Here comes a bounding blur of a fur ball. Running right at me, apparently not even looking for obstacles to avoid, like knee caps. Tongue flying, legs trying to keep up with the momentum, and I just can’t help but smile. As my friend Cat B. says, and I have quoted her so often over the years, when a dog is playing, their whole body smiles!
This particular fur ball was a sixteen week old Bernese Mountain Dog. Her owners weren’t smiling, in fact they were on the verge of tears, and their stress was palpable. They had been told that BMD’s make great family pets, so on that recommendation alone, without further research into dog ownership, they got a puppy. A puppy for their three young children and busy household.
Any time there is a write up on a breed, whether it’s in a breed book, a dog magazine or on a breeders website, it acts the same as a dating service. They touch on what the adult mature dog should be like, and try to promote the positive attributes.
Tri color with thick luscious coat. Built for work but enjoys laying around the house on hot summer days. Easy going and social, with a sense of humor. Weighing in between 75-100 pounds, not giant but substantial and eye catching. Enjoys walks, romps with friends, dog sports and farm work. Great family dog.
What these write ups forget to mention is the puppy thru adolescent thru young adult stages. And the very real fact that once you get a puppy, that is supposed to be a great family dog, it takes roughly 3-4+ years to reach maturity. As Sheldon would say, BAZINGA!
When this particular family asked me if there was something wrong with their puppy, I said no, I would snatch her up in a heart beat. This puppy was so cute, charming, and appropriate for her age. She was social but not in your face, playful with playmates, good balance, had nice settle, not too mouthy just puppy stuff, and wanted to engage and work (yay!). Lovely on all levels, but not a mature dog, she was a puppy! And puppies make puppy choices, which aren’t always wise or well thought out.
Pre schoolers and puppies are just about the same on the wise choice scale. If you wouldn’t leave a pre schooler in charge of your home while you go shopping for the day, chances are you shouldn’t do it with a puppy either.
The problem, and where the source of the stress was coming from, is that this family was never prepared for the first 3-4 years of this dogs life. They some how were expecting the adult description of this breed to apply to a young puppy, and had not considered the enormous amount of time, structure, and management a puppy takes.
To all of our potential puppy homes I share our puppy tips first, just to make sure they are aware of the work ahead of them, if they want to grow a well balanced family dog.
This is not uncommon at all, this happens all of the time, literally all of the time, no matter what the breed of puppy is. Well meaning families, trying to make a good choice, but didn’t quite get all of the information. Working with a trainer before getting a puppy is, in my opinion, a good thing. I’ve found that it can take a great deal of the stress away, and helps with having a support system.
So, here is to the bounding little fur balls, may your families understand this important stage in your life, and rise to the occasion. Growing a puppy takes time, patience, guidance, and love.