a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Choosing a Dog

Friday, January 11, 2008

Choosing a Dog

SUMMARY: There are so many ways to go about it, and so few of them have anything to do with anything but what feels right.

One fun thing about participating in the dog-agility blogging community is seeing recurring themes that transcend geographical location, breed of dog, general drift of a specific blog site, and so on.

Such as: Choosing your next dog. Here are some recent discussions on this topic in other dog-agility blogs:

Here's how I've chosen my dogs:
  • Amber: One night, coming home from the swing shift, I caught a prowler looking in my apartment window. It terrified me. The next morning, co-workers announced that their German Shepherd and their Golden Retriever were pregnant and they'd have puppies in a few weeks. Those were 2 of the breeds I thought I might want some day (Collie being the other). (Ah! Research!) I'd never heard of puppy testing. Puppies were just something that you picked one of and took home. So I did. Of the litter, four were black, but two were the same beautiful blonde as my family's mixed-breed dog, and I picked one for my own. I no longer remember how I chose one over the other; I did agonize for a while over whether to take BOTH.
  • Sheba the Wonder-Husky: When I got married, I figured that my spouse needed a dog of his own. He thought Siberian Huskies were beautiful. I read a little about them in my dog books and agreed that they were beautiful. (Ah! Research!) So I haunted the humane society for several weeks, rejecting a variety of Siberians for a variety of reasons (should I have been suspicious that there were so many stray huskies?). Then I found one with a sign on her run saying something like "Lone Star is a sweet, wonderful, delightful dog. We have already held her two weeks past her euthanasia date because she really needs to go home with someone. Please help." (I have no idea where she'd been hiding during my previous trips.) She did indeed seem to be the sweetest, gentlest, calmest, most beautiful dog in the universe. My new spouse agreed, we took her home, and renamed her Sheba.
  • Remington the Squirrelhund: Two years after Amber died, I had decided that I finally was ready for another dog. But now, 15 years after her birth, I knew a lot more about dogs. I did a lot of reading. We went to dog shows and talked to the breeders and owners of several breeds that we were interested in. I narrowed it down to probably Australian Shepherd or Border Collie (mind you, this was before I had ever heard of dog agility). Then, one day, we went to a pet store to buy food on sale, and NARF was having an adoption fair for their rescues, and I found Remington, and he looked just like Amber, and he went home with us right then. (Ah! Research!)
  • Jake the SemiDachshund: He had belonged to a fellow club member who was also my obedience instructor, and Remington and Jake had been on a team together at a USDAA trial. For some reason I really liked him. (Ah! Research!) When he became available for adoption (this story is quite shortened for this post), our husky was barely on her dying legs and my spouse didn't want three dogs and felt it wasn't fair to an old, ailing dog to have a new dog in the house. I kept stalling Jake's current foster home and, finally, the inevitable happened and our 17-year-old husky died. Jake came home with me the following week.
  • Tika: Remington was getting old. Jake was getting older. It was time to start looking for another dog to start training as my next agility dog. Rem was never big on tug of war or fetch, and I knew that I wanted a dog who liked those things. I wanted one with drive and intelligence for agility. I wanted one who would snuggle. I had recently divorced and was living in a rental. An agility acquaintance was fostering a beautiful Kelpie mix that I would have taken home with me, but the landlord was an idiot and I didn't want to risk anything by bringing in a third dog. But, with this discussion, the acquaintance became a friend and she kept me in mind as she got other foster dogs. She showed me two or three other dogs over the next few months, which I rejected. Shortly after I moved into my own home, she introduced me to Tika, who loved to tug, would stop immediately to snuggle, was a gorgeous blue merle (which I've wanted since I was a kid), an Australian Shepherd-type dog (see research before Remington came home), and yet different enough from standard Aussies to appeal to me (I liked the shorter-haired, longer-legged ones). I think it was the blue merle as much as anything that kept drawing me to her, because she barked barked barked barked BARKED, at anything and everything. Well--the friend made progress on that, and a couple of months after I first saw her, I finally decided to bring her home on a trial basis. She never left.
  • Boost: OK, REALLY long story. Read it here.


  1. Do you know of anyone looking for an agility dog to train? My year old spaniel shows a lot of talent (he sails over fences) but with a full time job, 3 kids and another dog I don't have time or experience to do anything with that talent. I'm not offering any money, but I was thinking if there was someone out there with the interest and time but no dog, it might be a perfect fit. He would still live with me, but any glory or excitement from his winning would be all theirs.

  2. I suspect you'd be out of luck unless one of your immediate neighbors happened to fit the bill. There are a couple of people around here who were doing agility already and felt sorry for a neighbor's bored dog and offered to do agility with them. It's such a time-consuming and expensive thing to do anyway, plus add the time to arrange, pick up, and drop off someone else's dog, and there's always the risk that, after all the time and expense and training and love, the dog might move away.

    Of course there are many dogs with lots of potential and owners who don't do agility for one reason or another, so you'd have to convince someone that your dog was a special case. :-) A very near-by neighbor is usually what makes it special enough.

    Where do you live? You could contact a local agility club and make the offer.


  3. Thanks for your reply. I live in Sunnyvale, California. Do you know where the nearest agility club might be, or where I would find out?
    Thanks again.

  4. That would be The Bay Team, of which I'm a member, so you found the right place. :-)

    Send email to webmaster (at) bayteam (dot) org and I'll see whether I can find any takers.


  5. Thank you - I will do that!

  6. Hey Elf!
    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. My hubby is itching to write our own along the same lines. We will have plenty of our own 'Ahh - research' moments :-)