Our Gentle Giants

The story of two Floridians and their foster Great Danes

June 25th, 2014

How I Became a Dog Owner

By Tara

As a child, I was always in love with dogs. Though I will admit, big dogs (like Golden Retrievers) terrified me. But I still loved them and knew that adopting a dog was definitely in my future and I would do anything to make that happen sooner rather than later.

totoI studied dogs and dog training for years when I was a child/preteen because my parents refused to let me adopt a dog. I needed to show them I was dedicated and that I knew what I was doing. I bought books upon books (you should see my collection of dog-related books at my mom’s house!) and spent hours studying puppy-raising and dog training. Finally, I got my dad to agree. Then it took another year of the two of us working with my mom to convince her to let me get a dog. To make a long story short (too late), she finally caved.

After considering multiple breeds (German Shepherds, Labs, Papillons, Yorkies, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terrier), I finally decided on getting a Cairn Terrier (think “Toto” from the Wizard of Oz). Cairn Terriers are the perfect size and, to me at least, had the perfect personality.

When I was freshly 14, my mom happened to come across an ad in the newspaper for a litter of Cairn Terrier puppies. Naturally, I coerced her into calling them and inquiring about their puppies. A few, lonnnng weeks later, Roxie was delivered at my door: an adorable and bouncy 8-week-old perfect puppy. I was ecstatic.


Thankfully, I was lucky to get such an easy-going, smart, flexible dog. But I have made some mistakes over the years that could have been quite detrimental.

Not being selective with the breeder

I’m all for rescuing pets from the shelter, but I knew that I wanted a specific puppy and that if I didn’t want to wait months for a litter of Cairn Terriers (a particularly uncommon breed of dogs) to show up at the local SPCA, I would need to go to a breeder.

I jumped at the first litter I found and didn’t ask enough questions before my parents put down a deposit. Also, I remember my mom asked the breeders if we could meet the parents and they said, “No”. Why they said no I will never understand. So, we made two big mistakes: didn’t ask enough questions and didn’t meet the parents.

Why is it important to ask questions and meet the parents? If you are going to put a large amount of money into something (especially a companion), you need to do your research and make sure you are getting the best and healthiest puppy you can.

It’s important to meet the parents and to see the environment the puppy was raised in. If the parents are not well taken care of by their humans, it’s possible that the puppies are not well taken care of. Furthermore, if the parents are diseased or have “faulty” genes, they may have passed those traits down to their pups.

IMG_1443Poor socialization

I learned that it is important to expose your puppy to anything and everything you can while it’s still young. That way, it will grow up into a confident dog who doesn’t fear common things (lawn mower, other dogs, wood floors, car rides, etc.) I wasn’t aware of this information (and if I was, I didn’t pay much attention to it) while I was doing my research. But like I said, I got extremely lucky with Roxie; she is a confident dog who isn’t afraid of anything or new experiences.

But where I really went wrong is with her socialization. I was terrified of taking her to dog parks during the first couple of years of her life. I also didn’t take her to any obedience training classes because I was confident in my ability to train her. And I didn’t have any friends who had dogs (at the time) so puppy playdates were impossible. I did eventually take her to the dog park and learned that I LOVE DOG PARKS! Something about watching dogs run and jump and play with each other is very fascinating and entertaining to me.

Because I didn’t socialize her well as a young dog, Roxie doesn’t have much interest in other dogs. Although she prefers the attention of humans more than dogs, she is not aggressive or fearful of other dogs. She simply ignores them. I still take her to the dog park, but mostly for her to stretch her legs, sniff new things, and chase squirrels. Side note: In case you are wondering, I have no doubts in Roxie’s ability to adjust to having new dogs in her home. Just to be sure, though, we will be taking her to meet as many gentle giants as possible before we adopt our own (more on that later).

Not as well trained as she ought to be

Before I go on, I must say that for a 12 year-old, I knew a LOT about dog training and I did the best I could with Roxie as a preteen. She knows basic commands (sit, stay, leave it, drop it, come, go potty, etc) and listens to my tone of voice carefully (I can speak to her as if she’s a human being and over time, she will understand what I am asking of her) and is very friendly towards dogs and humans alike. But she lacks obedience in some large areas.

  • She is good on a leash so long as she doesn’t see another dog. Oddly enough, she is very curious about other dogs when she is on a leash and pulls hard so she can go meet them.
  • Cats: she loses her mind if she sees one out the window or while out on a walk. Barking, jumping up and down, everything. And (up until recently), she would be 99% uncontrollable. That 1% is our ability to physically restrain her.
  • She jumps on people’s legs.
  • She is very whiny.
  • This is less of a huge problem than just a quirk: even if she goes potty right before going into the pet store, she makes it her first order of business to poop right in the middle of the store.

But I love my dog and am grateful to have her in my life. She has been a wonderful companion to me growing up and I have learned a lot of valuable lessons while I’ve had her. But honestly, I don’t think I’m ready for an extra large dog. So, why are we still planning on adopting not one, but two? More on that next week.

  • Jill Wilder June 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I love your girlie, Roxie. She’s a sweetheart to be sure. Good for you in doing your research on any dog but I think most especially the giant breeds that have their own set of characteristics and challenges. Look forward to reading more!

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  • […] I’ve lived with a Cairn Terrier for almost 10 years. From what I’ve seen with my own life and the lives of my friends, life with a dog is the generally the same, regardless of size: they bark, they get underfoot, they require love and attention. […]