Almost all of the most difficult, tragic dogs our rescue adopted out went to hardcore dog people. These people were my idols. I’d watch as they rearranged their lives to address their dogs’ major problems. They’d change fencing, carpeting, sleep schedules, JOBS. They would spend a decade managing a dog carefully to make sure that he was safe and as happy as he could be. Their commitment was epic, and years later, Victoria and I will still take a moment to remember how amazing it was that these people made it work by sheer force of will.
But as the years passed, I also began to feel sorry for those adopters. While other dog owners took their dogs out to the park, or to yappy hours, these heroic adopters were performing elaborate rituals involving which dogs could go out first, knowing that if they made a mistake, someone — canine or human — might get seriously hurt. They were skipping social events because they couldn’t find a savvy-enough sitter. They were not taking vacations because their dogs couldn’t handle the separation. They were doing complicated daily medical procedures. And, most tragic of all, they couldn’t adopt other animals they wanted to because a dog already in the household just wouldn’t accept it. It just didn’t seem right.
I realize that these people want to help the dogs that need the most help, and I commend the sentiment. Every dog we’ve had or fostered until now has had some sort of problem that made him or her challenging to own. In other words, I get it.
But I’m here to tell you it’s OK to want to just have fun with your dog. It’s OK to want to take your dog for a walk during daytime hours. It’s OK to want to have a dog who can greet visitors to your house without submissively urinating or lunging at them.
Your dogs will age, or they might develop health problems, and you can, and will step up for them then. But you don’t have to ask for it. You can do a lot of good for animals even if you take an easy keeper.
- First, if you are out and about with your well-behaved dog, you are modeling responsible dog ownership. You’ll be able to give advice to people, and answer questions, whereas people with dogs that are jumping and straining at the end of the leash are rarely asked for advice. People figure you don’t know what you’re doing — they don’t assume that it’s the dog’s personality. You’ll have more credibility, which is incredibly important.
- You can own more animals if your dogs are able to socialize, so you’ll be helping more animals. This was a huge issue at our rescue. We’d have great fosters, and eventually, one by one, they’d end up with a dog who made it impossible for them to own another dog, or foster long-term.
- You can have uncomplicated fun with your dog. Your happiness is important, too. You should get to go to the park with your dog or take a walk during daylight hours or bring people into your home without constantly worrying what would happen.
I know when the last of my three dogs died a few months ago, I said to myself that my next dog would be easier. I wanted to have fun, like the people I used to adopt “normal” dogs out to. I put it out to the universe that I wanted a shameless, uncomplicated, greedy, sociable, affectionate, shameless dog. (Yes, I put shameless twice.) And lo and behold, who showed up but Cricket. Do I feel bad about it? Not really.
I know that a lot of you will not be able to resist the siren call of the troubled dog. It’s in your nature. But if you are starting to feel a little weary, joyless, or wistful, maybe it’s time to consider an easy dog. Consider this your absolution.
11 replies on “Dog People: It’s OK to Adopt an Easy Dog”
That face. Yes, Cricket, whatever you want. Here, have some treats and kisses.
Thank you for this. I have major guilt about having adopted puppies/kittens. I can “justify” it (I bottle fed! I fostered! I’m keeping someone else from screwing them up and returning them!) but I shouldn’t have to. My crew is plenty of work, I don’t need to find more trouble for myself.
I’m so glad you’re so happy with Cricket, she’s a fantastic dog.
She is an angel. NEVER feel guilty about adopting a kitten or puppy. Remember how often people return former puppies when they hit adolescence and they are at their behavioral worst. You won’t do that.
Thank you! This has been a longstanding disagreement between husband and I. I would like to adopt a troubled dog, and he wants a neurotypical. Maybe we can compromise with a “neutral” dog and foster the Problem Children and help make it easier for them to find their forever home. Which will last for one dog. Cause I would fall in love faster than you can say “foster failure”!
That’s a good idea. I’ve had success fostering dogs in part because most of my fosters made my life difficult: SusieQ, who destroyed EVERYTHING; Theodora, who never learned bite inhibition; Daisy, who hated my Chow Chow with a passion and was ready to fight about it; Jackie, the submissive urinator; Molly, who was despised by our most easygoing female dog; Willow, who insisted on running through her poop every time she went; Eustace, who humped my female dogs constantly and would bite if thwarted in his dreams of world domination; and Penny, the bluetick coonhound who had the sweetest, tenderest heart I’ve ever seen, and who would warble beautifully with my other hound females. I still mourn giving up Penny.
I strongly suggest getting an affable easy keeper as your first dog. A good-natured, confident dog will teach your foster dog about how to get along in a household. And you deserve to have some fun as a pet owner.
I thought I would be the biggest foster failure, but it’s totally my husband. He’s why we had to keep two puppies from the last litter we fostered instead of one or none. You might get your difficult dog easier than you think, and then you can blame your husband! Everytime Bramble gets into trouble I’m right there to remind my husband which one of us just had to keep him!
I LOVE IT! We are going to get a Neopolitan Mastiff and they shall be named Igor, Bela, or Oliver (regardless of gender). Or possibly Messi-ann. We have a theme :). We actually do have one pretty chill dog, but I wouldn’t trust him to train SHIT! He’s 4 years old and is still convinced that doing his business in the basement is an acceptable option when it’s raining out. However, we blame his presence on Gershwin. He’s our Problem Child, so when we wanted to add a second dog (Bassets do better in groups), we worked with a breeder to make sure we got one that wouldn’t challenge Gershwin. She narrowed it down to 2, and brought them over to see which one clicked with Gershwin. He showed a definite preference for Schubert. I bet Lorenzo wouldn’t pee in the house :).
**Gershwin’s reaction to the addition was awesome. We had him muzzled and ready to send the breeder packing. But he was fine! He thought it was the best day EVER! Until the lady departed and only took one pup with her. Then Gershwin was all like, “But I’m tired, MOMMA make him leave me alone.” And then the next day was like, “Seriously! He’s still here?” And now they are best buddies :)
Hm-that was the wrong pic. Here’s the one I intended to post…
Rachel, how did you go about working with someone to place your second dog? After we move into a house with a yard, we’ll probably look at getting a second dog, but we definitely need someone who will not challenge Daisy when she’s decided to be an uber bitch, but also not cower. I think we need a “Okay, whatever, I’ll go play by myself then,” dog, but aren’t really sure how to go about FINDING that dog.
For Schubert, we decided to get a puppy from a reputable breeder. We felt that he would do better with a puppy who wasn’t going to bring their own issues to the table. It also needed to be one that would NOT challenge Gershwin’s perceived place in the hierarchy.* We actually wanted a female, but both girls in the litter were already spoken for.
We were very clear with the breeder about Gershwin’s issues and why we needed a specific personality type. We were also prepared to lose our security deposit if it became obvious that the situation wasn’t going to work out.
I think, in your case, if you have a good rescue org, maybe reach out to the person in charge and explain what you’re looking for (assuming you really want to rescue). You might also spend some time with a trainer to create a plan to head off any potential problems. Plus, they may know of anybody that needs to rehome a dog due to unexpected events. Your vet could also be a good resource for that. I think that you REALLY want to avoid a dog with an unknown past.
But I think that making it clear that you’re not heading into a sensitive situation recklessly, but instead have made careful plans in order to ensure success is key. Other than that, I think it’s just legwork and time on Petfinder.
Just, you know, no Petfinder until you’re ready to bring someone home! But finding the right second dog is a pain in the butt, but totally worth it :)
*Gershwin’s version of the hierarchy is Me, Him, Husband, Schubert, Cat.
Schubert’s version is Gershwin, Schubert, Humans, Moving Fluff Toy (Cat).
To add on, cause I had time to think while walking Cranky, if Daisy were my dog, I’d probably go for a male puppy who’s confident and easily distracted.
Male because Conventional Wisdom states that opposite gender dogs get along better than same gender dogs.
Puppy because adult dogs tend to be more forgiving of doofery from puppies than they are from adults. Daisy might make it very clear that she’s the boss, and it’ll be loud and scary, but she probably wouldn’t push it to the point of fear or injury. But you might have to peel the pup off the ceiling once or twice :).
Confident so that he’ll bounce back from being peeled off the ceiling.
And easily distracted, so that when he’s NOT taking the hint and you see Daisy about to lose it, you can turn his attention to something safe. One would think that all puppies are easily distracted, but it’s not so! Schubert will get fixated on one toy (the one Gershwin has, of course) and bark at it incessantly until Gershwin gets bored and walks away.
Hopefully, Daisy will surprise you and be totally cool with the new addition. The first time Schubert decided to chew on Gershwin’s ears, we thought we’d be picking up pieces of basset puppy, but 4 years later and Schubert is still chewing ears. So gross…