The Perfect Pet

A lot of dog training books and websites promise to teach you how to train “the perfect pet” or “the perfect dog,” but that’s just not going to happen. Your dog will never be perfect and it’s better to understand that from the start. Much like your children, spouse, friends, and boss, your dog will have quirks; expecting them to be perfect is a recipe for unhappiness at best and a dog bite at worst. 

Even the most intensely trained guide dog slobbers, farts, sheds, and sniffs the occasional crotch. Despite the most perfect breeding, socialization, and training that can be managed they still sometimes become frightened, develop phobias, and have the potential to become aggressive if they’re pushed far enough. They still might potty in inappropriate places due to illness or old age, bark all night if they become deaf, or develop any number of obnoxious habits if they lose cognitive function as they age.

You will likely not have a dog that’s the product of thousands of hours and dollars of breeding, training, and socialization, so everything in the above paragraph is much more true for your dog. Everyone has things they just couldn’t live with and it’s fine to be honest with yourself and try to avoid getting a dog with those qualities, but for some people the list of deal-breakers overlaps quite a bit with a list of normal dog behaviors. If you can’t deal with a dog acting like a dog then maybe you should look into another pet. Possibly a stuffed one.

Incredibly unrealistic expectations are a major reason so many pets don’t stay in their first home. Puppies keep you up all night, chew everything, have to be constantly retaught things you thought they learned, and have an inexhaustible supply of energy. Many people picture a night or two of having to wake up with them before their puppy magically masters potty training and it’s smooth sailing from there. When they meet reality things get ugly for everyone. Even the most biddable and easy-going breeds will make a few mistakes along the way.

If you’ve never had a dog before and you’re thinking about one, spend some time with friends’ dogs. Notice things like how often they might get new throw pillows and find out if they just like new decor or if their dog chews them when skateboarders go by and make him nervous. Consider the time and emotional energy you have to devote to training. Admit that there will be behaviors you just learn to live with (or rehome over) because you just don’t have the skills or energy to fix them. Really think about how you would react to something that will probably destroy at least one thing you valued. More if you’re not getting a well-trained adult dog.

If you’ve had a dog or raised a puppy, really remember the crappy parts before you decide to do it again. It’s very common to romanticize our past pets and that’s sweet. It’s not helpful when you’ve decided to get a new puppy based on the memories you cherry picked about how great your last dog was. It’s definitely not fair to the new dog when he can’t measure up to the imaginary versions of the dogs before him.

These sorts of things are important to think about any time you’re considering a new pet, but it’s especially important to consider around the holidays. People tend to be busy, suffering from decision fatigue and under a lot of pressure to make things magical. It’s extremely rare that adopting a new dog for Christmas results in Christmas magic. I adore my dogs and they enrich my life in many ways, but honestly they’re more likely to add festive Christmas vomit than a touching moment to my festivities.

By Laura-C

Hopes to someday train her dogs not to be douchebags.

3 replies on “The Perfect Pet”

We have basset hounds (as you probably already know by know). Some friends of ours had a very sweet Rottweiler. After she passed, over a dinner and after some amusing pet stories, the wife said “maybe we should get a basset hound!” Husband and I, without looking at each other, both said a very emphatic “no!”. She asked why not, and I said, “well…you…ummm…have a really clean home”

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