I was at the doggie park in Ambleside this week, enjoying the dogs, the ocean, and the owners. OK, so I'm the first to admit that I'm a tiny bit biased, but as an owner of Labrador Retrievers, I have to say that nine times out of 10, I am impressed with other Retriever owners. They are usually family-oriented, relatively easy going (like their dogs) and sociable (also like their dogs).
Other breeds attract other kinds of owners, generally speaking of course. The latest trend for the special folk of West Van is the designer dog, in particular Labradoodles and Golden Doodles. Of the two, Labradoodles and in particular chocolate Labradoodles are the most desirable; at the very top of the food chain are chocolate Australian Labradoodles, which come in a variety of sizes. These dogs are touted as possessing the best of both breeds, i.e. the gentle, good nature of the Lab combined with the non-shedding, hypo-allergenic coat of the poodle. That's the theory anyways. These dogs aren't cheap though, and of course, that's a large part of the attraction. Should you wish to "adopt" one of these precious princesses or princes, consider the following:
- Designer dogs cost two to three times as much as established breeds like Labradors or retrievers or poodles. Of course this fact just makes them that much more desirable. Wonder why the ones I know are yappy, hyper and poorly behaved? Is that a product of the dog or the owner?
- Training a dog, any dog, takes a great deal time and energy; figure on a good six months of daily work at the beginning. But all too often, the families of these designer dogs tend to have no idea how to train a dog, so they take obedience classes (which is great) that their dogs fail (not so great). They then hire dog consultants for several hundred dollars to spend quality time with their dogs and families at their home.
- All too often, these families don't take their dogs for walks -- nope, dog walking is reserved either for their nanny/housekeeper or a favourite dog walking service. Every day on the local trails and dog walks, I see many of the same dogs. Now this service really is great for families where both spouses are working, but many of these dogs are from families where one of the spouses (usually, but not always, the wife) is at home. With a nanny/housekeeper, personal trainer, regular mani/pedi and weekly massage service. Good dog walkers are not cheap (at least by my standards) -- about $20 for an hour walk... with other dogs. That adds up pretty quickly when it's several times a week.
- Don't forget that what goes in, does come out, albeit in a different form. Somebody has to pick up after these dogs, but usually that pleasure is reserved for the nanny/housekeeper or dog poop service. BIG bucks to be made in the pooper scooper business in West Vancouver -- figure on at least $10 to $20 per week depending on frequency. Also add extra to have your consultant teach your designer dog exactly where on your property to poop; after all, West Van gardeners get very upset when their clients' pets that destroy their handiwork.
- Be sure to budget for grooming fees. Just because designer dogs don't shed doesn't mean they don't require grooming. If anything, they require more care than a Lab or Golden; their curly hair tends to absorb mud, sticks, leaves, etc. so demands frequent shampoos, brushings and trims. No baths in the basement sink for these pampered pups! Suddenly the balls of dog hair floating through my house don't seem so bad.
- Customized swimming lessons are available where dogs can learn to swim in a safe and comfortable, controlled environment -- honestly, I'm not making this stuff up! Who cares that West Vancouver is on the ocean, and has a number of dog friendly trails located beside rivers and creeks and lakes. Let's pay big bucks to teach our designer dogs to swim.
- When you go on vacation, what does your dog do? Home care, kennel and boarding are all viable options, but do consider the deluxe doggie hotels and spas. Where the doggies can get special treatment like massages, treats, one-on-one specialized care in a carefully controlled environment. Don't forget to book the services of the dog psychic if you really want to discover your dog's true needs.
But why would you become a dog "guardian" (designer dog or not) if you don't want to spend any time with it? Dogs provide unconditional love, and generally encourage better health through those daily walks and are great stress relievers. Dogs, no matter what breed, are essentially social creatures; they want to spend time with people and other dogs, outside. But they do require some work, some time and some responsibility.
Maybe some families just want designer dogs for their annual Christmas photo.
Maybe instead of writing, I should be a dog walker &/or groomer... the pay would certainly be MUCH better. Really!