Gail Fisher's Dog Tracks: Life with her Chinook puppy gives trainer greater empathy with students

July 26. 2014 6:17PM

For the past several weeks, I've been teaching an online certificate course about puppies for the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. The coursework includes how to help owners select the right puppy for their family and circumstances, including breed (or mixed breed) selection. Understanding the inherent personality and temperament propensities of a puppy can be extremely helpful in making choices. This is one of the things I thought about when my husband and I were considering what our next breed would be.

We had lost Cannon, our Bearded Collie, quite suddenly in the prime of his life, and it took us nearly a year to determine that we were ready for a puppy. But what breed to get? (Before some of you write to me asking why I didn't "rescue" a dog - I didn't want to at this time. I've rescued and rehabilitated many dogs over the course of my life with dogs, and I wanted a puppy to raise from scratch with no "baggage.")

We both love Beardies, so they were definitely high on our list, but they require a great deal of grooming, and quite honestly, I just didn't want to deal with that. I wanted a slightly "easier keeper" than a long-haired dog. Being the "dog person" in the family, I kept making breed suggestions that my husband would nix for one reason or another. Unless he was on board with my choice, life at home would not be copacetic, so it was important that we agreed on the breed. When I suggested a Chinook, the die was cast. Agreement!

People have since asked me, "Why a Chinook?" Looking back on it, I chose the breed, as so many people do, based on my own (albeit limited) personal experience, their attractive looks and what little I knew about them - and it was quite little as it turned out.

My husband's brother and family (my in-laws) have a wonderful Chinook - very sweet and laid back, terrific with kids, highly responsive and gentle. I'd also met several other Chinooks (one of which is Larry's dad) and had had several Chinooks in classes that I taught. Each one I met was bright, friendly, quick to learn and beautiful. The double-coat would mean lots of shedding, but shedding I can deal with, so grooming wouldn't be an issue. The decision made, I started looking for our next family member. Enter Larry.

What I didn't know about the breed could fill several columns - and this is the point of this week's topic. There's no question that I wouldn't want Larry to be in our lives - he's a wonderful, sweet, loving, smart dog ... and a challenge. Being unprepared for many of the breed's personality characteristics that I've encountered in our "First Year of Larry" has made me realize how little I knew about Chinooks before we decided to get one.

I'm not at all sorry that we have Larry. Aside from being a joy in our lives, as a dog trainer, having "challenges" is part of my education - a lifelong education that I enjoy every day! It gives me even greater empathy with many of the students who come to us for training. Had I known more about Larry's breed propensities, at least I wouldn't have been surprised.

Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a topic for this column, email or write c/o All Dogs Gym, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. You'll find past columns on her website.

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