Marty Becker's Advice to Understanding 'Your Dog'

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Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker understands how trying it can be to have a new puppy. In his new book, "Your Dog: The Owner's Manual," Becker conquers every part of the dog-owning lifestyle, such as finding the right pouch, solving behavioral issues and preventing health problems. This road map to pet ownership is a must read for dog owners new or old.

Read an excerpt from "Your Dog" below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.

Chapter 1

What Are You Looking for in a Relationship?

All dogs started pretty much the same, as wolves who hung out around humans for scraps. Eventually, the relationship grew closer; the animals best suited to hanging around were the ones who bred, and they started to change to suit the environment they were in. In time the dogs evolved into something like what's called a pariah dog— a medium-sized, brown, agile, short-haired dog with a long snout and erect ears. You can still find dogs like these all over the world, hanging out on the edges of human society. If dogs are left to breed as randomly as possible, the pariah dog is what they look like.

But we like a lot of different things in dogs, don't we? We like dogs in all sizes, shapes, and colors, with all kinds of ears and tails, long- haired, curly-haired, short-haired. . . the list goes on. It wasn't just for reasons of appearance, of course. For many years we counted on dogs to help us by herding our livestock, protecting our homes, pulling wagons or sleds, or helping us to hunt our dinners.

While a few kinds of dogs, mostly small, were developed solely as companions— and even they had some purpose as heating pads in the days long before central heating was invented— all the rest had jobs. Our ancestors no doubt liked their dogs, told them they were good dogs, and were even proud of the work they did and how well they did it. But few could afford to keep a dog who didn't earn his own way.

Today, it's the reverse, and very few dogs earn their own way. Our dogs, as I always say, are "born retired." Despite all that work ethic and all those differences we've bred into them, they're all doing pretty much the same "work," these days—hanging around with us whenwe're home, and sleeping on the couch when we're not.

But the dogs they once were are still in there, and that means you have to figure out if you can live with who they are and find things for them to do if they aren't the couch-potato type. If you don't, neither you nor your dog will be happy— and speaking as a veterinarian, I can tell you that what happens when a dog is bored and unhappy is going to be a bad thing for the dog. He'll either be fat and sick before his time (if he's the kind of dog who can stand just being on the couch) or, if he can't stand snoozing while you're at work and does an Unwanted Extreme Home Makeover, he'll soon be looking for a new home.

Yes, love can and does conquer all, but it doesn't do so easily. I'm suggesting some introspection before you get a dog so you have fewer problems and more love.

Define Me, Define My Dog

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