One of the largest problems in dogs is a direct result of our consumerist society. We have been taught virtually from birth that we can have anything we want that we can pay for, that it should be available to us immediately when we have made our decision, and that the desire to own something and the ability to pay for it are the only necessary and sufficient criteria for ownership.
By and large, this consumerist attitude works well but there are some exceptions. The fact that you want it and can pay for it may not be a good reason to buy that half-gallon of Ben and Jerry's if you are already 30 pounds overweight. The reasons for not buying a 150 mph car for a boy who has just gotten his license are obvious. We all know someone who has a wonderful camera that sits in the cupboard because it is just too complicated for the person who bought it to even learn to use.
The same reasoning applies to buying a dog. There is a tendency to think of a dog as a product which should conform to the usual consumerist principles. It is not. A dog is a living being, a dependent for whom you will be immediately and always responsible. Most people these days are comfortable with the notion of postponing having a baby until they have the time and resources to take care of one. The decision process involved in buying a puppy should have more in common with having a baby than with buying a new appliance.
Want a puppy? The first step is to examine your lifestyle. Do you and your spouse (or partner) both leave for work at 7:00 AM and get back home at 8:00 PM? Is your day already so full of commitments that it is hard to find enough time to sleep? Do you have a house full of small children? Are your evenings taken up with community and social activities that you would not want to give up? If the answer to any of these or similar questions is "yes," it does not mean that you should not get a puppy. It probably does mean that you should not get that puppy now. Be critical. When are you going to find the time to go to puppy class? To practice the things that your trainer has taught you? To take your new puppy to see strange things and new people four or more times a week? To groom? And on top of all that, to spend time relaxing and playing with your dog?
But you have fallen in love. It's not hard to do with that wonderful Berner that your friend has or that you see all the time. Worse yet, you have seen someone's puppy. Now what do you do? May I suggest that you become a Bernese Mountain Dog fan? Join our club. Come to all of our events. Sit on the ground and let the dogs come and kiss you. Talk to the people. Meet a breeder or two. Let them know that you are interested but for some time in the future when you get some of your life back. In the meantime, buy all the books on the breed that you can find. Read them. Don't depend on opinions you read on the net. Learn about clicker training or other positive-reinforcement methods of dog training. Find a trainer who teaches that way and observe a class or two. Go to the shows and competitions in your area. This is where the serious dog people are to be found. Sooner or later, you will have time for that puppy you have dreamed about and you will be in a better position to create that wonderful life-long loving relationship with another creature that makes living with a dog worthwhile. You will be informed and knowledgeable. You will really know the breed and possibly a few breeders. You will be able to provide the home that breeders are looking for and you will go to the top of the waiting list. How can you lose?
For Better Beautiful Berners,
Jon Cons, BMDC of Nashoba Valley President
Information and Resource Guide on this page provided courtesy of the Nashoba Valley Bernese Mountain Dog Club