Marty Becker's Advice to Understanding 'Your Dog'

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Who are you now, and who will you be in ten years? You might be surprised at how different those answers can be. While nothing in life's a sure thing, if you're going to spend the next ten years building a business empire, raising kids or retiring to a life of active leisure, you need to think about how this is going to affect your choice of a dog. Because in fact, there really is a dog for almost everyone who wants one, but dogs can be so different— even siblings— that you really need to put some effort into getting a dog to have any hope of keeping a dog.

Take me, for example. I'm farm kid, born and raised on an Idaho dairy. I grew up with big dogs, farm dogs and hunting dogs who worked as hard as we did with all the hard physical labor of country life. I'm still a country boy, and home is our ranch in northern Idaho. My wife and I have been around large animals— cattle and horses— all our lives, and we still get up at dawn every day and do ranch chores. We love the outdoors, and I don't even mind putting on my overalls and barn coat on bitter, cold days to go out and care for the horses.

Bet you have me pegged as a guy who'd have a big, strong dog, right? For much of my life, you'd have been right, and our family still has a beloved Golden Retriever, Shakira, otherwise known as She- Crazy for her boundless enthusiasm and her ability to play fetch until long after my arm wants to call it quits. But chances are she may be the last of the big dogs at our Almost Heaven Ranch. We've gone crazy for little dogs, starting with Quixote, the little canine cocktail you see on the cover of this book. Sure, I tell my poker buddies that he's my wife's dog, but that's as big a bluff as the aces I want them to think I'm holding. Quixote and the more recent addition, Quora, another little pooch pastiche— along with my dog- trainerdaughter's little dogs, Willy and Bruce— I call them the GrandPugs— are where we are now. We're older, we love to travel, and we like having smaller, more portable dogs. Ones that fit in the seat between us or under the seat on the airplane.

That's not to say I don't love all dogs— I'm a veterinarian, after all— but my own perfect match in a family dog has been downsized, and I was smart enough to know it. Or my wife was, really.

Just don't anyone tell my poker buddies that my little dogs not only wear coats in the winter, but that I'll actually put the coats on them. Repeat that, and I'll deny it to the end of my farm-boy days.

But enough about me. Who are you? Are you a runner looking for a trail companion? A busy parent looking for a little help with babysitting and teaching kids responsibility? A young city hipster looking to impress others at the dog-friendly café? A person looking for a new hobby to go with a new dog? Are you slowing down— or do you want to? Are you living in an apartment, on an acre in suburbia, or on a hobby farm?

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