A lot of new and interesting things happened in 2020, albeit not always positive, but interesting nonetheless- when it comes to the dog training or rather dog world in general, we have noticed a couple of fascinating things; perhaps the most interesting being a monumental increase in requests for puppies and for dogs in general. With that comes a lot of legitimate questions: How do we pick the right puppy? How much should I pay? How do we make sure it’s the right breed for us? What do we do once we have the puppy? How do we ensure that this new breed of COVID puppies turn out to be great dogs when we are limited in terms of socialization and education? Although the answers are not always clear, some are easier to answer than others.
The rule of supply and demand
It would seem that unfortunately, the rules of supply and demand apply as much to dogs as they do to houses and toilet paper, like anything, when the demand is far higher than the supply, some (not all!) seem to have taken advantage of this situation. A fad of unnecessary and unwarranted increases in pricing for these puppies has occurred. It still costs the same amount of time and money to produce these puppies, so how is it that they are more expensive- what is the reasoning behind this increase? Is your breeder able to explain this to you? Is there a reason?
The increase has been so radical that we are now seeing pure breeds and even mixed breeds are suddenly going for 4,5 even 6000$ and higher without any actual plausible explanation for this increase. One may even start to question the ethics behind the breeder’s decision to radically increase the price (without any explanation) during this pandemic… and if the decisions aren’t ethical is this really the breeder for you? Along with the question of cost comes the question of accessibility and timing.
It’s not only about money, it’s also about time
Some want a puppy yesterday, and may or may not be choosing the right breed for themselves simply because of availability. We seem to have lost sight of the fact that it is actually very normal to be on a waiting list for 2 years for a good, ethical breeder to produce the “perfect” puppy for you.
How to find the perfect match?
The perfect puppy? What is that? Does that even exist? No, it does not, there is no perfect dog, but there are perfect matches! An article was recently circulating on Facebook in regards to being a dog in 2020 and how we humans chose a dog based on looks or movies and not necessarily because of how the breed is or what they are meant to do. We then try to change the genetic composition and nature of the dog to fit our life and our everyday situations and grow frustrated when we are not able to do so, or when we are told it is normal that the parson russell terrier digs, or the shetland barks, or the border collie herds.
Unfortunately, when choosing a dog based on looks, we end up taking these working breeds and bring them into our home where they do not receive enough mental stimulation and give them no way to express the behaviors they were genetically bred to produce and we are then frustrated when they offer them out of context. Yes I agree, herding and nipping children is socially unacceptable, but when our working line border collie stays at home most of the day without any mental or physical stimulation we shouldn’t be surprised by this behavior.
Unfortunately all of these uninformed decisions being made when choosing a breed are creating a lot of frustration and disappointment in families who simply wanted the perfect pet. This is where good breeders and trainers need to step in and educate, and although a sale may be lost, or the puppy may not arrive tomorrow isn’t avoiding the heartbreak of having to give back the puppy that you love simply because it wasn’t the right fit worth it?
Long term commitment
So, keep in mind that when it comes to picking your puppy, it’s not always the perfect fit simply because it is available the day you decide you want it, research, take time to learn about the breed and know what you are getting yourselves into, because a 12 years commitment is a long time to be in a constant state of frustration with your dog. Reach out to breeders who may not have puppies available, to trainers who know about that breed, to people who have had that breed to know exactly what you are getting yourselves into.
Yes, now may be a good time, but having a dog includes work forever- the entire life of that dog, and when we go back to work, after a long day will you be just as inclined to work that dog and walk that dog as you are now, and if not are you prepared for the potential consequences?
Getting your puppy ready for « real life »
When you’ve made that well-informed decision to pick your puppy and the right breed for you, and knowing that “We’re at home all the time, it’s a great time to get a puppy! We will have all the time in the world to spend with him and to get him house trained. It’s okay if he cries at night, I don’t have to wake up early to go to work! I have all the time in the world to get him ready for life!” make sure that you do just that, get him ready for life, real life. And although, yes it may be convenient to get a puppy now, we have to remember that one day, however far away that may be, life will get back to normal. We will go back to work, to having events to go to, people to visit and moments to share that don’t include us being stuck at home, and probably don’t include our dogs either. Which is why it is so important to prepare our puppies and dogs for those moments, moments when we won’t be there!
It is not because you can always be home that you necessarily should be! That puppy/dog needs to get used to you being away and them being alone. And socialization?! How does that work when we aren’t allowed to have anyone over let alone go out into a public space with groups of people and new settings and experiences? If you have a puppy right now, during this bizarre pandemic, this is the time where you need to get creative, you need to think of alternatives to the normal things we may have done; when you were at work the puppy had no choice to be alone, now you have to make a point of leaving the house; sit in your car for 20 minutes and check your Facebook while the puppy is crated and alone; can’t visit different people- create a fashion show- dress up in the weirdest hats and goggles and clothing you can find come in the front door disguised- and reward the puppy.
Staying at home means the puppy doesn’t get used to the car- put him in his crate or harness attached safely and go around the block, stop at different places- gas stations, fields, forests, wherever- have him do his basic commands and get back in the car. No other dogs for your dog to meet in a positive and productive manner? If your closest kennel is open and offering socialization packages do it! No training classes? Get going online- zoom classes are awesome to get your puppy started!
You need to prepare that puppy, because as you may or may not know the most important period of your dog’s life in terms of socialization and learning is up to approximately 18 weeks old. During this period they are like little sponges absorbing all of the information thrown at them- good and bad. So although you may be working hard at socializing and getting them out and leaving them alone, you also need to be careful about the naughty habits they may be learning.
Every time Mom sits on her computer and talks to it (ZOOM!) let me chew on the chair leg or bite her pants and get her attention- hey look she’s petting me to keep me calm- DING DING DING your puppy has now learned that biting and chewing objects is rewarding! Or how about the puppy that is put in the crate during your zoom meetings decides to howl and scream – we can’t have the puppy yelling while I’m in an important meeting, so let me just go get him and put him on my lap instead- now what has he learned? Scream in the crate they’ll let you out! Overwhelming- I know! Make it easier on yourselves, consult your trainer for all the dos and donts, because creating little successes at the beginning of that puppy’s life is what will save you and that puppy later on in life!
So, remember just because the timing seems perfect, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pretty little malinois puppy or the super smart border collie is the perfect fit for your family- and that is okay, it doesn’t mean you are any less of a good family, it just means that it’s not the right fit. As cute as the puppy may be, and let’s face it ALL puppies are cute, think about the future, the time, energy and monetary commitment that this four legged animal will need, is it actually the right time? Are you ready to put in all the work needed? Are you prepared for when life gets back to normal- will your dog be?
Take the time to educate yourself on the good and the bad of the breed you are interested in, find yourself the right breeder who will get that puppy started off on the right foot, look into the pricing. Be honest with yourself and what breed you are ready and willing to live with, find the right breeder, not necessarily the available breeder to ensure that you and your future family member start off on the right foot or rather paw. 12 years is a long time, but time goes by quickly when you’re having fun, and that’s what the addition of a new family member is supposed to be, fun, so take your time now to ensure that that’s what you will find in the future; fun with your four-legged friend!