Perfect Dog Syndrome
Not that long ago, I was sitting in my exam room with a lovely family who brought their young, male Doberman Pinscher named Tiny to me for jumping up and biting. The first part of my appointments is geared toward gathering the history so that I have an accurate picture of what is going on with the pet, and it seemed like each time I asked a question about Tiny, the owner told me about her previous Doberman Pinscher, Tinkerbell, who was apparently perfect.
Eventually, I had to state the obvious; that Tiny is not Tinkerbell, and that he never, ever will be. It seems like I shouldn’t have to say this, but I find myself educating owners on this concept more often than I would like to admit. I call it Perfect Dog Syndrome. It occurs after the loss of a wonderful dog of whichever breed or color or type. Owners are so devastated that they try to somehow find their wonderful companion again by getting a pup of the same breed or color or type. Some owners want to honor their previous dog by getting a pup that is similar. More times than not, this leads to disappointment.
Some owners return to the same breeder, or even get a puppy from a repeat breeding. Even when this is done, the pup is likely to be different from the previous dog. The genetics roulette wheel spins individually for each dog, even within the same litter. Anyone with multiple children understands how completely different offspring from the same parents can be.
The idea that another dog of the same breed may not be as wonderful in the same way as the previous dog is a tough one to get past. We want in every way possible to believe that getting an "identical" pup will be the solution. Believe me, I get it! However, when you expect something of someone and they can’t deliver, you will inevitably be disappointed.
One very expensive solution is to clone your dog. The owners of some animals that have been cloned report that even the animal’s personality and health problems are identical to their previous pets.
Instead, I would suggest that you switch breeds, or at least go into your relationship with your new pup with an objective outlook. Consider what each dog brought to your life and taught you. Think about all of your dogs, not just the perfect one. Think about your expectations for this little one and make sure that they don’t include the characteristics of your previous dog. The slate has been wiped clean.
Each pup will bring you a different kind of joy and will teach you unique lessons. From Precious, I learned unconditional love and forgiveness. From Sweetie, I understood the power and strength of a relationship that is not built on the threat of pain or intimidation, but of love, structure, reward and consistency. Ace, my horse, taught me patience and kindness. Peanut, oh Peanut, my aggressive dog, taught me humility, self control, and objective thinking.
You can take steps to immortalize your dog by making donations in your dog’s name to a research fund, a shelter, or a rescue organization. You can volunteer at a rescue to help dogs from your "perfect" dog’s breed. There are lots of things that you can do to continue to respect and honor your pets after they have passed.
In my opinion, it is best to love the one that you are with and remember deeply, fondly and lovingly the joy of having had a perfect dog.
Dr. Lisa Radosta