What you see is all there is – fallacy of decision making in picking a puppy

“Puppy, puppy, puppy, I want that puppy!”

When information is limited, which is very common, we tend to jump to conclusions.

Consider the following: “Will this puppy be a good companion? She is friendly and pretty… “An answer quickly came to your mind, and it was yes. You picked the best answer based on very little information given, but you, jumped the gun. What if the next two descriptions were giant breed and short-lived (6-8 yrs) or not insurable and banned in your city.

Take note of what you did not do as you briefly thought of choosing this puppy as a companion. You did not start by asking, “What would I need to know before I formed an opinion about the quality of a pup’s companionship?” Quick thinking (non deep thinking) got to work on its own from the first adjective: friendly is good, pretty is good. And the bias remains favoring the first impression.

We construct stories in our own minds from whatever information we have, many times it’s not much at all. And that first bias remains even after more in-depth information is available.

Several years ago a nursing home administrator contacted me about training a puppy as a nursing home companion. It would be her own dog and come to the nursing home each day. She hadn’t successfully raised a dog before and the earlier attempt had resulted in the dog being returned to the shelter as “too needy.” I talked about the sheer volume of time and effort this undertaking would be…’no problem’. The age the pup would need to meet before it could be considered reliable…about two years. The temperament that would be the most conducive to a good fit. She initially said she was thinking of a yellow lab (I told her I thought this was a good choice), and then she said she wanted a Great Dane and wouldn’t be swayed.

I’m not saying that a Great Dane couldn’t be a good therapy dog, but think about size and the space in the rooms and the equipment and the fears of the little old women when a huge dog gallumped in. And then there’s the incredibly short average lifespan and long bone cancer. The difficulty the dog might have on the tile floors (need for cushioning when lying down, sliding, crashing). I’m saying there’s a lot of other dogs that would fit the needs incredibly much better, but she had met a Great Dane that just laid there and was so nice.

My lack of support ended our relationship, it had only been phone and a brief flurry of emails anyway, so I don’t know if she actually got a Great Dane puppy, kept it and if so by now it would be an ‘old’, as far as Great Danes are concerned, dog.

Some of my own strategies for making informed choices in pups or dogs (note I have had dogs, trained and competed with dogs, for over 40 years so I’ve got some experience): knowing what my intent is for this dog (what are we going to be doing together),  researching the breed and breed characteristics (I do this every time because years have gone by) – knowing a lot about dogs, greeting and visiting the pup’s dam and sire first (at shelter’s I have only been comfortable choosing adult dogs), visiting the pup/dog multiple times so I can really see how it acts (I have found that sometimes I am charmed by something and so miss some details that I believe important to my choice at later visits), whatever the sex of my current youngest dog is the new one is the opposite to lessen the likelihood of personality clashes and finally reminding myself there are a huge amount really wonderful dogs, so if I don’t choose this one and someone else gets him, its OK.

You may have noticed that price wasn’t in the last paragraph. Unless I am doing conformation showing (which I haven’t for 20 years) or have a very specific breeder/line in mind (like proven service dog or search/rescue breeder or any proven workability),other than that price doesn’t reflect the quality of the dog/pup. It is just what a buyer will pay, mostly ill informed people. So over the years I have paid very little to quite a lot for dogs, depending on what I wanted and what I discovered in my evaluations. The less I knew the less I got for the price I paid.

When picking horses a fair number of people employ an expert (probably less than should, but still). In dogs (except if I was right there already) I have only very occasionally had someone ask me to go with them for helping matching them with a pup, which seems odd considering that dogs live inside people’s houses for at least 10 years. Of course, maybe its because I might not support their decision since I’m willing to leave without a puppy.

Wikipedia Great Dane Sultan
Wikipedia Great Dane Sultan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



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