If you frequent pet-centered forums, you've probably seen at least one question inquiring about which breeds of dogs are low-maintenance. I've come to the conclusion that these questioners mistakenly think that getting a dog is like deciding between Android vs. iPhone.
If you put "low maintenance dog" into a Google image search, you're going to see a page that has pictures of just about any breed you can imagine. Seems that everyone thinks their dog is "low maintenance." The truth is, you can never count on having a low-maintenance dog unless you are satisfied with sticking to watching You Tube videos of other people’s dogs. Dogs, like all pets from cats to cockatoos, are living, breathing creatures. Each has characteristics that are just as unique as any human’s.
The ASPCA reports that each year 3.9 million dogs are surrendered to shelters. 1.2 million of those are euthanized.
Coat maintenance may be minimal, one breed needs less exercise than the next, but there are always other, unexpected issues that surface when you add a dog to your life. Dogs need exercise, both physical and mental stimulation. Although some breeds don’t need to be walked daily, they do need play time and quality time spent with their guardians... and keep that word in mind. When you purchase a dog, you are not buying a possession. You are committing to be a guardian to another living being and providing them with their forever home. If you aren’t up to that, don’t get a dog at all.
Dogs need to be neutered and that costs money as do yearly veterinary visits for checkups and vaccinations. Heart worm pills are necessary for dogs, but they are not cheap and neither is good dog food. In fact, these days even sub-standard dog foods are not inexpensive.
Dogs can develop maladies such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cancer. These conditions are not low-maintenance to treat, but they must be treated when they occur. Our Airedale was supposed to be lower maintenance than some more popular breeds. Our research suggested that the Airedale Terrier is an overall healthy breed, low shedding, with a more independent (aloof) disposition. We concluded that he wouldn’t be underfoot like some needier, lap-dog type breeds. Well oops.
He is independent, which is (to our surprise) also a synonym for strong-willed. He isn’t under foot unless you count having to step over him as he lays in whichever doorway you intend to walk through.
We were ignorant and bought our Bailey from what we now have learned was a "backyard breeder." A backyard breeder is someone who is not as concerned with the puppy's health and welfare as he or she is with getting rid of the litter. One very good description of the differences between backyard breeders and responsible hobby breeders is at HT Campbell.com, a breeder of Besenjis.
We brought our Airedale Terrier home when he was just seven weeks old. He was weaned way too soon (before he was six weeks old), never socialized properly with the humans that bred him, and kept outside in the autumn when it was too cold for a pup. As a result, he has on-going ear problems and allergies. Additionally, Bailey has been slow to accept the social graces easily learned by other dogs. He definitely walks to a different drum beat.
Bailey also has epilepsy, which, we have learned, is a disease that generally doesn't show up in a dog until they are two to three years old.
Bailey is a low-shedding dog. He doesn’t “blow” his coat twice a year. He leaves little “dog bunnies” throughout the year, although keeping him clipped short in the summer helps with that, as does regular combing. But... that’s maintenance, especially with an independent-minded, strong-willed 100 pound dog. That was another surprise. Our dog, Bailey, is an Oorang, a strain of Airedale Terrier that was bred to be larger than the normal 60 pound dog.
Over the course of my life, I have had many pets. However, it took Bailey to teach me that loving a pet is learning to live with them as they are, even when they are not as you expected them to be. Bailey doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. We can take a bone right out of his mouth if we feel like it, although we don’t ever feel like it. (What would we do with one of his bones anyway?).
Bailey loves other people and especially other dogs. When he meets a new puppy, he will usually lie down and wait for them to approach him as if to say, "I'm bigger than you, but I won't hurt you." This eight-year-old dog has never snapped, snarled, or tried to bite anybody or any other animal. Despite all of his health and maintenance problems, we love him to death and wouldn't give him up for the world. Although a dog can be full of surprises, some surprises make having a dog worthwhile whether or not he turns out to be a low maintenance dog.