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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've recently taken over the care of a 4 month old Black Lab/Retriever mix. My son got him from a rescue shelter, but he works a lot and lives in a small apartment so it wasn't working out. This isn't something I was necessarily looking to do, but since I have a big fenced in backyard I made the offer to take the dog rather than see him taken back to the shelter.

My son got him when he was 2 months old, and they told him that the dog was found walking on the side of the road. His routine right now is that he spends the day in the backyard (mostly up on my deck), and then he sleeps in a kennel in the garage at night. I'd be fine with him being outside all the time, but he doesn't like the dark and begs to come in. I've had him about 3 weeks, and he's only wanted out of his kennel once at night to use the bathroom. Since then I've been making sure that I walk him around before bedtime to make sure he has a good bowel movement before putting him in his kennel. He seems satisfied to be in the kennel from 10pm to 10am. When I go to get him up I almost always wake him up. Because it gets darker sooner, I'll probably shift his bedtime to 9pm.

I'm having to teach him not to play bite on my skin, and he's doing better. The only time he gets more bitey and rambunctious is at night when he's tired. I've learned that once he gets to that stage then it's time for bed.

This is the first dog I've had since I was a young boy, so I feel like I need lots of advice on everything. My son had him on Purina dog food, but I've been reading that's not necessarily a good brand. At the same time though, I can't really afford a specialty food. I'd be looking for something that is better quality, available at a store I don't have to travel extra miles for, and is a decent price.

The dog's name is Woody, and I'd be open for any and all advice on just about anything.
 

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Name is Woody.. made me laugh a little!

He really ought to have a little more human contact than he is getting (assuming he is out all day and you leave him alone all that time which can't be determined from your post).

He really should not have to hold his bladder for 12-13 hours every day. It would be a LOT better for him (and his kidneys) to go to bed at 9PM or 10PM but get out by 7AM or 8AM to pee! Iams is better than Purina but a grain free dog food is better yet. That said a LOT of dogs live just find on Purina dog food and that is in spite of the thought that such a corn based product is not so good for dogs!

As to play biting the best thing is to have some toys for him to play with WITH you. These toys should be interactive and should ONLY be brought out when you and the dog play together. In the yard I will suggest you buy him a Jolly Ball. This is the one my dogs like: http://www.jollypets.com/products/romp-n-roll/ You can size it according to your dog's weight. Being a Retriever, you might both find a lot of fun tossing a ball and having him retrieve it. If he won't give it to you when he comes back, swap it for food or another ball.

I also recommend you and the dog attend a beginner training class. You will learn a lot and if you go with the plan so will the dog.

Good luck and enjoy him. No idea where you live, but if it is a cold climate, do you have a plan for winter? Also, you should keep him up on Heartworm prevention and Flea/Tick killer and repellent.
 

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I agree, the dog is being left alone too long. 12 hours for a 4 month old? That's way too long. Some adults can have trouble holding it that long, and you're putting the dog at risk for UTIs and other nasties that will cost you a nice vet bill.

Personally, I think that unless a dog is a working dog, LGD, or a farm dog where the owner is outside with it the vast majority of the day, the dog should live inside. Dogs are social creatures and need lots of human contact. They want to live with their families. By the sounds of it, the dog is alone most of the day. Most dog owners do work a regular schedule away from home and leave their dog for 8 hours, but they are also home at night, with the dog spending all evening with them and probably sleeping in their bedroom.

Leaving a dog to their own devices too long can lead to problem behaviors such as digging, barking, lack of basic manners, etc. If you insist on making the dog live outside, you must be sure to dedicate extra time to interacting one on one with the dog, playing, walking, and training. A big back yard really does nothing for the dog unless you are out there playing with him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I should have given a few more details, so here's some more information.

I live in upstate South Carolina, so we have mild winters. I have a doghouse for him that I can put a self-warming pad in if needed, but he loves my deck and the sun hits it for most of the day. I can put blankets over the kennel in the garage as well as a self-warming pad in the kennel and I would think that would be fine for 95% of the winter.

When I get him up I spend sometime outside holding him. I then go out two other times during the day to pet him and play with him. Before bedtime I bring him in for about 20 minutes to play with him inside. I then put him to bed.

As far as how long he spends in the kennel, he seems really tired when he goes to bed, and he isn't waking up until I get him up. I have a baby monitor set up in the garage and in my room so if he wakes up and needs to go potty I will hear him barking. That said though the kennel is very spacious (I think it's 3 feet high, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide), and I have a puppy pad taped down on the 2nd half of the kennel if he really needs to go, so I don't think he would need to hold his bladder.

I was raised in the country, and ALL dogs were outside dogs :)

He's seen a vet and had his shots, and he's been started on heartworm/intestinal worms/Fleas-Ticks Prevention medicine.

I LOVE the Jolly Ball suggestion. That's definitely on my To-Get List this week.

Given this additional information, I'm still open to suggestions and advice based on everything I'm doing. I wouldn't necessarily agree though that dogs need to be inside all the time. You have to understand that in my background, dogs were happiest when they could be outside and run around and play whenever they wanted.
 

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I grew up in the country, too, on a farm where the dogs spent the vast majority of their time outside. But someone was near them. Someone was always teaching them how to behave. They had jobs on the farm. They didn't spend what I'm guessing is around 16 hours completely without human contact. They probably spent no more than 8-10 hours alone. I don't think that dogs always have to be inside, either, but it's important to understand that you will very likely face behavioral problems and a sad dog with the current setup, unless I am missing something. The size of your yard and kennel have little to do with it.

It sounds like your dog gets about 1 hour of one-on-one time with you? That's plenty with a dog that spends 16 hours on average outside of their owner's work schedule just hanging around the house with them, learning, being part of family activities, but for a puppy that basically lives outside and needs training at this point in his life? Triple it. At 4 months old, adolescence and a whole lot of big, ill-mannered, bratty puppy stuff is coming, and it is so much easier to deal with and avoid problem behaviors when you have set a good foundation.

Also, be careful with allowing him to eliminate in his kennel. If you ever have to crate him, board him, travel, whatever, he may think its okay to potty in there. Also, he probably isn't going to be housebroken at all.
 

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I should have given a few more details, so here's some more information.

I live in upstate South Carolina, so we have mild winters. I have a doghouse for him that I can put a self-warming pad in if needed, but he loves my deck and the sun hits it for most of the day. I can put blankets over the kennel in the garage as well as a self-warming pad in the kennel and I would think that would be fine for 95% of the winter.

When I get him up I spend sometime outside holding him. I then go out two other times during the day to pet him and play with him. Before bedtime I bring him in for about 20 minutes to play with him inside. I then put him to bed.

As far as how long he spends in the kennel, he seems really tired when he goes to bed, and he isn't waking up until I get him up. I have a baby monitor set up in the garage and in my room so if he wakes up and needs to go potty I will hear him barking. That said though the kennel is very spacious (I think it's 3 feet high, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide), and I have a puppy pad taped down on the 2nd half of the kennel if he really needs to go, so I don't think he would need to hold his bladder.

I was raised in the country, and ALL dogs were outside dogs :)





So your puppy gets about an hour or so of your attention per day, but other than that, he's left alone? Don't romanticize the "outdoor dog" idea, that's a sad & lonely existence for any dog, let alone a growing & developing 4 month old puppy. I can almost guarantee you that he will start to develop behavioral problems (digging, barking, chewing things he shouldn't, escaping the yard, and the list just goes on...) as he gets older & enters adolescence. He needs a lot more social interaction than what you are describing. I deal with shelter dogs that come from such impoverished social backgrounds & it's always an uphill battle for them.
 

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It is very important to remember that the life you lead now and the life people led when dogs were commonly outside most of the time is different. My dogs as a child were outside, too, and I didn't live on a farm (well, not always, but I'm not talking about the period when I did). But my mom was a stay at home mom. Which meant that she was home all day - and even if the dog was outside and she was inside, she'd have known if someone was messing with the dog or the dog got scared/injured/sick. We kept a garden, too, which meant she was outside for a lot more than an hour a day. Kids (me) didn't play video games and watch a lot of television; we went outside and played with the dogs (or the dogs went hiking in the woods with us, or followed us on bike rides and trip to the nearest creek to chase crawdads or hung out while we climbed trees, or -). As a family we went hiking, camping, boating, and the dog came with us to those places. And 'suburbia' then meant the dog wasn't in the same yard, all day, every day. She was out with my mom in the garden or visiting the neighbor in theirs or following kids to and from the bus stop. She played with other dogs who were also roaming around the neighborhood. She was alone basically only overnight when asleep.

Some of these things wouldn't fly today. Your dog would be picked up by animal control or get run over. A lot of them are a good lifestyle still, but none of them apply to you. I say that as gently as possible, but the life you are giving this dog is not problematic because it's not living in te house. It's a problem because the dog is alone for 23 hours a day, either in a garage and kennel or in the same fenced yard it has seen every day since it came to live with you. How much fun do you think that puppy's having out there now, after 2 months? How much fun do you imagine it's going to be having in that same space, alone most of the time, 2 years from now? 10 years from now? 12 years from now?

I don't care personally if the dog continues to sleep outside, or even 'live' outside, but you need to either bring the dog in so it can have company and casual interaction with you, its owner, or you need to up your game by a LOT and be ready to commit to walking 2-3 times a day to new locations, going to visit different parks and pet friendly locations OFTEN, and spending a few hours every day hanging out in your back yard, doing play, training and just being near each other. If you don't, you're going to have an untrained, large, almost impossible to rehome, animal that you have no bond with (and that has no bond with you) living in your back yard in very short order. Best case scenario. Worst case add destructive, aggressive, and neurotic.

Again, I don't care where the dog sleeps and lives, but do realize your lifestyle is unlikely the same as your parents, and you need to either step up your game by a lot or rehome sooner rather than later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I'm not sure where the 1 hour per day is coming from unless I gave that impression in my post. I'd say that I'm interacting with him 2 hours per day at a minimum. I have a cloth Frisbee designed for dogs which we play fetch with, and he likes to sit in my lap while I feed him bites of food out of my hand. My children come home from college each weekend so he gets additional time with them Friday-Sunday. Right now I'm working from home so I'm able to keep an eye on him most of the day.

He spends a lot of time on the deck where his food and water is, and the deck is connected to the house where there is a sliding glass door. I keep the blinds open so he can see in, and I can see him.

I appreciate the advice, and I know it is all well intentioned, it's just that when I was growing up everyone I knew that had dogs kept them outside, and the average human interaction was around 2 hours per day. And the dogs we had and others had all seemed to do great and had no problems.

In terms of how much time he spends in the kennel, he seems to need the amount of sleep he's getting. Each morning that I go out to get him, I am waking him up. If he were wide awake and waiting on me then I'd definitely be getting him out earlier.

P.S. I don't want to sound defensive but if the dog wants/needs to sleep 12 hours, then out of his awake time each day he is spending on average 21% of his waking hours with human interaction between me and my children. Maybe you guys are right and that's still too low, but so far Woody seems to be well adjusted and happy.
 

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I'm not sure where the 1 hour per day is coming from unless I gave that impression in my post. I'd say that I'm interacting with him 2 hours per day at a minimum. I have a cloth Frisbee designed for dogs which we play fetch with, and he likes to sit in my lap while I feed him bites of food out of my hand. My children come home from college each weekend so he gets additional time with them Friday-Sunday. Right now I'm working from home so I'm able to keep an eye on him most of the day.

He spends a lot of time on the deck where his food and water is, and the deck is connected to the house where there is a sliding glass door. I keep the blinds open so he can see in, and I can see him.

I appreciate the advice, and I know it is all well intentioned, it's just that when I was growing up everyone I knew that had dogs kept them outside, and the average human interaction was around 2 hours per day. And the dogs we had and others had all seemed to do great and had no problems.

In terms of how much time he spends in the kennel, he seems to need the amount of sleep he's getting. Each morning that I go out to get him, I am waking him up. If he were wide awake and waiting on me then I'd definitely be getting him out earlier.

P.S. I don't want to sound defensive but if the dog wants/needs to sleep 12 hours, then out of his awake time each day he is spending on average 21% of his waking hours with human interaction between me and my children. Maybe you guys are right and that's still too low, but so far Woody seems to be well adjusted and happy.
Two hours still really isn't enough, not for a dog that is basically being left alone the remainder of the time. Like CptJack said, when you were growing up it was different. Actual one-on-one interaction may have averaged 2 hours, but I bet you they were out following their family around, playing with other dogs, and at least doing something even though they weren't actively engaged. That time just spent following their families around is important, too. And I bet you didn't see 90% of the dogs that did have problems because they were shot or killed because when you were growing up, that's what happened to problem dogs. That's what happened to problem dogs where I'm from. They did not last long.

At the end of the day, it's your dog. Do whatever you do or don't want to do with it, but I can almost guarantee that when that dog hits around 6 months old and begins to grow out of the complacent puppy stage where they sleep 20 hrs a day anyway, you will start to have problems. At the very least, take the dog to obedience classes. Take him outside the yard to parks, to pet stores. Make sure to take him on plenty of walks, and consider upping the amount of time you spend with him. It doesn't even have to be engaged, since you work for home just sit with him, or let him come into the house to sit with you. This dog is a lab/golden mix, two of the most social dog breeds. They NEED human interaction.

There are a lot of very experienced dog people here, and most of them will tell you something along the same lines as you've already heard. Save yourself and the dog some heartache, and please don't let it become a lawn ornament...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Thanks for the advice. On top of the 4 main interactions I have with him per day, I do have a couple of other interactions where I may just go out and give him some more food or water and pet him for a few minutes, or I might let him in for a few minutes. I'll keep those times going and try to add a few more.

You're right that a neighborhood dog back in the day did have different surroundings to explore and different animals to interact with. That's a good point. I just saw a Black Lab/Retriever mix in my neighborhood this afternoon, and I stopped to ask the owner when they got the dog, and they said a few months ago, and then I asked her how old the dog was, and it is the exact same age as Woody. Then I found out that she got it from a Rescue Shelter, and we both are wondering if it's possible both dogs came from the same litter. I told her that we need to get the dogs together so I might find out what time she walks her dog and possibly walk Woody at the same time. When I was driving down the street and saw the dog, my first thought was, "Why is some stranger out walking my dog?"
 

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To put it bluntly, I simply don't see the point in having a dog (especially a dog of a particularly social nature, such as a Lab mix) and not having it indoors with you if that's where you spend most of your time.

I completely agree with this statement by CptJack:

I don't care personally if the dog continues to sleep outside, or even 'live' outside, but you need to either bring the dog in so it can have company and casual interaction with you, its owner, or you need to up your game by a LOT and be ready to commit to walking 2-3 times a day to new locations, going to visit different parks and pet friendly locations OFTEN, and spending a few hours every day hanging out in your back yard, doing play, training and just being near each other. If you don't, you're going to have an untrained, large, almost impossible to rehome, animal that you have no bond with (and that has no bond with you) living in your back yard in very short order. Best case scenario. Worst case add destructive, aggressive, and neurotic.
Anecdotally, my dog Zephyr was kept in a situation very similar to your dog's. Great Danes are a very social 'velcro' breed, but he was kept outside and slept on the deck. Kids played with him every once in a while, but he was never removed from that environment, and never learned how to live in a household or how to interact with people out in the big wide world. I purchased him from his previous owners because they didn't want him any longer. And as a result of their treatment of him, he did not know how to live in a house, he is reactive in new environments and around strange dogs/people and he was (and still is) incredibly difficult to live with and deal with as a result. And while the argument could be made that he lived a 'fine' life before, I can assure you with 100% certainty that Zephyr is much happier to be indoors with me, snoozing on my couch within arms reach, than he ever would have been laying outside alone on a porch.

I think that, like Zephyr was with his previous owners, your dog is leading a 'fine' life with you. 'Fine' in that he gets a bit of attention, is fed, watered and has shelter. In other words, you are providing the BARE MINIMUM that a dog needs to get by in a household. In my opinion, bare minimum isn't good enough. If you are unable to bring the dog inside during the day, or install a doggie door so the dog can be outside of he wants and inside if he wants, or if you are unwilling to up your dog's social interaction to about 3 hours a day *every day* (which includes trips away from the house to see new people/places/smells/dogs), then I think your dog would be much happier in a different household. Not only would he be happier, but he wouldn't be at risk for becoming a poorly behaved dog who has reactivity issues due to a lack of socialization, which will make him very difficult to rehome in the future.

This doesn't mean I think you're a bad person, though you'll probably be offended by my words. And yes, you and I probably have very different views about what is and isn't responsible pet ownership. However, if you aren't willing to make significant lifestyle changes in order to accommodate the responsibility of owning a social pet, I'd really urge you to consider rehoming this dog now. Now, while he's still young and can be socialized and trained and loved by people who want him around as much as possible. Every dog deserves that kind of life.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I appreciate the thoughts. I've got a playpen that I sometimes used when I brought him in at night to play with him before bedtime, but he seemed to be too hyper and tired to play in there for very long, so I switched to just playing with him on the kitchen floor (easier to clean up messes than the carpet). But...I'm going to try and bring him in some during the day and see if he will be ok in the playpen if I have toys in there, and I'm close by. I can get in it with him for some of that time. This would get me to the three hours per day.

I'm also going to try and coordinate some walks with the other owner in the neighborhood who has what looks to be the exact same mix (Lab/Retriever) and age as my dog. If you read my earlier comments, you know that I'm wondering if these dogs aren't brothers.
 

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I'm curious. You're obviously not opposed to having a dog inside the house since you do bring him in at times, so why are you opposed to making inside his full-time area and outside his part-time area? I'm just not understanding the reasoning.

I also grew up on a farm where dogs were kept outside, but I certainly would never consider doing that now. I've evolved beyond that line of thinking and am a bit ashamed of how little attention our dogs got when I was growing up.

Your dog may seem happy and well-adjusted now, but honestly right now he's easy. He's going to change as he grows up and be much more work.
 

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I should have given a few more details, so here's some more information.

I live in upstate South Carolina, so we have mild winters. I have a doghouse for him that I can put a self-warming pad in if needed, but he loves my deck and the sun hits it for most of the day. I can put blankets over the kennel in the garage as well as a self-warming pad in the kennel and I would think that would be fine for 95% of the winter.
That works. Just had to ask.

When I get him up I spend sometime outside holding him. I then go out two other times during the day to pet him and play with him. Before bedtime I bring him in for about 20 minutes to play with him inside. I then put him to bed.
It sounds like not a lot of time.. but it may be enough time. Do you ever take him anywhere with you or out for walks? Both things are good experiences if for no other reason than if you take him to the vet he won't freak out or if something happened and you were required you to board him. Do you do any training? Basic stuff is nice to have in there.. recall, sit, down etc.

As far as how long he spends in the kennel, he seems really tired when he goes to bed, and he isn't waking up until I get him up. I have a baby monitor set up in the garage and in my room so if he wakes up and needs to go potty I will hear him barking. That said though the kennel is very spacious (I think it's 3 feet high, 4 feet long and 2 feet wide), and I have a puppy pad taped down on the 2nd half of the kennel if he really needs to go, so I don't think he would need to hold his bladder.
I have what amounts to an indoor kennel as well. It is 4'x6' with 6 foot sides and an attached 4'X32" crate attached to one side. I used to use it when I went to work of if the weather was really bad. Since moving I did set it up in a very dry and nice basement, but I have not used it a single time yet. I used a rabbit litter pan with shavings in it for the dog to pee or poop in. Puppy is 5 months and is simply crated at night and outside in his 10'X10' dog kennel days (good shade!).

I was raised in the country, and ALL dogs were outside dogs :)
On a farm this is quite common. While the current pet dog thinking is to keep the dog indoors, many dogs are kept outdoors and lead happy and healthy lives. Most pet dog people are aghast at a dog living outside. If the dog is stable and happy outside and you spend time with him playing and training him, I see no reason not to have the dog live outside. My working dog and puppy are kept out in kennels during the day (I work) and indoors in crates at night. The Pet dog (house dog) is in the house (retired from competition).

He's seen a vet and had his shots, and he's been started on heartworm/intestinal worms/Fleas-Ticks Prevention medicine.

I LOVE the Jolly Ball suggestion. That's definitely on my To-Get List this week.

Given this additional information, I'm still open to suggestions and advice based on everything I'm doing. I wouldn't necessarily agree though that dogs need to be inside all the time. You have to understand that in my background, dogs were happiest when they could be outside and run around and play whenever they wanted.
I think you should invest some time in training your dog. Basic things like coming when called, sit, down and stay (tho if the dog is sitting or down he is also staying so I don't bother with a stay command). Coming when called is HUGE on the list. There is a booklet you can get on line called "Really Reliable Recall" that can help you create a fail safe emergency recall. I suggest you get that.

There are other training type exercises you can use too. Take a look on Google for "101 things to do with a box." That can show you some fun things to do using clicker training and is a great way to mentally stimulate both you and your puppy and help with your dog bonding with you.

Just suggestions. I think you are doing well at this point.
 

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Do you have the option for a dog door? If so then he could go in and out as he wanted. Mine is not an outdoor dog but loves to be out, with the door she spends day time outside and comes in when she wants, in and out. I understand out door dogs, had two wonderful dobermans that were outside, had their own houses too and they were fine, just depends.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Thanks for all the feedback. I've been incredibly busy with getting my son moved into college (just 20 minutes away) as well as other things including keeping up my time with Woody, but I'm reading this thread and gleaning all of the good information and suggestions.

I think what I'm looking for is a "middle-way" right now. I don't see myself making a transition to a mostly inside-dog soon, but I do want to bring him in and have some time with inside and in his playplen on top of the time I spend outside with him. I'm not making excuses, but I just recently took over the full care of the dog, and I decided to do it because my son was no longer going to be able to handle him. After dog-sitting with him for a week while my son was away, I just couldn't stand the idea that he would go back to a shelter and possibly not find a home. So I decided to do the best I could. For some of you, you may have the extra 2 to 3 hours per day to spare, but for me this has been a major life-style change. Having 3 less hours is a big deal.

I do want to get into some training, and I'm sure there's many things I can improve. To be honest, it is all a little overwhelming right now.
 

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Waltercl I just want to say you are doing GREAT. I do not have any idea what the REST of your life looks like.

I work FT, just moved and took on a mortgage at an age when I should be retiring (or thinking hard about it). House has a few acres and that needs reclaiming (trees cut and so forth). I am working one dog in IPO (she has her three and now we are looking at tracking titles) and in the middle of moving and going for my IPO3 I bought a cracker jack of a puppy and he needs to be trained. In addition to that I have a house dog and 2 cats and my Mom lives with me (she is 90). I had a knee replaced a few years ago and now a hip on the opposite side reminds me that "someday" it will need replacement as well. I spend all day Sunday at Dog club and every other Thursday and then I train my dogs in between.

The grass does not grow under my feet.

There are those here who would malign me for using dog kennels and even for working FT and having 3 dogs that I NEVER let together (so all are handled and trained separately!). The dogs are happy, I am happy and my life is FULL.

Enjoy your 'inherited' dog. He will tell you more about what he needs than anyone who has not met him or you!
 
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