There is a silent epidemic filling our humane societies, kennels, and pet adoption centers. There are an abundance of big dogs and the lack of adopters. The persona of big dogs are often associated with big problems, the cost of food, hip ailments, aggression problems and lack of training. Many of these mistaken gentle big guys and big girls are being put to sleep because of the lack of interest in plus sized pet.
In the 1990s, the staple dog for every home was the Golden Retriever. Sitting between 60-80 pounds, this loveable dog was the second mother to every home. With their beautiful golden coats, they could handle families with multiple children, and be a staple for every home. Many people growing up in the suburbs in the 1960s saw the faithful German Sheppard protecting their family. These dogs can weigh anywhere from 70-90 pounds.
However, these trends have changed. Popular family dogs include in 2010 the Yorkshire Terrier or the Pug, neither dog weighing anymore then 10 pounds. As many people move to the urban centers, their faithful plus sized dogs no longer fit into their compact apartment. Therefore these pets are being dropped off at the local humane society, often times never being readopted.
This is where the suburban and rural families must step in. Adopting a bigger dog with more opportunities for backyard running is essential to keeping these dogs in shape. I have been told many times when my Yorkie greets my friends at the door that they love when she jumps up to be scratched. Imagine if my dog was a Bull Mastiff or a Pit Bull, with the same level of affection, they would not be impressed. Needless to say, the same playful heart of a different breed of dog can be seen as aggressive and therefore must be dealt with.
SHORT MAN’S SYNDROME
Many small dogs are extremely aggressive. If a Yorkshire bites a bigger dog at the park, it is often overlooked because he or she is scared of the bigger dog trying to play with them, and a quick nip is to let the other dog know “you’re too rough”. However, if a bigger dog is scared and bites this is shown as aggression. No dog should ever bite anyone, but with bigger dogs we must be more careful because they pack a bigger punch.
There is no question that all dogs must be trained out of bad habits. Big dogs are no exception. A dog’s quirk may be cute to the owner, but not everyone is a dog lover and may see a playful nip as aggression. Luckily, the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is so far from the truth. There are many affordable training schools for your dog and are often times run by your local pet store or humane society. These experts can teach you humane ways to train your dog without the use of shock collars. There are also many books and television programs for helpful hints for getting your big dog the training he or she needs. Unfortunately, there is a stigma about big dogs being aggressive, which is very naïve, however, as a big dog owner; we must constantly make sure our dog understands his size and obeys accordingly to commands.
BIG DOG, HUGE HEARTS
I have never known such devotion as when I met my friend’s Newfoundlander. What a huge dog! His webbed feet made him a champion swimmer, and his heart was as big as his body. My neighbour had loving but active children, and this lovely Newfoundlander acted as Nana the dog did in Peter Pan, mothering these children. I had a lovely Border Collie/German Sheppard of a friend who always herded me to play with her. Her memory was incredible and could learn just about any command you taught her in such a short period of time. Good owners help aggressive or scared big dogs turn into good dogs. Persistence, determination, and patience are the three key points into raising a good big dog.
I have a special request for suburban and rural families looking for a pet to also try to go to the urban humane societies for a big dog. Since many apartments are too small for these bigger creatures, these beautiful dogs are often overlooked and put to sleep due to the lack of space. There should be a communication between kennels to transfer animals that would do better in a rural or suburban area. This can be done with plenty of volunteerism.
If you love big dogs but cannot house one due to small living quarters, volunteer! These big pets needing homes need people to walk them and talk about them to their friends. They need to be walked in the community so random people will fall in love with their big heart and big personality. In turn, you get exercise, learn more about your community, and meet a lot of passionate people with a lot of interest in animals. It certainly does help if you have a vet friend or technician to learn from!
To all those who have never had a big dog or fear their huge presence, get to know them! They are the most loving creatures and wonderful companions. Big dogs have big hearts, and with the proper training, you can have a beautiful big pet.