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Why Do You Want a Dog?

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Set Realistic Expectations for Win-Win Relationship with Dog

A woman crouches down and puts her hand around her white miniature schnauzer dog on a trail in a Vancouver rainforest. Their canine-human bond is strong as they have done Vancouver Puppy Classes and Vancouver Dog Classes with Hustle Up Dog Training Vancouver Dog Trainers.
A woman crouches down and puts her hand around her white miniature schnauzer dog on a trail in a Vancouver rainforest. Their canine-human bond is strong.

MYTH: Any dog can easily fit into your family unit at any point of your life.

REALITY CHECK: You should carefully consider why you want a dog in your life, what kind of dog you want, and what a successful interspecies relationship means to you before you even think about shopping for a dog. Having a dog will be at least six-year commitment, but it can become a prison sentence for both species—and the dog too often pays the ultimate price with his or her life.

The Doggy Dogma Assessment

When I first meet a client, I ask them three really important questions. It’s not a pop quiz that I can mark with a pass or fail grade in red ink. That would mean I believe I know the one right answer to each question, but I don’t. Although some people love “playing God” in this way, I don’t feel I have the right to do that.

The first question is “Why do you want a dog?” Or, if my client already owns a dog. “Why did you want a dog?”

The second question is “What do you want your dog to be able to do?” And last but not least, I ask. “What does success mean to you in a dog-human relationship? I pose these questions because my clients response gives me some fascinating insights into their frame of mind, as well as a family’s dynamics and their expectations not only about the role they want that dog to play in their life but also about how they imagine their own life.

Until recently, the answers to these three questions was probably much simpler in most cases. “I want a dog to herd cattle”; “to protect the flock of sheep from predators”; “… to help with the hunting.” Nobody is sure exactly why humans decided to roll out the red carpet for dogs, but one theory is that the least skittish and aggressive wild canines were the most likely to be curious about us and the most willing to interact with us. In fact, anthropologists have theorized that when we started living with dogs fifteen thousand years ago-a time when it is believed domestic dogs diverged from their wolf ancestors—we mostly cherry picked the ones that were naturally submissive and friendly, so they’ve evolved to get along with us. That makes sense to me. You wouldn’t be able to bond with a dog that bolted as soon as it saw, heard or smelled you coming.

Anthropologists and archaeologists have dug up a lot of evidence to support their theories that dogs have had an intimate relationship with humans for a long time. The oldest dog burial site found to date is about fourteen thousand years old. It’s in Germany about an hour south of Dusseldorf, and the dog skeleton looks like that of a small sheepdog. But the burial remains of dogs have been found all over the world, often alongside of those of humans.

So if you have a dog, you are a part of an ancient tradition—though you likely had different motivations for a canine than the humans who hunted and travelled with dogs so many centuries ago. In this chapter I will talk about the many reasons people choose to have dogs in their lives their various expectations about the kind of relationship they want with them. As I mentioned earlier, it’s great to have expectations about our dogs and it’s important to set goals for both species. But some expectations don’t fit into our lifestyles. So many people saddle themselves and their dogs with unrealistic, and sometimes downright impossible, hope and dreams. And those expectations often under-estimate or utterly ignore the skills and needs of dogs.


Dogs have been helping humans for a very long time

Dogs have been helping for a very long time. In some regions, herding, hunting, and sled dogs still work by our sides, helping us survive. Nowadays, we also have guide dogs, rescue dogs, police dogs, de-mining dogs, {dogs who detect land mines}, and dogs the detect cancer. Dog companions can have a therapeutic effect on people who have anything from heart disease to mental illnesses. Recent dog DNA sequencing has also revealed that they have much the same DNA as humans, so gene research with dogs is helping crack a variety of human diseases.

In the past decade or two, dogs have also have become a hot topic among behavioral scientists at universities all over the globe. Chimps might be our species’ closest relatives, but researchers haver recently that dogs are better then chimps at problem solving and at perceiving and responding to human methods of communication, such as pointing, nodding, glancing and other specific body and facial cues. Dogs have also been found to be better than their closest relatives, the wolf, at problem solving because they have evolved with humans for at least fifteen thousand years. Even six- week-old puppies still living with their four-legged moms respond to humans, which suggests that they are evolutionarily predisposed to follow our cues.

You Complete Me, Rover

A common response to “Why do you want a dog?” question is “I had a dog as a kid” That sounds pretty simple, but there are usually some pretty interesting back stories involved when a client says something like that. If you’ve thought the same, maybe you have beautiful, gold-tinged memories of running through the woods with Rover. You might want to recapture your youth and a simpler “dog days of summer” time in your life when you didn’t have a care in the world. Or you might want a second crack at that “dog that got away”—whether she ran away from home, never to found again, or your parents sent her off to “a better place,” which you now know was the animal shelter.

Another common response client’s give, and you might, too. Is that they always wanted a dog but their parents wouldn’t allow it. If you’ve thought along those line, you might have spent half your life feeling ripped off, and having a dog might be a sort of rite of passage into adulthood.

Some people I encounter are planning to have kids in a few years and they think of a dog as a sort of practice child. Other’s want a replacement for a dog that recently died. Some are looking for protection. I know a single woman whose home was invaded by five guys. They raped her and killed her German Shepherd. She now has two huge dogs: she needs them to feel safe. Others have had a failed relationship or even a string of them, and they’re sick and tired of the two-legged letdowns. So they bring a dog into their world to ease the pain and loneliness, to keep them company and, in some cases, to stand in as a surrogate partner or friend that they can take mountain biking or cuddle on the couch.

Balancing a hectic life is another reason people get a dog. Rocky’s “parents,” Steve and Peggy, are hard-working professionals; self-described DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). Before Rocky entered their lives, they’d typically cap their long workdays with late dinners in a restaurant. Neither Peggy or Steve had any previous experience with dogs, but they thought it would help balance their hectic schedules and, in Peggy’s words, “force us to have a home life.” As you’ll find out later, their real-life experience with Rocky was nothing like this initial picture of domestic bliss.

Other people get a dog because they’re depressed or have a physiological illness, and their doctor suggests that a dog companion would help balance their health. Sure, studies have found that dogs are great stress busters; they can help us stay physically active and provide us with healthy social companionship. Being with dogs can elevate mood and lower blood pressure and stress. But we need to be able to provide our dogs with a lot of physical and mental activities so they can also be happy and happy as possible. We should be stable on our own two legs and know where we are going to be for the next decade before committing to owning a dog. A dog sure can inject sunshine into your life, but he can’t do that alone. He’s not a magic genie who can grant you all your wishes, especially of you expect him to be the spitting image of your favourite childhood dog or that incredible dog who passed away. If you think your dog will automatically set you up for a better life, whatever that means to you, you—and your dog—will be miserable. There’s a lot of hard work involved, so you’d better be ready to make the effort.

This is an excerpt from my, Award-winning, BEST-SELLING BOOK “UNLEASHED Chapter 1, written by Brad Pattison, Dog Trainer Vancouver IG: @hustleupdogs & FaceBook: Hustle Up Dog Training Email us with questions & comments at

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