Selecting A Dog

  Dear Deborah: I enjoy your column every Sunday.  It often provides me with a laugh I need – sometimes it’s better than the comics.
I had a lovely big mutt, and I’ve missed being a dog owner ever since.  Now I’m ready to get a dog again.  What should I look for at the SPCA?  I don’t want a young pup.  What should I ask breeders?  Dogless

Dear Dogless:
If you can get a mutt, you should.  They live longer and are healthier than purebreds.  I always recommend mutts over purebreds unless the people are set on a certain look or have allergies.
In your case, you know exactly what you want.  A dog with many of the good traits of your first dog.  However, you should select a dog with different looks so that you don’t expect too much of your new, untrained dog, based on your old trained dog.
Go to the SPCA only after you call around to all the local shelters.  Ask about the list and the dogs currently held there.  Narrow your search to dogs eight months to two years.  Think about exercise and grooming requirements when you select your mix of breeds.
When you go to the shelter, meet and greet the dog without food.  Avoid dogs who are overly attached or withdrawn.  If the dog is in with others, see how he socializes.  If he is kept separate, ask why.  Ask as many questions as you can about the behavior and history of the dog.
Arrange to take the dog for a walk.  Try out a few commands.  See if you can handle the dog.  Make him walk respectfully, sit on command and respond to you.  You’ll know within minutes if you connect.  At some point, tie him to a post and walk several feet from him.  See what he does.
Walk the dog for the full time allowed.  Toward the end of the walk, once the dog is comfortable with you, sit down on the ground beside him.  Talk softly to him as you touch his head, chin, chest, back and lastly his feet.  If you are tempted to cut the walk short, this is not the right dog for you.
All the dogs at the SPCA are confined in small spaces and under exercised, so expect an excited, hyper dog when you start.  By the end of the walk, if the dog is well behaved, responsive and quiet, you have found your match.

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