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Dogs demand your time, not just food and shelter
Dear Dr. Spiegel, I'm in the market for a dog and would appreciate your recommendation of what breeds I should consider. I am a 32 year old male considering a dog this July. I am a single professional and am away from home between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. Sometimes I work for a few hours on Saturday as well. Obviously I am away from home for extended periods. My home in the city of Wilmington has a modest fenced back yard, roughly 10' x 30'. I plan to install a doggie door permitting access to the back yard and on the inside I could give the dog run of the house, the first floor, or just the kitchen and/or dog room. I'm thinking I want a small dog that won't need too much space to run and won't destroy the house while inside alone during the day. I want one with short hair so that there won't be too much shedding to tend to. I want a female because I sense that they are more relaxed. I need a dog that can be self-sufficient during the day, that won't bark out of control when outside during the week, will enjoy kind of laying around a lot, won't bite at the neighbor's little girls, three and five, who no doubt will be thrilled with their new neighbor. I want a dog that has character and personality, is loyal and friendly, is curious, alert and energetic (but not frenetic), will respond to commands, is trainable as a frisbee catcher and jogging companion, good natured and pleasant. I am also looking for home security in the form of appropriate deterrence barking. I definitely want to stay away from biters and excessive barkers as well as overly curious/mischievous curds. ? I'm thinking about a beagle, 15-inch, but I'm starting to hear Beagle horror stories like they're roamers, climbers, yappers, mischievous, get fat as they age, and have a peculiar body odor. I don't know whether any of that is true. As a kid we had a female Standard Schnauzer (named Wanda Landowska for the famous harpsichordist) who was a bit high strung and aloof but loyal and alert. I'd consider a more relaxed Schnauzer if there is such a thing. I'm also thinking about a Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Dalmation or Corgi. I don't like Jack Russell Terriers, Poodles, Boxers, Bulls and Pugs. I don't like miniatures of any type. I'd like to know what age dog to get as well. I'd like a puppy but I recognize that I can't leave one alone all day. (Coming home at lunch time may be a possibility, though unlikely.) I'm also thinking maybe I should start this winter with a cat. Not that I want one as much, but I figure it'll grow on me and also be a companion to the dog. Problem is I don't like cat odor, especially hormonal smells. If you think a cat is a good idea I'd like to know what you recommend as far as gender, breed and age. I'd also like to know when is the best age to spay/neuter both cats and dogs. Should I send my dog to obedience school? If so, at what age? Thank you so very much. Z.A. Wilmington
Dear Z.A., If I might guide you back to reality for a moment, your wants and desires in a dog are very simply inconsistent with the reality of your situation. You might do fine with a 7 or 8 year old dog. However, to find an older dog that would meet your specifications would be a most difficult task. When people have a good, well-adjusted dog, they generally have no interest in parting with such a treasure. What dogs need, and what you unfortunately do not have to give, is time. It takes time and effort to guide and shape the behaviors of a dog to fit into the lifestyle that you have taken years to grow into yourself. In taking an animal into your home as a lifelong companion, you are making a commitment to the care and well-being of that animal. That animal is not simply there to serve your needs. They have needs of their own as well, and meeting the various needs of both parties is the basis of a sound relationship. If you really want to bring a non-human animal into your life, I would recommend a pair of kittens. They will keep each other entertained through the day in your absence (without destroying the house), and will be delighted to see you when you return home from work. Shelters or newspaper ads are a good source. I would go with a pair of males (domestic shorthairs), though it's more important to look at the interrelationships of individuals within the litter. Select a pair that's sticking together and who seem to enjoy one another's company. Provide them with 2 litter boxes, and find yourself a local veterinarian who you like and respect. He or she can guide you through the details of health care and management.