Title: Why would I want a puppy?!
Author: Melvyn Greenberg
Date: 2009/05/27

Man has had a long-standing relationship with the domestic dog. While some scientists know this period is 12,000 years many are starting to estimate the bond to be much older. Is it not a fascination that the understanding of this specially adapted creature is least understood in its puppy-hood?!

Pups seek out people and take obvious pleasure in human company since dog and man are inherently gregarious. A pup can change a house in to a home by fulfilling a child-like role that can be nurtured by needy people and remain dependent on their owners for the rest of its life. Who are these “needy” people?!:

  • Parents with an empty nest syndrome
  • People who cannot have children
  • People who do not want to have children
  • Lonely people – orphaned, unemployed, no family support structure, depressives etc.
  • Single, independent, career-oriented people who do not have time for involved human relationships
  • Elderly, who are socially isolated, infrequently visited by family
  • Marriages or relationships where a catalyst is required to create a focus of interest in a mundane situation. This is often not admitted to but a pup is brought in with mutual surreptitious consent due to the bilateral need for a stimulus – the puppy serves to spark the conversation and purpose in the partnership
  • Socially inept individuals who prefer contact with animals as more gratifying than humans
  • People who require psychological and psychiatric assisted therapy etc.

There can be combinations of these needs e.g. a person may be lonely in a marriage, children have left home and is on medication for depression. A good reason for getting a puppy provided the emotions are channeled correctly and the animal is not abused in the process.
The dependency is a mutual convenience and opportunistic pattern of both canine and human social behaviour.
Stroking and patting the puppy causes the release of chemicals in the brain which helps reduce stress and lowers blood pressure.
In many instances a puppy acquisition is regarded as a serious family member, a protector, comforter, friend and entertainer.

Some people, understandably, cannot exist without the variable influences of puppy companionship. More detailed benefits of pet ownership have been discussed at length in a previous article (September 2007).

In analyzing the reasons, whatever they may be, there must be full disclosure amongst all the role players who will have an impact on the pup. A new pup must be approved at all levels so that there are no conflicting agendas amongst the pertinent people. There needs to be consensus, willing receptiveness and suitability. If this is not sorted out at the outset there will not be any mutual benefit in purchasing a pup.
It is unfair, cruel and confusing for the young animal when one person places an innocent pup in a home where the interested party is offering attention, affection and privileges while someone else is showing resentment and rejection – under these circumstances, which are common, the puppy loses trust, becomes fearful and aggressive purely as a defense mechanism for self-preservation. This can then lay a foundation for a multitude of behaviour problems through chronic low-grade anxiety. If family members cannot agree – leave the pup out of the equation – rather plant a tree.
When the rules and boundaries are set out before the pup arrives, no one is above the law, including grandparents, in-laws, friends and domestic staff.

The advantages of buying a puppy rather than an adult or sub-adult dog are:

  • The opportunity to experience the thrill of nurturing a defencless cute animal and watch it grow
  • No preconceived problems – pups start with a clean slate
  • More impressionable – owners can imprint their lifestyle on the pup

Some people select a pup in accordance with the image they wish to portray e.g. a pitbull terrier, bull terrier or Boerboel for a person who works out at the gym are usually peas in a pod - the reflection of muscle, mean looks and presence. The dog would have to be a male with well-visible testicles that growls at almost anything that passes – an emotional frisson for its owner. In certain parts of the world where this partnership hits a crisis and the dog has to be castrated for e.g. prostate cancer then the use of neuticles are used as silicon-implanted testicles so as not to digress or query the status of the hound or owner.
On the flip-side these breeds are sometimes taken on by weak, submissive and nerdy men who have something to prove. Their dogs have the substance and attitude they hanker for and will never achieve. It offers them a false sense of security but deep, social gratification. The fact that these dogs never last in their unassertive hands is no surprise.
There are books and research on psychology dealing with the important aspect of human status, at different levels in society throughout the world. Dog ownership helps to achieve some of these criteria.
Some people, although perverse, need to be seen with certain dogs as attention-seeking devices or a means of conveying certain social messages to the rest of society. Paris Hilton popularized Chihuahuas. The American President needs to have a Portuguese Water Dog – it does convey the message, if you are kind to animals you are kind to people.

Any game ranger or employee in a nature reserve who does not own a Staffordshire Bull-terrier, his own Jock of the Bushveld, may be shunned or requested to seek psychological help.
A model couple would want to be seen with a Siberian Husky (quick to tell their mates that they thought of the breed before Snow Dogs came on circuit), Australian Shepherd Dog or an Afghan Hound. Here, looks count!
A socialite in ascendancy would want the colour of her dog to match the furniture and carpets and to be of a breed that will make contemporaries or admirers use adjectives like “Wow!” – a wheaten Shar Pei blending in with the beige leather and the gold BMW does satisfy certain human social needs.
There are endless numbers of stereotypic categories of people which further endorses why there are so many breeds to benefit people, why dogs are so popular and, supposedly, man’s best friend.

There are the select few who want a pup of a certain breed and will want to achieve everything possible from the outset e.g. good temperament parents with no proven genetic faults, sold by a reputable breeder, subscribes to puppy socialization, basic obedience, advanced training and then enters any avenue of stimulation suitable for owner and dog e.g. herding with a Border Collie, agility with a Jack Russell Terrier, carting with a Bouvier, field trials with a Golden Retriever, visiting the elderly, sick or disabled with a sociable Standard Poodle or Labrador, Schutzhund with a German Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd or Dobermann Pinscher etc.
Such a puppy owner takes on the commitment with responsibility, dedication and maturity. They need know nothing at the start but, in the right hands, the human-animal bond can be the most amazing existence for both.
Any pup that has a meaningful relationship with its owner will also, instinctively, protect in a rational manner. The dog need not subscribe to attack work to protect the property and its owners – in fact, any attack-trained dog is no longer a pet, rather a weapon and unsuitable in most family homes.

For who is the puppy bought?
If a puppy is being bought to keep the children amused or busy you are making a serious mistake. This matter will be dealt with in more detail in one of the ensuing puppy articles.
Some people feel it is their human or democratic right to own a dog?! A dog can not understand that with a “good home”, good food, shelter and a walled-in garden it is expected to “appreciate” and respect what has been offered, be content, loving and protective. These people are always in for a surprise and education about animal instincts and needs.

Make sure your reasons for acquiring a puppy are followed through. There is no harm in purchasing a Pointer to do field work, play with the children and look after the granny, provided you follow the basics of training with the right people.
What you put in you will get out – think dog – be consistent!

You have to be a special kind of person to be successful with a puppy. Are you? If you are not, it is certainly not the dog’s fault!


Behaviour Tip

When a dog is presented for behaviour problems to a veterinary ethologist or accredited animal behaviourist it will usually have multiple disorders...

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