I have some things to tell you about owning a dog or deciding to own a dog.
My dog is Linus, he’s a 3 year old, 23lb, male miniature poodle.
He’s very sweet, smart, naughty, saucy, loving, independent, confident, fierce, brave, calm, strong, healthy, disciplined and proud.
It took me two years to finally get Linus and my search was long and difficult. Not only did I want a dog, but I wanted the best dog for me. I didn’t begin my search by picking a breed based on cuteness or whim, I began my search by first determining what my lifestyle was and would be.
- TIP: Think about your own lifestyle. Where do you live? When are you home? How clean are you? How organized are you? How much time do you have to really give a living creature? Do you have changes coming up? (travel, job, location) Do you like to wake up early? Do you like to go on walks?
After exploring 100‘s of those types of questions I began to search for a breed based on my answers. I lived in the city (populated), in a condo (small space + close neighbors), I worked full time 9-5 (time commitment), I worked too far from home to stop by at lunch (dog sitter), I loved clothing (no shedding), and it was my first dog (easily trainable). I needed a breed that could live happily in these circumstances.
After searching and searching my results kept coming up as “Toy or Miniature Poodle”…I was like,”yuck, poodles are gross” and would search again, reinvestigate: surely my research was messing up somewhere, poodle couldn’t be the answer, poodles were yappy things that belonged to old ladies with blue hair.
But for my requirements and lifestyle, a miniature poodle was the answer, so I decided to run with it and see if I could find a poodle for me.
My next step was to really investigate miniature poodles, I immersed myself in all things mini poodle; I watched countless youtube videos of the breed, looked at the breed standards (size, weight,coloring, proportions), read about their characteristics, bought poodle books, read about their history and origins, their fur type, body type, health issues, lifespan. I would approach poodle owners on the street and ask about their experience of owning a poodle. I did this for a solid 6 months before even deciding for sure that I’d get a dog at all.
Linus at 8 weeks:
Once I was convinced that the miniature poodle was the one for me I began researching breeders. I didn’t go to friggin kijiji or the petstore/puppymill: I would ask owners where they got their dogs, I looked up recent dog shows and would investigate the breeders of winning dogs, I read the Poodle Club of Canada news letters and looked into the breeders who were contributors. I also used instinct and common sense.
After all this, I THEN began to call breeders (1 year after deciding “I want a dog”).
I spoke with many breeders about their dogs, their practices, the different colors of poodle and what was the best (I decided on black because it was the original poodle color; therefore bred longer and were more stable and hardy). I decided on a male because I wanted a momma’s boy, but there are many other factors to consider (which I researched and considered) before making that decision.
I decided on the breeder. Met him at his farmhouse, met my future dog’s family, loved what I saw, loved who I met. Discussed the breeders background and credentials, looked at certificates, awards and photographs of past and present dogs. Decided this was the breeder I wanted and that I really loved the look AND personality of his dogs. Linus wasn’t even created at this point, his litter was planned for upcoming weeks.
I then prepared for the arrival of my poodle: I obsessed over diet: what would I feed him? The breeder fed his dogs raw, so I began to research raw. I compared it to other dog diets, I became very anxious about making the right decision, I continued to research and eventually concluded that RAW was the way to go (best decision ever).
I began researching veterinarians; I chose the vet who was valedictorian in his graduating class at the University of Guelph, he was also close to my home, had good operating hours an good references. I also visited his clinic to make sure I liked it.
Linus at 8 weeks:
I bought a dog bed that was chemical free, toys made organically in North America, good leashes and collars, puppy pads, gates, stainless steel bowls (Glass ones can chip and plastic harbors bacteria). I got rid or harsh cleaning products and artificial air fresheners because dogs have a strong sense of smell and I could imagine that these types of things would be harmful to them.
I researched dog schools, I wanted one with a puppy pre-school class. Did you know that puppies are not supposed to be exposed to strange places or other dogs until they get their first set of shots? Puppy classes allow young dogs to socialize early with other puppies who haven’t had their shots yet (plus it’s the cutest thing you’ll ever see). I got Linus at 8 weeks, he started puppy school at 9 weeks. After puppy pre-school we went straight to dog training, he was the youngest in his class and he graduated as “Top Dog”. We had some bumpy classes along the way, one class he was so so naughty that I went home crying, but that was when I realized that I needed to be really serious about dog school: do all the home work, practice, practice, practice. After that we did two more levels of school (two more “Top Dog awards as well :) and continued onto Agility classes; I wasn’t actually interested in competing but the classes helped my handling and our bonding.
- Puppy School is a MUST. Please do not skip this step. It teaches you things that you do not know about training a dog and helps you raise a behaved dog. Believe me, there are so many things to learn as an owner and handler, learning them correctly and early saves time and headache. It’s also FUN!
Other things I considered:
- WALKS. Dogs NEED exercise. LOTS of EXERCISE. Do you have time to walk them for at least an hour a day? Do you have time to take them on adventures? (to a cottage, to a new park, to the lake)
- Who is a great groomer? HOw often does my breed need to be groomed?
- Great dog parks: What’s nearby? Where’s a safe place for dogs and people?
- Socializing: Making sure your dog experiences many new sights, sounds, smells. I’m infamous for asking people if I can bring my dog to their house.
- Don’t be an asshole: no spraying them with a hose, making them chase a laser pointer, throwing them in bodies of water, incessant teasing, chasing with a vacuum, letting your kids maul them…just be cool and calm and normal for god sakes.
- MONEY. Do you have enough spare cash to afford a dog? (Training, Supplies, Food, Grooming, Veterinary)
- SUPPORT. I have great people around me who love Linus and are willing to watch him if I go on vacation or check in on him when I can’t get home from work on time. These type of people are crucial to the happiness of your dog.
I went into this experience with the attitude that I am about to be responsible for a living creature, an animal who could live for 15 - 20 years: he’ll be around through my 30’s and 40’s (far-out man). Why not do the research and work to build the foundations for a dog who is healthy, happy, relaxed and a pleasure to own.
I am saddened when I see people get a dog on a whim. Time, research and hard work is required in owning a dog. If you’re not able to do those things then don’t bother. If you love dogs and don’t have the time or patience for owning one offer friends to pet sit once in a while, volunteer at a shelter, go to a dog park and watch…If I’m there I’ll let you throw a stick for Linus for as long as you want.
You don’t have to make exactly the same choices that I made, but please put the same amount of time and research into your new best friend long before you get him or her.