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10 Things you should know before getting your own "Marmaduke"


The movie "Marmaduke" hits the big screen this weekend and pet experts and Great Dane breeders are bracing for a "101 Dalmatians" style run on the pony-sized dogs.

The live-action movie tells the story of Marmaduke as an awkward teenager who has trouble fitting in when the family moves from the Midwest to Southern California. (One of the plot points naturally involves a surfing competition.) Actor Owen Wilson voices the dog and Lee Pace, Judy Greer and William H. Macy star as several of the humans.

Even though the original comic strip and the new movie show the trouble the big dog gets into, breeders and rescuers expect that the film will spark a huge interest in Great Danes. The concern is that while at first, people will adore these amazing animals, once the new owners realize how large the dogs can get and how expensive they can be, they'll dump the unwanted pets in shelters. Serious breeders also fear that opportunists with little knowledge of the dog will race to breed the next hot commodity.

The American Kennel Club and the Great Dane Club of America urge movie-goers "not to get star struck" by the breed and make an impulse purchase.

"Everything is bigger when you own a Great Dane," says Dave Miller, President of the Great Dane Club of America. "They eat a lot of food and take up a lot of space in your home and car," he adds. Families interested in adopting one of the dogs should spend time with several grown adult Great Danes "to make sure they understand how large the breed is," Miller says.

What else should you think about before getting your own Marmaduke?

Arlene Scarbrough, a longtime Great Dane breeder in Atlanta, recommends you consider that:

1) Great Danes generally weigh 150 to 200 pounds at adulthood.

2) At 6 months old, a Great Dane can knock you down the stairs if it jumps on you.

3) The dogs can be destructive. They'll chew on furniture, clothing and even sheet-rock. "We call them termites," Scarbrough says. If they aren't properly trained, she notes, "They can eat your house."

4) They consume two 40-pound bags of dog food per month.

5) The breed is prone to health problems that often require expensive surgeries.

6) Great Danes need constant companionship. Scarbrough recommends a second dog of the opposite sex if an adult is not at home with them.

7) Even when they're young, you can't leave a Great Dane puppy loose in the house and go to work, says Scarbrough. They will get into too much trouble. But puppies are also unhappy if you crate them. This puts new owners in a tough bind.

8) If the dog is accustomed to being in air-conditioning, he or she can be very susceptible to heat stroke. Scarborough notes that you can't leave the dog outside on a hot day for longer than it takes to go to the bathroom without risk.

9) Although the dogs are big, they aren't athletic. "They can't jog; it will tear up their hips," Scarbrough explains.

10) Finally, before you welcome a Great Dane into your family, contact a breeder or another Great Dane owner and get to know the breed to make sure it's right for you. "We don't mind people coming here and not buying," Scarbrough says. "If I get too many after the movie, I'll just set up an hourly tour."

David McCarthy, an Atlanta musician and long-time Great Dane owner, clearly adores the breed but agrees there are challenges. The dogs sleep on a queen-sized mattress in the master bedroom and he admits that they pretty much run the place.

"They let us stay in our house so long as we feed them," McCarthy says.   



#1 Mistake Made by Pet Dog Owners:

Getting a dog when you donít have time for a dog.

Dogs require lots of time and attention. Behavior problems, housebreaking problems, poor socialization, destructiveness, boredom, obsessive behaviors like tail and light chasing, excessive barking, self-mutilation, excessive licking, choking on toys left in the crate all day, digging, yard escaping, fear, shyness, lack of exercise, insufficient play and mental stimulation are only a few of the challenges which arise when people donít have time for their dogs. Excessive crating, locking a dog in a room or tying it out all day, free- feeding the dog or installing a doggy door so the dog can fend for itself will make things worse. Not to mention lack of time and attention for training and veterinary needs. A dog is not a goldfish. A dog is a pack animal with clearly defined social and developmental needs. Donít get a dog unless you have time for a dog.


Right Arrow: Do you have the time and space and patience?