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There are dog people and there are the other people. Either you like dogs or you don’t and I think that it is perfectly fine to hold either opinion. Just like kids, there are some people who really want children and others who would rather not have a child in their lives at any time. There is nothing wrong with either option really and different types of people are better suited to different types of situations in their lives. This is what makes us different, human and interesting. I myself am a dog person though and probably always will be. We have other pets in my family, but none are as important to me as the family dog.
In June of last year, we lost our family dog that we had for 13 years. While it was a sad period of time, there was never any doubt about getting a new dog eventually. Dogs offer so much in the form of companionship and peace of mind to me and my family that we knew we would need to fill that void at some point. We decided to wait until the spring and researched breeds to find the best match. Our last dog was a mutt from the pound, but she was better than any pure bred we have ever seen. She truly was a wonderful dog but we wanted some additional qualities that she didn’t have naturally. Seeing as how I run this blog and my focus is on prepping for events that are unpleasant or unplanned, we wanted to get a dog that would be not only a loyal companion, but great for protection. Essentially, we started looking for the best dog for SHTF.
Let me pause right here and state that I am not going to tell you what the best dog is for anyone. There are too many factors that define what the best dog is and you have to evaluate your life and what you are looking to invest (time, energy, emotion) into a dog. I think it is rather dishonest to say there is only one dog that is the best for any situation because regardless of the dog, the owner has to train and control their dog appropriate to their talents or else you just have an out of control animal. You can put the best dog in the world with someone who can’t control or doesn’t take care of it and you will have a mess. Conversely, a mutt from the pound can make an awesome pet that will love and take care of you for years with the right owner.
Back to my story, my wife had heard an interview with the man who wrote a book about the dogs that the Navy Seals use and began to get interested in the Belgian Malinois. Malinois are in the same family as German Shepherds but are a little smaller. They are extremely intelligent, ridiculously energetic and thrive on working hard. We thought that this breed sounded like a great place to look at for our dog of choice for someone to protect our family during SHTF.
We read more about the breed and understood the work commitment that would be required for a dog like this to have a happy and fulfilled life with us and started waiting patiently until spring. That didn’t last long.
Sometimes our family can get a spontaneous Jones and we were all sitting around the dinner table one night talking about when we would get our dog. This lead to some internet searches and we quickly discovered that like most pure bred dogs, there was a higher price. For the Malinois and I imagine any dog that could be used as a personal protection dog, the price was much higher. This was a little discouraging because while I liked the attributes of the breed and day dreamed of having our own little Navy Seal dog in the house, I was not shucking out over $1200 for one. We started questioning our choice on price alone and then dug more into the requirements for an animal like this.
Malinois like I said above are high energy. By high energy, I mean they need about 2 hours a day of intense exercise or they will not be happy. You do not want a hyper, bored puppy. Malinois are working dogs and if they don’t have a job to do, they will find one. This will usually be at the expense of something you do not want destroyed. A nice little walk around your neighborhood isn’t going to cut it either, but I told myself that this would be a great time to start running again and between me, my wife and kids we should be able to exercise the dog sufficiently.
My wife then came across an ad for 8 week old Malinois puppies for only $150! That was something I could live with. I also understood from that price that this would not be a pure bred, but I wasn’t hung up on papers anyway. I wanted a great dog for our family, not something to show or breed for profit. We called the person on the ad and set up a time to go out. In my excitement, I purchased a new crate and the food the trainer used just in case. Our other dog had been crate trained but that was years ago and I had since sold the other one we had. We arrived at the home of the person selling the puppies and spent a little time talking to the owner who happened to train Malinois for police and military use trying to pick his brain for any information we could get.
We found out while talking to the trainer that the puppies were 1/8th Presa Canario. We actually met both her parents and her grandfather (the Presa) while we were there. This was not a puppy mill operation by any stretch and he only had the dogs we saw.
The puppy he had left was a female which is what we wanted. She was small and skinny – I expect she was the runt of the litter, but we didn’t care. We had even chosen a name for her of Samantha but we would call her Sam from the Will Smith movie, I am Legend. (Side note: the movie is nothing like the book at all). The kids loved her at first sight obviously and I paid the owner and went home. This was the beginning of our Journey with Sam.
We have had her in our home for three weeks now and in that time we have learned a lot about both her and ourselves. Not wanting to do anything wrong we immediately started watching back episodes of the Dog Whisperer. My wife downloaded a book called “How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” by these monks who are famous for training working dogs like Shepherds and Malinois. We poured over the internet and read as much as we could about the breed and training and raising puppies. I also bought a DVD by Caesar Millan about raising puppies. None of that made any difference in the world.
It seemed like all the training and advice we read didn’t work and we could tell that our new pet wasn’t happy with us. I placed several calls to trainers and contacted the guy we purchased her from. We had concerns about that 1/8 Presa in her and her energy level which to me bordered on bursts of insanity at times even after plenty of exercise. We had a lot of heart to heart talks about whether or not we had made a mistake because her behavior was very bad and nothing the experts had told us to do was working. Each of us had hands that looked like we had been pruning roses the hard way and my youngest daughter was becoming afraid of our new dog. The joyful puppy playing we expected was really more like wrestling with a land piranha and we were frustrated.
Looking back now, I think it was a strange combination of time, the right amounts of food, new toys and prayer that turned the tables. One day Sam acted completely differently, so sudden we were shocked. Literally the change was like night and day. Now our new family member seems to have settled into a routine and acts much happier than she did the first few weeks. She shows affection and even listens when you tell her no – most of the time. She truly is a joy to have in our home now but we know there is a ton of work left to do.
Will she be the best dog for SHTF? Who knows? I guess we will have to see if that ever happens. I know that if we are consistent and train her to the level she is capable of, she could do anything. Right now we are focused on making her part of our family and giving her what she needs to be happy. She will be enrolled in obedience classes and will have lots of play time at the dog park when her shots are up to date. I’ll write more as we continue with Sam and if the S ever HTF, I’ll let you know how she does.
Like I said above, there is no one perfect dog for everyone. If there were, you wouldn’t have all the breeds and varieties you have now. I don’t know if our dog will ever rise to the level of the Navy Seal dogs. I know I am not going to jump out of a plane with her into hostile territory, but I do know she can be the perfect dog for us. That’s all we really need anyway.
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