaking from childhood experience, your cute, persuasive kids may PROMISE you that they are going to do EVERYTHING for the new puppy, but that sheen will wear off in a few weeks, and then you’ll be the one doing all the walking, feeding, training, and poop-scooping for the next 10–15 years…

You are ready and willing to spend time training (and then re-training).

Dogs aren’t born knowing what humans expect of them. They are very smart and adaptable, yes, but they have to learn what you want them to do. And this, naturally, takes LOTS of repetition and patience. Are you willing to work on teaching your dog on a daily basis? Are you willing to go to an obedience class or seek the help of a trainer or behaviorist for more serious issues?

Look at that face!
Baby Georgia, my in-laws’ puppy.

You are ready to do everything to help your dog succeed.

A dog is a serious commitment and should be treated as such. These fluffy animals see us as members of their family, and we often do the same. Don’t get a dog if you aren’t ready and willing to do everything in your power to help them have a happy, stable, and full life. Does your dog have fear issues? Leash reactivity? A seemingly insatiable desire to eat furniture? Are you ready for the patience and training that curbing these behaviors requires? Or is your instinct to return the dog to the breeder or rescue when problems arise? Think long and hard about this one. This question is one that I don’t think my husband and I were even prepared for; we assumed that dogs were dogs and that they’d be, for the most part, fairly straightforward (and then we rescued a neurotic German shepherd with a lot of background issues). Every dog is different. Know what your prepared threshold of care is.

What do you think? What would you add to this list of things to think about for the potential dog owner?

Pyr at summer camp with Georgia

While we were at the beach this past week, Pyrrha was lucky enough to attend doggy summer camp with my in-laws and their sweet puppy Georgia.

Doggy summer camp

As you can see, Pyrrha had a great time. We are so thankful that she gets along so well with Georgia! It makes leaving her behind a whole lot less stressful on me. This was the longest we’ve ever left her for! I felt like a neurotic mother. But she was totally happy and that put me at such ease.

Doggy summer camp

Our in-laws reported that while she played happily with Georgia all week, she still didn’t really want much attention from them, which is what I more or less expected. It takes Pyrrha a LONG time to really warm up to people. She is often only able to interact with people when I am around; when I’m gone, apparently, she keeps to herself and would prefer that you did the same. Poor, weird dog. I hope that this behavior can improve in the future. Even though she continues to make a lot of progress, I am often reminded of how much more progress can still be made.

Doggy summer camp

Doggy summer camp

HUGE thanks to Mike and Windy for keeping our baby girl while we were at the beach! And thanks to Georgia, for being such a great and happy pup.

Doggy summer camp
This just makes me laugh. What a happy little thing!

Laszlo updates

Laszlo in the backyard

Laszlo updates!

Look at this adorable little dude. He is going to be hard to say good-bye to, but… we might be doing that soon!

There is a pending adoption on little Lasz, so we are awaiting further details! Excited!

And more sticks

Watching bugs

He was such a good boy at the big meet-and-greet event on Saturday with the rescue. It was a potentially overwhelming environment — tons of people, children, and several dogs (one of whom was quite agitated by the other dogs) — but Laszlo took it all in stride.

He was so friendly and affectionate to everyone who came up to pet him; his little tail would just thump, thump, thump against my side whenever someone came up to greet him. Laszlo was great with little kids, babies, men, women, the elderly, the mentally handicapped, people of a diversity of races and backgrounds, etc.; he met everyone on Saturday! It was a great socialization experience. We only stayed for about an hour and a half, because I could tell he was getting tired, but I felt like it was a great day of experience and exposure for him.

Mmm, sticks

His relationship with Pyrrha still isn’t the best — she still gets easily annoyed with him and still plays too rough with him — but he is not afraid of her anymore, so I consider that progress! He enjoys running up to her and licking her mouth, which she tolerates for a time, but when she tries to reciprocate play, she is inevitably too rough and he starts to cry. So we are usually playing referee during most of our time at home.

He has a lot more energy these days, too, which makes me wonder if he’s growing? He’s only been with us for about two weeks, but I think he’s bigger already. Look at those ears!

Being his adorable self

We are looking forward to hearing more about his potential adoption! Updates to come.

Big things in your future, bro!

Laszlo log

Laszlo on the couch

Laszlo Log!

Updates on our little foster buddy:

  • Working on a better relationship with Pyrrha. They are increasingly learning how to coexist with each other, which is heartening. While I eat breakfast, they like to play bitey-face under the table. Recently, they’ve been doing this weird thing in which Pyrrha holds her mouth open and Laszlo sticks his ENTIRE HEAD in her mouth and starts licking her teeth, gums, and tongue… kind of like this. It’s so strange. But they both seem to enjoy it! (Have you ever seen dogs do this?? I haven’t!)
  • He’s still sitting when he wants attention. We’ve been teaching him to sit in front of us when he wants attention, instead of jumping up. He still jumps, but he throws those sits out any time he wants something! It’s impressive. He still jumps on me, though, when Pyrrha comes barreling after him in the yard, which I don’t blame him for; I’d want to be picked up, too!
  • Makes up for all the crying and destructiveness with snuggles. It’s a good thing puppies are so cute. Because they are so much work! I was really irritated with him on Monday night; he kept messing with Pyrrha, chewing stuff, peeing, etc. But then I pulled him up on the couch with me, after an hour of enduring his antics, and he fell asleep on my chest for an hour. Sigh. You can’t stay too mad at a creature who is that adorable.
  • He met a prospective dad this week! Our friend in town saw photos I’d posted on Facebook and said he was interested. He came by to meet Laszlo and I think Laszlo was quite charming. Naturally! Waiting to see what happens here, but I’ve encouraged our friend to go ahead and put in application, because I have a feeling that Laszlo won’t linger very long.
  • Laszlo will be attending an adoption event with me this Saturday at our local Tractor Supply. The rescue is having an event there, and I will be bringing him along. I am sure his cute little face will attract a lot of attention!

More to come!

Laszlo is up for adoption! If you like that cute little face, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!

New foster: Laszlo!

Everyone, meet our new foster pup, Laszlo!

Pen Park with Laszlo

Laszlo is a 9-10 week old German shepherd mix. He was thrown over the fence in the middle of the night at a West Virginia shelter, and that’s basically all that we know about his background.

Out back with baby Laszlo

He was dropped off at our house by a sweet family who volunteered to transport him on Friday. Laszlo arrived somewhat overwhelmed and withdrawn, but he was very cuddly with everyone and always wagged his little tail whenever a person approached him. Within a few hours, he had started to open up and explore the house.

Pen Park with Laszlo

Pyrrha has been a little less than thrilled with his arrival. She treats him with a kind of reserved disdain. He was quite frightened by her at first, but after a day, the two of them now coexist peacefully. (This morning, the two were playing bitey-face while I ate breakfast…)

For all of her standoffishness, Pyrrha remains gentle with puppies, and she does seem to respect his size and age. For now, they are tolerating each other, which is all we can really ask for. I imagine, however, that within a week or so, he may gain more confidence and the two of them might actually interact more.

Laszlo in the car

My sister and brother-in-law were visiting for the weekend, and on Saturday, we took the dogs to the local trails for an afternoon walk. Laszlo kept up quite well and did OK on the leash, partially thanks to Pyrrha’s example, I think. We did carry him part of the way back, but he was a trooper. He even met a few dogs on the trail and didn’t seem too scared of them, which was a good sign.

Pen Park with Laszlo

He strikes me as quite smart and trainable. Within a day, we trained him to sit, and he’s now habituated to sitting in front of us when he wants something, instead of jumping up. He still does jump, but he doesn’t seem to have many of the typical GSD vices yet (noisiness, biting people, chewing up stuff). Essentially, he strikes me as a rather easy puppy. He slept through the night on his first night here, and he’s still getting used to the housetraining.

Out back with baby Laszlo

What would you guess he is mixed with?

His paws are somewhat small and proportional, so I don’t think he’s going to get very big. He clearly has GSD markings, but purebred GSD puppies don’t get their ears up this young. His coat is also unusual and unlike a GSD; instead of the fluffy puppy fur that leads to the thick GSD double coat, this guy has somewhat odd, silky fur that is close to the skin. He has a stocky build, too.

My best guess is either some terrier or some heeler somewhere in his lineage, but of course, we have no idea. What do you think?

Out back with baby Laszlo

Looking forward to getting to know this little dude more and more! More details to come!

Laszlo is looking for his forever home! If you are interested in adopting Laszlo, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue.

Post-snow play

It snowed Sunday morning, but by the time Pyrrha had her friends over, the snow had melted and left a pleasantly chilly sludge. But the dogs, clearly, did not mind.

Dear Heath showed up first, followed shortly by Loki, who is now HUGE (probably 80 lbs.). Do you remember when he was just the little guy?

Do I have to go home?

Loki is not so tiny anymore

The boys are back in town

Sniffs

Heath and Loki

It’s usually just a blur of color-coordinated fur.

Happy puppy faces

Big bundle of color-coordinated fur

Trio

Our new addition was baby Nell-abell, our neighbors’ sweet, three-month-old puppy. She is the most confident, spunky little thing I have ever seen! Here is the pack checking her out, with great interest:

New girl in the yard

I was worried that she was going to be scared by all of the big dogs, but she really held her own and jumped right in there with them. She was also especially adept at ducking and avoiding collisions when the chase games got a little crazy. She is a smart girl with a great personality. I mean, look at this face! So funny.

Nell's face!

Nell-abell particularly hit it off with Loki. The pair were an absolute delight to watch: the biggest dog and the smallest dog in the yard, utterly smitten with each other.

Nell-abell and Loki

Love between Loki and Nell

Love between Loki and Nell

Love between Loki and Nell

Roland also came by at the end. He is perfect for wearing Pyrrha out, as their favorite play method with each other is a frenzied game of tag around and around.

Roland checks out Nell

Pyrrha was certainly worn out after two hours of play! That was the goal, after all. (Pyrrha also did better with the puppy than I thought she was going to do. She wasn’t as gentle with Nell-abell as Loki, but she did seem to temper her behavior to Nell’s size and age, which was heartening for when we go meet Georgia in a few weeks.)

Wiped out after the play-date

Looking forward to more play-dates and continuing to grow her circle of friends!