Friends of mine are thinking dog, trying to decide how to choose the best one for them. At our starting point, Mister had his eye on a Newfoundland.  Missus likes cats because they are interesting, beautiful, intelligent, cuddly and don’t have to be walked.  We needed, as the political pundits like to say, to come more toward the middle.

Starting by choosing a breed or two isn’t a bad idea.  It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a rescue.  What it does do is refine their list of what’s a good idea and what isn’t.  As first time dog owners, they should pick a fairly easy-going breed and since they have been members of AARP for over a decade, they’d be best to choose a dog that wouldn’t be too big or strong or stubborn to manage.  Now we are ready for the list, or the talk.  How do they imagine life with their dog?  Do they see him running along the beach, free as the seagulls, leaping into an oncoming wave to fetch a ball?  Or would they prefer someone small enough to get part of his exercise indoors, chasing and being chased by the cat, dashing up and down the long hallway, playing fetch from one room to another?  Do they want a snuggler?  Most assuredly yes.  Do they want smart?  Yes on that as well.  Do they mind a coated dog, one they have to brush or have groomed professionally?  No.  Do they want a highly active dog, one that will need a two mile walk day in and day out, rain or shine?  Not so much.

Luckily, we are at the cusp of Westminster where the dogs are benched and once they have been in the ring, their owners and/or handlers have some time to answer questions.  So next Monday and Tuesday, we will begin to narrow the field.  We will try to pass by the handsome but too big dogs and also the adorable but too small dogs.  Then we will talk to people, asking what’s best about a certain breed and what might be a problem for first time owners.  We will take the praise with a grain of salt.  This can be a blinding passion for some.  And we will take the possible problems seriously, but not overly so.  Having been a trainer for umpteen years, and having worked successfully with many breeds considered too dumb, too stubborn, too whatever to be trained, I know that training success is, in part, a matter of patience.  But we will listen to everyone as part of our research.

In the end, Mister and Missus might end up with a breed they fall for next week, for all the right reasons: predictability, size “guarantee,” temperament, health history of parents.  Or, instead, they might decide on a rescue who is part of the breed they like, or seems to be so.  Much more on pure-bred vs rescue and selecting a breed to come.

But first, Westminster, a great place to begin our education.