buying a puppy

The tragic myth of being “chosen” by a puppy

Some of the worst decisions in all of dogdom are justified by this line – “He chose me.”

I am tempted to make this post about why this is the case, why we want to make the acquisition of a dog a wholly emotional decision, and (further) why we want it to not just be emotional but an inexorable decision BY THE DOG in the face of which we are hopeless – because it’s ridiculous. Are we somehow thrilled by dogs who are stalkers?

But what I really want to make it about is this gorgeous bunch of Australian Shepherds thundering toward me.

I took this photo about a second and a half before that lead puppy made it to my face. This was the last photo I could take for several minutes, in fact, while I held the camera above my head and laughed helplessly as six babies chewed my ears, sucked on my hair, licked my nose, and wiggled gleefully into my coat.

Once they had all been gently detached from my person, they went running all over the place, except for one.

This dude was on top of me, biting my face, tugging my pants leg, generally making himself a glorious nuisance the entire time. When I put my hands down he ran to them; when I smiled he grinned. I talked to him and he stared into my face as though I was the only person on earth.

So why did I not re-mortgage my house and come home with him? Didn’t he choose me? Isn’t it inevitable? Hasn’t my heart spoken to his, and his spoken back?

Well, for one thing it’s because he’s Leslie’s keeper puppy and I don’t have that much courage in the entire world. But mostly it’s because of this:

Same set of puppies.

There’s “my” puppy, and there’s all that love.

Why? Because he’s that kind of puppy. In fact, a TON of puppies are that kind of puppy. If I went to see a litter of Tervs or Danes or Chihuahuas or Kerry Blues, there would be a puppy “choosing” me in each litter. That puppy would, in fact, “choose” every human to walk into the room, and try to choose the piano and a space heater. Sparkly, pushy puppies are geniuses at it.

Bringing home an Australian Shepherd puppy is the wrong – WRONG – choice for most families. Bringing home a Kerry Blue is wrong for even more of them. Bringing home a puppy of any breed from a pet store or from a bad breeder is even worse. You must choose. YOU must be the one who selects and who takes responsibility and makes sure that the breed and the puppy is a wise and considered choice, and IGNORES the fact that one puppy thinks you’re the bob-omb.

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  • Reply Erin January 18, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    That puppy is the most gorgeous piece of dog I have ever seen. Please can’t he chose me? Please?! Kidding (about the chosing, not about being the most gorgeous dog).
    Erin recently posted…Impostor SyndromeMy Profile

  • Reply Ron January 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    British actor Martin Clunes (star of Doc Martin) hosted a documentary series about dogs. One segment featured a man living with wolves. As Clunes arrived, the pack security wolf went up to him to check him out. The wolf man said that every pack will have one or two of these animals, and that the behaviour is exhibited by puppies when propective owners come. The puppy in your picture isn’t “picking” you so much as assessing you as a risk to the litter. Wolf dude goes on to say that the security puppies aren’t usually the best fit for the buyer.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking January 21, 2011 at 3:00 am

      That is a very interesting perspective for sure, but I think he’s wrong – at least on dogs. Dogs do indeed have scout jobs, and those dogs tend to be a bit more cautious and a bit more likely to draw conclusions that are difficult for an owner. I agree with him that security/scout dogs can be challenging. Where I think he’s wrong is that the ultra-social puppies don’t, in my experience, grow up to be scout dogs. They grow up to have just as much “I love you and you and you and you!” personalities as adults as they did as babies.

  • Reply Laurel January 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Those puppies! I want all of them! I bet they would choose me too!

    I think people often use the idea that the puppy ‘chose’ them to deal with their fear of picking the wrong puppy. When I got a rescue puppy, I had like 15 minutes to pick one of 6 lab/border collie puppies, all hanging out in an x-pen in a crowded area. No room or quiet for temperament testing. I got in and handled them and picked one who settled well and went right back to sleep after I dropped her on my lap, but I can see how a person might go with the bossy puppy who ‘chose’ them. Still always the humans actually choosing, even if they pretend otherwise.
    Laurel recently posted…wrong-headed medicatingMy Profile

  • Reply micaela January 19, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    I’m sorry… was there text in that post? Because zOMGz all my eyes could focus on were those GORGEOUS puppies!!! When I looked through the pictures you posted to Flickr, I actually commented to my husband “look, THIS is what well-bred Aussies look like!” *sigh* I have missed your dog photography-rich posts 😉 I would’ve probably cried my eyes out if I had to leave that heavenly puppy kingdom…

    And on a totally unrelated note: today was the second time EllieMae just lay there while I dremeled her nails. ALL OF THEM. No bawling, thrashing, or chaos ensued. THANK YOU to you and all your dog-posse who’ve encouraged me, I DID IT!!!

    • Reply rufflyspeaking January 21, 2011 at 2:56 am

      Yay for you and EllieMae!

      It is kind of unfair of me to post Leslie’s puppies as examples of normal Aussie puppies – they are beautiful across the entire litter in a way that few breeders (certainly not i!) will ever achieve. Her dogs are really, really special, and I say that as a person who will almost certainly never own one. They’re just things of beauty.

  • Reply Pia January 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    First, glad you’re back to regular posting. I’m not a serial commenter, but generally I do a lot of nodding in agreement while readying your posts. 🙂

    I think people have this secret – or, perhaps, not so secret – desire to experience love at first sight. Like, if there isn’t this instant “connection” the relationship is somehow doomed. Maybe it’s our need for instant gratification?

    It’s not just puppy buyers, either. When I was looking for my second dog my priority was to get a dog that would not drive Bella and me crazy. Of course, I have my preferences as far as build, look, etc. I also do agility, but was not looking for an agility dog specifically. Companion first and foremost. The most important thing to me is a sane household.

    When we all met, what I saw was exactly what I want to see when 2 adult dogs meet. Respectful approach, little wagging and sniffing, and move on to what you were doing. Bella was in a new place with new people to check out. Kate had well-known confidence issues. There was no immediate play bowing and wrestling. They are not those types of dogs. Kate also hung by her foster mom instead of me. The foster mom was clearly bothered by this and kept trying to get Kate to interact with me and/or Bella. Which, of course, just stressed her out even more. I think she was expecting me to pass on Kate because there was no love at first sight. Geez, we just met! Love we have time for. I’ll take the manners first any day. 🙂
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    • Reply rufflyspeaking January 21, 2011 at 2:54 am

      “I’ll take the manners first any day” should be everyone’s motto. That love-at-first-sight thing doesn’t last – so often those are the dogs who are dumped, in the backyard, or living lives of quiet desperation in completely unsuitable homes.

  • Reply Michy January 21, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I kinda feel like our first dog as a family chose us in a manner of speaking, but it is really more of things falling into place to work out that way. After that though, it’s been a lot more about our current dogs choosing the new ones, and a lot less about us choosing. Even then we’ve had some pretty tough issues integrating new dogs, but we’re committed, and I think we’ve finally found some things that will work so that all our dogs can be happy AND live with us. I don’t think I’ll ever bring just any dog in again, I’ll probably look to fostering to give a dog a few weeks to settle in first from now on. Dogs I’ve had in the past have always stood out to me for some reason, but I don’t think I ever really thought they chose me/us. Cats, on the other hand, they seem to choose people. Heheh.
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  • Reply Mike January 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    While I agree with your general point, of the dogs I have owned, those ones that have had a most special place in my heart I knew it within the first hour after I met them. It’s little differences in personality that just mesh perfectly, even if some of the other things need working on.

    That said, I don’t know that they ever really chose me, so much as demonstrated very quickly that we would be a good match.

  • Reply Emily~ DreamEyce January 22, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Mike above, took the comment I was going to say right out of my fingers. I totally agree with your point, but also have experienced firsthand the ‘knowing’ on some dogs, while not with others. Not in the “They chose me, so I had to take them home”, but I’ve learned if there’s not an ‘angels ringing’ bond right away, the relationship is rather pointless. Sometimes, you just know, and it’s a feling you can’t explain, or justify. It simply happens sometimes.
    Emily~ DreamEyce recently posted…Texas SnugglesMy Profile

  • Reply Kristy Wiland January 23, 2011 at 6:43 am

    While I hate to admit this, because I like to think that my Winnie chose me, and that we have this super cool bond (which we do). I know better. My Winnie is a Golden, and he loves people. He’s a huge flirt with the ladies, with guys, not so much. But as his ‘Mommy’, I had this delusion that he ‘chose’ me as a puppy, and really wanted me to be his mother. Oh, the drama, the sweet ‘I love you eyes’ that only a puppy can give, the adorable tummy show for belly rubs. He wanted ME. He claimed ME.

    Such nonsense. It took me a few years, because I liked thinking that Winnie wanted and chose me. One day, while at the vet, the little flirt gave his “i love you’ eyes and his special smile to the vet tech! A mere stranger! Apparently, Winnie loves all females, and isn’t shy about showing it. It just took me a few years to realize that he didn’t choose me. He’d have chosen anyone, really. But it’s all good, his sweetness is one of the many reasons that I love him. So, if he’s a flirt, it’s fine. He knows who feeds him, after all!

  • Reply Grace January 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    You’re right. Of course you’re right. At the same time, though, I can’t help but think about going to the pound to see Ata, and him being the skinniest, mangiest, nastiest creature, but leaning right up against me and looking up with an expression that so clearly said “get me the hell out of here.” Taking him home was a ridiculous proposition–he was sick, he was huge, we knew nothing about him, he tried to climb out the closed car windows on the way home, he smelled so bad I almost threw up…but it felt beyond my control. He needed us.

    And he still does:

  • Reply Picking out our basset baby - Basset Hounds: Basset Hound Dog Forums June 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

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