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How Many Dogs Does It Take

Based on discussions with my dog writer & dog blogger friends, I’ve began to wonder … just how many dogs does it take before you (or anyone) truly knows anything about anything when it comes to dogs.

For me, the answer is four as an adult (eight total).

We had four different dogs when I was growing up. Their outcomes reveal a long story for another day.

BUT, I’ve now adopted FOUR dogs as an adult: Penelope Grace, Cody, Ginko, and Lilly (our heroine).

And, even though I considered myself a well-informed dog girl, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until Lilly showed me.

How about you? How many dogs do you think it takes? What’s your tale?

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Christine - February 19, 2010

This is an interesting question. I had dogs growing up and in fact all my life up until now. They were all very similar in many ways. I usually realize how much I’ve learned about dogs when I am talking with friends who are getting dogs for the first time (and didn’t have them as children) and realize what basic knowledge they lack. That’s OK though – they’ll learn!

Maery Rose - February 18, 2010

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had dogs that were so anxious to please, they practically trained themselves. Java is probably the first dog that I’ve actively worked on training, mainly because I’m asking a lot more of her so I can direct her energy to something fun for both of us. She’s also the smartest dog I’ve ever had and it takes some imagination to not bore her.

Alexandra - February 18, 2010

Just stopping by to say hello and that I love the new look. I had a great fox terrier as a child, Ace, the Second. I decided I did not want to walk a dog in addition to everything else I had to do raising my kids in France, so we got cats instead. Each cat had its own personality and taught me something. One of our cats even had a caesarian. Now I can have neither cats nor dogs because I’ve got my dear husband, and he’s allergic to animals.

D.K. Wall & The Thundering Herd - February 18, 2010

I agree with KB on this one. I may become smarter with every dog that I work with, but the biggest thing I have learned is that each dog is different. Not just in personality, but in motivation and desires. Until you learn what motivates a dog to do something, teaching that particular dog will always be challenging.

AC - February 18, 2010

I like to say that my dog is the best worst first dog that I could have adopted. Worst, because she came with a pile of behavioral issues that I, as a first time dog owner, had no clue what to do with. Best because I’ve had to immerse myself in the world of dog behavior and training that I’m sure will benefit my life’s journey with dogs.

Even though I feel like I’m building a solid foundation, like KB said, I’m sure every dog will throw a curve ball with their unique personality and needs. The adventure never ends!

KB - February 18, 2010

Although my knowledge of training techniques and general behavior has increased with each dog, I’m still not sure that I’ll be ready for the next one. Each one is *so* different. Our two dogs right now represent extremes among labs – one is shy and sometimes afraid while the other is rambunctious and only rarely afraid. The techniques that I use with them are actually very different because K cringes when I even speak a firm word to someone else in the room – so imagine if I looked at her and did that!

So, my answer is that, although I’m learning more with each one, I’ll be surprised by how much I have to learn each time a new dog enters my life.

Dog-geek - February 18, 2010

I think it may be less about the number of dogs and more about what you do with those dogs. I know plenty of people who have had lots of “family pet” dogs who have never trained a dog to do much of anything, and who remain fairly clueless simply because having a deeper understanding of canine behavior was not a priority (or really even necessary) for their lifestyle.

I was lucky to be a part of a large and very active training club – by the time I got my second dog as an adult, I had already attended many, many weekend-long seminars on training and behavior with some of the top trainers and behaviorists in the country. So I don’t really think there is a cut and dry answer to your question.

Sam - February 18, 2010

I will say that I think I know a bit more about behavior mod than some people who maybe have owned dogs for a longer amount of time than I have. But, there are things that long-time owners know more about than I do – health issues, for instance. So, I think it depends on the dog and the amount of time that the owner puts in – reading, training, talking to other dog folk. It’s probably impossible to put a number on to it.

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