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I am surrounded by overachievers!! I am meeting lots of younger people these days who are moving into their own homes, establishing their own lives and reaching out into the world to add a four legged companion to their personal mix!!

I hear all of the wonderful hopes and dreams of these Power Youngsters. They are ready to take on the world and want their dog to reflect all of their amazing, multi-tasking lifestyles!! Hiking, canoeing, search and rescue, therapy and service! Be ready for a five mile hike on the weekend and lie around the apartment quietly all week, ready to greet their overworked owner with some undemanding cuddles in the evening…Quite the job description! I think most of us might be a little overwhelmed by this list of expectations. Then when we add moving over out of the limelight in a couple of years to make way for a newcomer with grace and humility, well…it’s a dogs life!!

A dog can be a fantastic addition to your life and can expand your emotional and physical awareness in ways you had not considered… Its like opening a door into a whole new room.

Like many new adventures, we often have an idea about what the experience is going to offer and like many new adventures, we are often waaaay off base.

Now, as we know, the way to fully enjoy a new experience is to open yourself up to what it has to offer but it really helps if we can make sure that the plane is booked and the destination is decided in advance.

Many of the calls I receive are centered around a person’s disappointment or frustration with how their experience with their new dog has turned out. The dog does not seem to be able to stay calm around the kids or the dog simply doesn’t enjoy those ten mile hikes up a mountain. He doesn’t like noise, he is afraid of guns, he is a slow learner…and it occurs to me that if we already know that we don’t like to spend time and money brushing and grooming our dogs, we probably should not choose a hairy dog!!

So this article is about setting our expectations appropriately so that we do not have to be disappointed.

Picking a dog to share our lives is sometimes a matter of writing down who we are and where we think we are going. Like one of those career aptitude tests, if you answer honestly, you will be more likely to get the training and job that will suit you best. I was simply not cut out to be an financier and would have failed miserably should I have had that expectation.  A Border Collie will do a great job of hiking the hills and participating in agility classes but will not sit quietly all day at home with no stimulation. A little fluffy dog will have a hard time in the deep snows of Vermont. Your Lab is an easy going fellow but does not have the sensitivity or body awareness to avoid knocking over the baby!

A dog may be able to accomplish many different tasks but try not to demand that he shine at completely opposing ones. If you want everyone to approach your dog without nervousness, a Rottweiler or German Shepherd is probably the wrong choice. A Greyhound will not often be allowed off leash and a Doberman does not usually like to swim. Now there are always exceptions to the rule but it is sensible to look at averages when considering a ten year partnership with any being…

If you want to hunt your dog, you will need to start her early and limit her other activities. If you want to have your dog visit people in stressful situations, you will need to cultivate a quiet attitude and great discipline in your chosen candidate. If you require both sets of skills in one dog, you are looking at a long, uphill project.

As with all adventures with our dogs, we must start with a dream but try to set yourself up with a partner that has the potential to help you achieve that dream and then your odds will be better for a happy conclusion.

And remember, even if you have the perfect dog for the job you envision for him, he will still need careful and considered guidance to fulfill his potential!!

Welcome to the age of the superstar canine…no pressure!

– Janine Lazarus, HashtagWV #95. November 2017. Hire Janine at!

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HashtagWV Art & Entertainment is a high-quality print and digital multimedia platform for all things West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The editorial focus is local music, unique shopping, the arts, events, theatre, and food and drinks.