Beth Kendrick’s The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service is about Lara who has a gift for finding your soulmate – your canine soulmate, that is.
As a dog trainer with a soft spot for strays, she’s found perfect homes for sulky Shih Tzus, broken-down Border collies, and diabolical Dalmatians. But while she’ll always make room for one more rescue mutt, she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to another human being. Especially after her live-in boyfriend drops the bomb: He’s not a dog person.
Horrified and temporarily homeless, Lara and her furry pack move in with her mother, a wealthy fashionista who forbids even a single drop of drool. As word gets around the exclusive gated community, Lara is overwhelmed with demands for her services. A model wants personal training for her overweight “flabrador”; an aging socialite preps her pedigreed puppy for dog show domination… If Lara can survive the breakup, the outrageous requests of her high-maintenance clientele, and her dogs’ systematically destruction of her mother’s McMansion, she might finally find the rescue dog who rescues her in return– leading her straight to the guy who could be her perfect match.
Here Beth shares her dog handling tips…
1. Your labradoodle doesn’t sign your paychecks.
Someone’s going to be the boss; better it be you than the dog. You don’t have to be Cesar Millan, but you should work with your dog to instill basic good manners. An obedience class with a qualified trainer will be a great bonding experience, and bonus, the mental exertion will leave your dog feeling happy, secure in his place in the pack…and too tired to dig up your azalea bushes.
2. Never negotiate with terrorists…or terriers
One of the trainers I interviewed while writing The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service says her golden rule of obedience is: “Say it once and mean it”. You should expect your dog to sit on command, without threats or bribery. True story: My friend has a crafty and cunning Irish terrier who has figured out that if she snatches one of the animals from the children’s Lego farm, she can get her owners to “trade” her a treat in exchange for releasing her little plastic hostage. Don’t let this be you.
3. Join the “Clean Slate Club”
When you adopt an adult dog, it’s natural to feel sorry for the poor thing and speculate about what kinds of mistreatment he might have suffered in the past. Believe me, I get it—I have two mutts who were rescued from abusive/neglectful situations, and they can work the wounded martyr eyes like nobody’s business. (Especially when there’s peanut butter in the vicinity.) But you’re not doing the dog any favors by mollycoddling him. Dogs don’t dwell on the past, and they’re not terribly psychologically complex. When a new recruit joins your pack, start fresh and be firm and consistent with boundaries and expectations. You can always lighten up later.
4. Step away from the Froot Loops
Sorry to say, most dog food sold at grocery stores and mega-marts is the nutritional equivalent of Froot Loops and frozen pizza—not what you want your dog to be consuming on a regular basis! The good news is, pet supply stores are responding to consumer demand and stocking more brands of high-grade kibble. Things to look for include: specific protein sources as a first ingredient (e.g., chicken meal, chicken), grain sources like brown rice or oats. Things to avoid: corn, soy, unspecified “meat fat or meat meal”, and preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
5. Looks aren’t everything
Several of the dog trainers and rescue group volunteers I interviewed mentioned that owners tend to choose dogs based on “the cute factor”—the puppy was just too fluffy, cuddly and adorable to resist. But adopting a dog because you oohed and ahhed over his photo on Petfinder is kind of like deciding on a husband based purely on his Match.com profile picture. The first few dates with that tall, dark, double-dimpled hottie may be great, but you don’t want to rush into a commitment, only to discover he “forgot to mention” he has an arrest record, IRS problems, and a teeny propensity to lie. Similarly, you don’t want to bring home a brilliant, high-energy border collie because “Look at those ears and that precious little nose!”, only to watch her systematically disembowel your Italian leather sofa because you don’t have the time or energy to take her on a five-mile run every morning.
6. No food from the table, ever. Yes, even on holidays.
Sometimes, a girl just wants to eat her crème brûlée in peace.
Beth Kendrick is the author of The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, a heartwarming and hilarious novel about bad dogs and the women who love them. She lives in Arizona with two overgrown red rescue mutts, one of whom may or may not be recovering from an addiction to Italian leather furnishings.