I gotted a puppy two weeks ago. He’s a Shetland Sheepdog and his name is Java because he looks like a mug of dark coffee with cream swirled in. He does not look like a programming language.

I’m probably a bad person for having done so.

You see, I got Java at a pet store instead of from a rescue group or a breeder. I did everything I could to ensure he was healthy and I was not feeling puppy mills. I did not take him home the day I met him, when he fell asleep in my arms. I called three vets the next day—my regular vet, the store’s “recommended” vet, and the vet of a friend.

I got the same answer from all- that PassPets does a horrible job on their small mammals, but their puppies are some of the better ones in the city. They say they see very few genetic defects, and from all the pedigrees they get in, it was their professional opinion that the store uses species breeders, not mills. I examined several dogs’ pedigrees myself and saw breeder names from across the country, rarely if ever the same one on multiple breeds. His breeder seems to be a smalltime woman, she does not have a website, but she has a lot of shelties registered with the AKC. She has had, in the past 20 years, a few dogs of other breeds, a couple cocker spaniels, one dachshund, but it seems that she never bred those seriously and focused on the Shetlands. I did what I could.

That confession out of the way, the next time I hear someone talk about dogs as “man’s best friend” I will be sent into a murderous rage. So very many people buy friends—I mean dogs—with NO idea of how to handle them. If you want a companion to share your space, get a cat. Or a hamster. Or maybe a turtle or small parrot. (Not the big ones, they often outlive you.) They can go about their business pretty much with or without you, as long as they’re fed. They’re happy to see you, but most can live without you if needs be.

Dogs are totally dependant creatures. They will be absolutely loyal to you, but they will NEVER be your equals. Most people forget dogs are pack animals, not solitary ones. Dogs are happiest and healthiest as beta or even gamma members of the “pack”. They need to know their lives are in your hands, very literally.

Dogs that are allowed to be Alpha dogs almost always develop serious behavior problems. They become overly aggressive. They will often misbehave just to “put you in your place”. They may develop overly destructive behaviors. And they are much tenser dogs—they worry about defending their home and pack and spend all their time concerned and on guard. Some alphas literally worry themselves sick.

The other end of the spectrum is over coddling. Treating a dog as a baby may make you happy and you think it’s so cute, but it’s bad for the dog. Dogs that are kept as eternal “puppies mentally and never developed and worked with and given a real role in the pack have their own problems. They do feel ‘the baby’, and many become overly timid (because EVERYONE outranks them), develop serious submissive urination problems, and become nippy out of fear.

A dog that knows you are the boss, but that he has an important and valued place in your pack below you is most likely to develop into a carefree, loving, incredibly loyal, and overall much better companion. He will obey you, not from fear, but because he respects you as his leader and he will want to please you. If you give him tasks and things to do, he will be much happier learning and developing a niche than languishing in mental boredom.

Yet so many people get dogs just to have a pet and never take the time to properly train, socialize, and educate them. These animals get food, water, walks, and yes many of them do get love, but nothing more than that. Not what they need as pack creatures.

This rant was inspired by some of my neighbors. There are 4 other dogs in my complex. One, a fairly old toy poodle, is beautifully trained. The other three are horrible.

A Jack Russell terrier is overly aggressive with other dogs and won’t handle well at ALL on a leash when her owner is trying to talk on her cell phone. There are also two dachshund pups with two different owners that are 6 and 6.5 months old respectively. NEITHER is yet housebroken properly. The one in my building barks at EVERYTHING at all hours of the night because he has to “defend” his house. The other is so timid he will submit to my 12-week old puppy and pee out of fear because he was never properly socialized with other dogs at a young enough age.

It just infuriates me to see people ruining perfectly good dogs through their own ignorance. I am NO master trainer, I’ve never raised a puppy before. But I’ve been working with Java doing clicker training. He already understands sit, bed, and can go up and down the stairs on command. We’re working on down and drop it!. He’s pretty much housebroken. He KNOWS he’s supposed to go outside—if he misses, it’s usually my fault for not taking him out sooner. He hasn’t messed his crate overnight in a week. This is not a time consuming chore, does not take away from my daily business. It interweaves with it.

Please, people.. if you are going to get a dog (or any pet!)… do your homework. DO it right. The results will be astounding and so beneficial, for you and your animal.