“Operation Composure”

Laura If you haven’t noticed, since May we’ve seeded this blog—well, maybe once or twice—with hints and codewords about something we’ve been planning for a while. Since the thing in question didn’t even exist yet (and wouldn’t for at least another three months) we thought it would be pretty silly to do a post about it; however, I think pretty much everyone knows our plans by now (especially after blabbing all about it to guests at our weekend party), so what’s the use in hiding it?

We’re getting a dog!

“Why a dog?” you ask. One: to get us—nay, force us—out of the house every day. Sitting at the computer all the time makes it very easy to have days where we don’t even leave the house. This is bad. Two: to give Jon an ersatz “sibling”. For a while now, but definitely since his operation in July the centre of the universe has coalesced around Master Jonathan, which is not necessarily a healthy situation. We’d like to redistribute the attention a bit. Three: we felt we needed a bit more chaos in our lives. Either that or I’ve decided I don’t like to wear black anymore. Take your pick. 😛

The breed is a miniature Australian Shepherd (AKA mini Aussie). They look just like regular Aussies, but are less than 17 inches at the shoulders (which is a fair bit smaller than the Aussies’ 18 to 23 inches) and about half the weight. They are intelligent herding dogs, and look a little like thickset border collies, but don’t have the border collies’ type-A intensity. One of the best descriptions of Aussies I’ve heard is that they’re like “border collies with an OFF switch”.

We’ve been in talks with the breeder since May. The reason we’ve been waiting so long is because there’s one particular breeding pair who are calm and mellow and who have already produced mellow pups (more mellow than most aussies, anyway). Oh goody! Pretty straightforward. Until this weekend when the breeder threw us a curveball.

She felt that one of her young (8 months old) dogs was no longer suitable for her breeding program. There’s nothing wrong with him, but she discovered some fear issues in his bloodline that she felt could pop up in any potential puppies of his, and she didn’t want to risk it. She’s sad about this, since the dog himself is a real lovebug. Another problem for the breeder is that he climbs over her 4-foot fences with aplomb—not to escape, but to simply go around the house to be where the people are!

The last few times we’ve visited, this dog has been one of her “ambassador puppies”: relatively calm and quiet, and definitely very gentle with Jon. Big plus in our books. We’ve been cogitating ever since her Friday email, and even more since our visit yesterday.

And, oh yeah, to add to the fun, the mom of the litter we are considering is in heat a month early….

Getting a young puppy
Bond with them from newborn beginning (breeder posts pics of pups from their first day!)
Start behavioural training early; easier to mold them to what you want
Puppies are soooo cute!
Puppies can drive you crazy!!
Chewing and biting
You don’t always know what temperment you’ll end up with (personalities can change)

Adopting older dog
No surprises in size, looks or temperment
Housetraining and crate training already done (Apparently housetraining isn’t totally complete. Ugh.)
We can have a trial period and take him back if it doesn’t work out
Miss cute puppy stage
Not much other training has been done, so we’d be training an older dog—we’re not sure what has been ingrained already or not

Jon with crazy puppy
Here’s a cutie with Jon when we last visited the breeder. Note the puppy’s expression. Note that this was on the hottest day of the year (humidex 47°C). This is NOT the energy level we’re looking for.
Laura with older dog
Here’s the older dog we’re thinking of. That’s about as big as he gets!

Vote on what we should do! (Results, needless to say, are not binding.)

No comment yet

  1. Midori says:

    my vote couldn’t go through but i say you should get the older one…. 8 months old is not that old, thats about how old teagan was when you saw her, and she definitely had a lot of puppy left in her. Dogs are still very trainable at 8 months….GET THE “OLDER” DOGGY!!!!

  2. aiabx says:

    It sounds like you guys have enough stress in your lives, I’d say get the older dog, and then give it a totally cool name like Ninja or Terminator or Martian Manhunter.

  3. Tami says:

    I vote for the older dog. You’ve had enough surprises in your life lately! This one is still a puppy but with all the “important” training done! (This is especially important since Jon is beginning to crawl on the floor again.) You will have skipped the single-mindedness of the puppy which is equivalent to Terrible Twos attitude in children. Big Bonus! Also, I like the fact that you already know this dog’s temperament and it’s compatable with yours! He has such a lovely face! Look how comfortable you already are with him. (I’m referring to pic) There is no guarantee that just because parents may be calm and friendly that ALL their children will be too. Just compare any set of siblings you know to appreciate the truth of it! My final argument is for Jon. At 8 months this dog will already have a decent amount of receptive language (regardless of training) and will be more compliant to your and Jon’s requests! It will be easier for him to bond if the dog actually comes when called! Good luck in your decision and with the newest member of the family. I think a dog will be great for all of you!!

  4. Peter says:

    I don’t think it would be fair to change the name of a dog who has fully learned it and responds to it. So the name has to stay. But believe it or not, the name is vaguely along the lines you suggest. He has a great name.

  5. Patti says:

    You already know my thoughts on the topic, definitely an older dog. I also thought of another pro for the older dog. When Jasmine was a puppy and would do her energy release run (I call it the psycho run) around the back yard she would keep going under the fence and then we would have to chase her around the neighbours yards. Now she is too big to get under the fence and she knows her name when we call her if she did escape. Have fun deciding.

  6. Meghan says:

    go for the older dog, it is less work!!!!!!!!

  7. Peter says:

    Hmmm. Just heard from the breeder, a little more in depth. The “older” dog’s house-training is somewhat spotty—so to speak— and he has a number of other behaviours that will have to be trained out of him. Not quite a blank slate. The fact that we have to think about it right now means that we aren’t ready to commit to this right away. More thinking required.

  8. Pamela says:

    I really hope this will help you a bit I think the puppy would be better for you all and it should be more easyer for you all to train her or him and if the older dog has behaviours problems do you really want to go through that cause a puppy you would train and give it your all love and support well the older dog you would do the same but be a different kind of training you might have to start over I really do think a puppy for you all Love Pamela

  9. David "Notice The Barker Part Of My Name" Barker says:

    Get the older dog. I partly agree with Andy about the name, because young dogs generally change names fairly easily. But if the current name is good, that’s cool too.

    And what a handsome fella the older boy is, isn’t he?

    What does Jon think about the issue? Hmmm?

  10. Laura says:

    We’ve just gotten Jon used to the idea of getting any sort of dog, let alone specific ones. I think puppies might be somewhat less daunting for him because they’re physically smaller, but other than that he’s pretty neutral on the topic.

  11. Richard says:

    Bucking the trend of the posts, I would opt for the younger dog. Reasons:

    1. I had a German Shepherd as a kid, and I would not for the world have missed seeing him grow from a puppy.

    2. Perhaps I am just suspicious by nature, but I would worry that there is something about the older dog that the breeder isn’t telling you.

    3. Why settle for a non house-broken older dog that has some behaviours that need to be “trained out” of him, when you can start with a blank slate, have it and Jon undergo all of that good Karl Lorenz imprinting type stuff from day one, and train it to be exactly the kind of dog you want it to be? (I have every confidence that two Psych majors are up to the task!)

  12. Meghan says:

    Listen to Richard! He talks logically………………….PERCISELY!

  13. Grandma says:

    My thoughts on young pup vs older pup and I certainly can agree with the input from all the wonderful comments. Having raised two border collies (well, each may have had a little wandering shepherd gene or two), and memory has made light of the trying moments, I can see the merit of a new pup. No question, a lot of work and many rewards. In each case, pals to our family for many years.
    We have also had the experience of raising two older pups, one six months, house trained and with a “unique” personality. In both cases, hard to break earlier habits.
    You do have the chance to have the older pup as part of your household for a trial period and to see if you want to take on the challenge of retraining as opposed to training first time.

  14. Pamela says:

    I was just wondering what does Big Jon would like An older dog or a puppy ? I would like to have his imput on this topic. It would be nice to see what he has to say about the dog or a puppy? Love Pamela

  15. Peter says:

    In defense of the breeder, I don’t think she’s holding anything back. She’s been very honest and open with us. Any clarifications were highlighting the differences in routine between her household (with 13 or so dogs) and ours. That said, Richard’s comment about growing up with a pup is what reverberates with me. It’s one of the reasons we started thinking about this a year or two ago. But still we think.

  16. David "Deep Thoughts" Barker says:

    I fully realize your considerations are different than a more ‘standard’ family, but it is possible to over think this sort of thing.

    The dog will be a family member, and family members can be trained, for the most part.

    Whether you go with an older pup now or a young pup later, it’s really only a matter of a few months and one kind of effort versus another kind.

    You’ll be happy whatever you choose, I’ll just damn betcha.


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