Every farm and rural dweller should have a dog, and many do.  The bigger ones are often useful for controlling groundhogs, for letting owners know when visitors arrive, for keeping an eye on expensive equipment and farm machinery at night, and of course, as pets and animals well loved by family members.  But picking the proper dog can be a problem, because once you select one and bring it home, you’re going to be living with that animal for 10 -12 years.  If it’s a bad choice and a problem dog, you’re stuck with it, unless you haul it to the pound, which can bring loud objections from the kids.

So, how do you pick a good dog?  I’m no expert, but I’ve had country/house dogs all my life and every single one was a fine animal.  In the past 25 years, for example, I’ve had Jake, a schnauser-terrier who had the heart of a lion and loved his family unashamedly.  I can still see his little brown face at my second story window, tail wagging madly when I pulled in the driveway.  His master was home.  Then when he passed away, there was Scooter, a poodle-schnauser cross with hair like a buffalo bull who liked EVERYBODY and would snuggle on the handiest warm lap as long as we’d let him.  Now, I have Little Jack, a beagle-terrier cross who’s very intelligent, minds beautifully, and likes best to crawl under my blanket on the couch and sleep with his head on my leg. 

Good dogs, but they don’t come easy.  If you’re thinking about adding a dog to the family farm or house, give some initial thought to just what you want.  Would you prefer a large dog, medium, or a small animal?  Long hair, short hair?  Pure bred or Heinz 57?  Decide before you look.  Lots of people strongly prefer pure bred dogs, and I’ve no problem with that.  If you’re a boxer fancier, get one.  Or a poodle or chihuahua, whatever.  But take time to look carefully at their breeding.

Too many of the “puppy farm” people breed their pups to be perfect, to show those ideal characteristics of the breed, and to do so, they’ll even breed father to daughter or mother to son.  The result can be genetic problems that you’ll never overcome.  My own father owned a dachshund that was inbred and had several problems including itchy skin and a bone thing that no vet could cure, only temporarily alleviate.  He spent literally thousands on that dog.  So, check the bonafides of whoever you buy from, ask questions, and make sure you’re not getting an inbred lemon.

My own preference is for hybrid dogs, as the animals I chose over the past 25 years shows.  That hybrid vigor doesn’t work just for corn and soybeans, it also works for dogs, and hybrid or mixed breeds can be unusually intelligent and tractable.  I invariably get mine from the  county dog pound, and I always buy a pup because I like to train them to suit myself, though adult dogs can be wonderful, too.  But I’m never in a hurry, because again that animal will be living at my house for a long, long time.

It took three months of weekly trips to the Richland, Crawford, and Ashland county pounds to find Jake, nearly the same for Scooter, and almost two months of searching to find Little Jack.  During that time I looked at hundreds of dogs, and my heart went out to many of them, but I resisted the impulse.  When I did find a likely pup, I followed a careful procedure before making a choice.

I’d play with the animal for a while, and watch its reactions.  Did it back fearfully to the back of the cage?  Not good.  Did it show aggression, barking loudly or cringe at sudden loud noises?  Not good.  Did it come happily and confidently to my hand, wag its tail showing no fear, just being glad to see me?  That’s good.

 Here’s a final thought, and you MUST do it.  When you go looking for a dog, go alone!  Never take your kids, who will invariably pick something that’s cute, but is possibly the biggest loser in the whole kennel.  Never take your wife either, if she’s a tender hearted woman.  She’ll pick something she feels sorry for, and that’s definitely not the way to choose a dog.  If you take the family, they’ll love whatever they pick, and you’re stuck with it.  If you go alone and bring home a pup or dog, they’ll still love it, but you’ll have something worth keeping.

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