Katz is lucky enough to have a profession that accommodates devoting your life to your dogs – his 2007 release, Dog Days, is part of a series of tales about the animals of Bedlam Farm. We spoke with Katz about his thoughts on training dogs, loving dogs and being a responsible dog owner. Here are eight things every dog lover should know.
1. Dogs love routine
"Dogs are creatures of habit," says Katz. "They tend to like what is familiar." Conversely, what is unfamiliar can upset them – keep this in mind when trying to analyze your dog's behaviour and train him. "Dogs are very adaptable," Katz notes. "Most dogs will settle in to a routine and really like it, if they're getting consistent training."
2. A dog is not an impulse purchase
"Acquiring a dog should be a thoughtful and careful process," says Katz, who is strongly opposed to purchasing a dog on a whim. He lists a number of questions you should ask yourself before getting a dog:
• Do you have time?
• Are you committed?
• Do you have the resources?
• How do people in your family feel about it?
• Are you going to have problems with the neighbours?
• And, most important – if the dog wants to go out at three o'clock in the morning in the middle of winter, how are you going to feel about that?
3. There's a dog for every family
"If they're well fed, exercised and treated well, dogs can be happy anywhere," says Katz. That being said, he emphasizes choosing the right dog for your family and living situation. For instance, if you have young children, find a dog that will coexist happily with them; if you have limited time to go for walks, don't choose a breed that needs several hours' exercise a day – unless you have a country-size yard.
Katz recommends three potential ways to get a dog, from people who'll be able to help you find the right one: first, through an experienced rescue group; second, by going to a shelter and having a thorough discussion about the kind of life you can give the dog; and third, by visiting a good breeder, and learning about the dog's history. "In all of those cases, people should ask you a lot of questions," Katz says. "I know some people find that obnoxious, being grilled by a rescue worker, but it means they care about the dog, and they care about you."
Page 1 of 2 - Read page 2 to find out why not to buy a dog for your kids.
4. Never buy a dog for a child
"It's almost always a disaster when people get dogs for their kids," Katz says. This doesn't mean that it's bad for kids to have dogs in the family, but the dogs should be the responsibility of the parents, not the children, especially with young kids. "Parents should have no illusions," says Katz. "Shelters are littered with dogs that people got for their kids and didn't really want." Bottom line – only get a dog for your family if you want the dog and will be happy taking care of it.
5. Training is essential – for every dog
"Dogs desperately need training," says Katz. "Training is the language with which we communicate with our dogs, the way in which we show them how to live in a world that is not necessarily hospitable to them." This applies no matter how large or small the dog – or how old it was when you got it. And don't think of training as something that will happen in a day. "You never stop training a dog," Katz says. "You can certainly teach a dog some basic and important things quickly, like coming or sitting or staying, but training a dog is a spiritual experience that goes on forever."
6. Dogs aren't people
Katz says this is the most important thing to keep in mind when considering your dog's personality – she's not a person, and she doesn't really have a personality. "They're wonderful animals, and I love them," he says, "but they're not people." So when you're trying to figure out your dog's behaviour, remember not to anthropomorphize her. "They don't have complex human emotions," says Katz, "they can't tell time, they don't know if you've been gone for three hours or six hours, they are not chewing the carpet up because you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend. They're just relatively simple animals."
7. Dogs need your respect, and your love
Katz notes that more and more, people are seeing dogs as an integral part of their lives. "It's a beautiful thing. I think humans are redefining their relationship with this other species; they're really saying to the species, we love you, and we want you to come into our lives, and we see you as being a version of us." And this is a good thing, for the most part – after all, they're getting a great deal: food, shelter and attention. But the key, says Katz? Again, remember that dogs aren't people and don't think like we do. "Don't transform them into versions of us, which I think is very arrogant," he says. "Respect them for the wonderful animals that they are."
8. A dog can change your life
Katz is a strong believer that a dog can help you redefine yourself. "I think what drives me to writing about dogs is not the dogs themselves but the impact they have on people," he says. "I think it's really a case of animals opening you up to something." And he should know – Katz had lived in cities all his life, until he moved to Bedlam Farm, but now he can't imagine living anywhere else. "It drives you crazy sometimes," he says, "but I can't imagine not being on the farm."
What are the top 5 family-friendly dogs? Click here to find out.
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