Is it a bad idea for my partner and I to get a nippy and high-energy - but smart and trainable - hound dog as our first dog together?
My partner and I have been talking about getting a dog for most of the time we've been together. We moved into a new apartment about two months ago and have settled in to the point where we are finally ready to start our dog search.
We found a fabulous rescue operation on a farm a short drive away, and we are set on adopting a dog from there. We actually found our dream dog on the website a couple months ago (a sweet treeing walker coonhound
), but we decided the timing was just too close to our move to adopt a dog. So we waited, and he was quickly adopted by someone else. Inevitable, though heartbreaking.
But we're ready now. There is another dog at the farm (Dinah) who is a similar size, age, and breed (either a redbone or redtick coonhound), though female. (We were hoping for a boy dog, although we're not anti girls.) She's been on the farm for a while without getting adopted, and we really want
to fall in love with her and make her ours.
We went to meet Dinah yesterday. She was sweet at first, but the manager of the farm had warned us that she tends to nip and bite shoelaces on initial meetings, and Dinah soon noticed that our shoes sported delicious laces. She got laser-focused on them and latched on. Then she grabbed my messenger bag and wouldn't let go - not growling or threatening to bite me, but obviously eager to have something to clench in her teeth. I was not scared, but I didn't feel in control.
So, that was concerning. But the manager (who we trust completely) told us the nipping behavior used to be much worse when Dinah first arrived, and the volunteers on the farm were pretty easily able to train her out of doing it to them, so she has demonstrated she can learn. Also, she only nips laces and pants, not hands or legs, so she's not a vicious dog. Later we took Dinah for a long walk in the woods, and she did pretty well. She pulled the leash a fair amount, but not anything out of the ordinary, and at only 45 pounds she's not too strong for us. We had a lot of fun on the walk and started to think that maybe we could be happy with Dinah. But back at the farm she ignored us and spent the next hour playing very nippily and tirelessly with a fellow hound.
I know she only ignored us because she doesn't know us yet, and the manager pointed out that she would bond with us if we took her home (as she has bonded with all the farm volunteers). So that's not necessarily a mark against her. And she has been to a nearby dog park and did extremely well there, being friendly and not aggressive with dogs she didn't know. So, that's good news. The manager seemed to think we would be a good fit for Dinah, and vice versa, but only if we thought so too.
Other salient details about us: my partner (H) grew up with dogs and is very comfortable around hound dogs in particular. I've only ever had cats, though I've wanted a dog for years. But I used to picture myself with a big golden retriever or even something like a briard, you know, gentle and loyal and floppy. H is more a fan of sleek, short-haired dogs like labs and hounds. We had talked about getting a yellow lab, as that seemed like the perfect compromise in dog appearance and temperament, but then we discovered the treeing walker coonhound and got excited about the idea of a hound. Hounds do have a lot
of energy, though, and Dinah maybe more than most, and we live in a medium-to-small apartment. We are pretty active people and could give her plenty of exercise, but we also want a dog who will chill out sometimes and snooze with us on the couch.
I'm not naturally assertive around dogs, so I don't love the idea of getting one that needs a fair amount of behavioral work (though I'm certainly open to going to obedience classes, etc.). It's not that I want a submissive dog, but an affectionate temperament is important to me. When I was a kid my grandparents had a mean old dachshund that bullied me and once bit my hand open, so I don't know how well I can deal with a mouthy dog, even if she only bites laces.
On the drive home H acknowledged that if she were making the decision alone, she would already have Dinah in the backseat, although she did have concerns about the nipping and rough playing. I said that if I were making the decision alone, I would most likely pass on Dinah. Neither of us wants to pressure the other. H doesn't want us to get a dog that I don't feel comfortable around, and I agree that wouldn't be healthy. But on the other hand, I know that any dog is going to require some work on my part, and there is a lot about Dinah I could learn to love, with some training on her part and some confidence on mine: she's the perfect size, she's smart, she will be happy to go running and hiking with us, etc.
But should we hold out for a more suitable dog (whatever that means)? The farm seems to get at least one or two new dogs in every week, and those are often labs and hounds. We don't really have a reason to rush the decision other than the fact that H is a teacher so there are a few weeks left of summer vacation where she could be home with the dog more often. On the other hand, her sister is getting married in early October, so we have a lot of busy weekends ahead of us, and we could easily wait til autumn to embark on new dog ownership. But
we are impatient, and we'd love to have some summer fun with our dog.
That's a lot of information! So what do you think? Should we adopt Dinah, the nippy but trainable girl dog, or hold out for a more perfect dog who may or may not exist?