Choosing the right dog

Amanda - posted on 04/22/2013 ( 4 moms have responded )




In a few years when my daughter is old enough to start school, my husband and I are going to buy a house in a safe school district and we also want to get a dog. My husband wants an Irish Setter, but I'm debating on what kind of dog to get for myself. I'd like 2 dogs because they are very social animals and do get lonely by themselves.

I have good and bad experiences with different breeds. As a little girl, I was bitten by a pitbull, but I don't blame the pitbull. I blame the owner because he allowed the dog to wander the streets and did not have the dog on a leash or have any control. I have family member with a pitbull/mastiff mix and he's the friendliest dog ever. My inlaws have a purebred german shepard who attacked my neice at my wedding reception but is very gentle with my 18 month old. I don't blame the dog for the attack, I blame my inlaws because it was a very hot day, high 90's, and the dog shouldve been in the house because we all know dogs get irritable when they are extremely warm. Plus there were alot of people. My neice just kneeled down to pet the dog and the dog bit her in the face.

As a kid/teen, my family has had both nice and mean cocker spaniels; the nice ones were raised by us from pups and the mean one was actually a stray we took in. I've had mixed breeds that were awesome: german shepard/husky/newfoundland mix, german shepard/airedale mix, a snauzer/poodle mix, and a german shepard/black lab mix. Out of all the mixed breeds we had, we only raised 2 from pups which people say makes all the difference but sometimes it doesn't. One dog we raised had to be put down because he turned due to neighborhood kids throwing things at him when he was outside in a fenced backyard. My mother would call the police to no avail. These kids eventually drove the dog to be mean. We lived in a bad neighborhood where there were many kids committing crimes, dealing drugs, stealing cars, etc. So they obviously had no respect for other people or their property.

The mixed breeds we adopted were the sweetest dogs ever. I'll probably never find any dog like them again. I will, however, use my experiences to not only find the right dog for me and my family, but to teach my daughter the proper way to behave around dogs. There are many people who fear dogs or certain breeds. These fears are based on personal experience or just falling prey to fear mongering. I'm not gonna judge a breed based on one specific animal's actions. I want to hear stories and experiences. I'm hoping everyone will read this and share ideas and experiences that will help my decision-making process a little easier. We won't be getting a dog for a few years but I'd like to be prepared when its time. I'm a very cautious momma and I want my daughter to be safe so choosing the right dog to get is critical.


Mary - posted on 04/25/2013




Amanda, I just wouldn't get too hung up on "breed" as an indicator of a dog being more safe or suitable for a family with small kids. ANY dog has the potential to be good or bad - it varies with each individual dog, as well as the type of training and treatment they receive from their family.

Breed is also a bit of a guess - especially if you are adopting a dog from a rescue or shelter. With most of these dogs, the breed (or mixes) that they are labeled with are nothing more than the best guess of the shelter staff, and are based on nothing more than the dog's physical appearance. The advent of DNA testing has shown that assigning breed based on visual identification is most often wrong. For example, one of my dogs was labeled a lab/boxer mix by the shelter I adopted him from, and he certainly looks like this is what he *could* be. My vet agreed. After two years, and a gazillion people asking me what he was, curiosity got the better of me, and I did the DNA testing. His results were astonishing: Primary breed - Rhodesian Ridgeback, with some German Shepard, Black and Tan Coonhound, and a tiny bit of boxer.

Does knowing what he actually is change how I treated him, or his innate personality? Nope, he was still the same dog.

If you are going to adopt a dog from a shelter, I strongly encourage you to talk extensively with the shelter staff. Many shelters, such as the one I volunteer at weekly, have their own animal trainer/behaviorist. They can often give a good idea of a dog's personality and temperament, and which dogs they believe would be good with kids of whatever age. They should also be able to tell you about any issues the dog may currently have with aggression, reactivity, fearfulness, food/resource guarding, jumpiness or mouthiness, leash walking, etc. None of these issues I have mentioned are breed-specific; any dog, of any breed or mix, can have them.

As well, I would strongly encourage you and your family to take your dog to some type of training classes as soon as possible after adopting your dog. This is the very best way to help insure that your dog will be a well-adjusted, happy member of your family. Not only does it teach your dog, but it helps to teach all of your family how to best interact with your dog, and handle them in a variety of settings.


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Amanda - posted on 04/22/2013




Thanks for all your advice. I'm actually going to adopt my dogs. I've actually only bought a pet a couple times but they were a lizard and some small caged animals like hamsters. Almost every animal I've had was adopted or given to me. I dont like breeders because there are way to many animals killed every year because people would prefer a purebred over any other animal so shelter animals are never really given a chance. Plus they overbreed animals and keep them in awful conditions.
I'm constatly taking my daughter to shelters to see the animals. When she gets bigger, shell have a chance to help choose a dog. I'm so excited.

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It sounds like you already know that you cannot judge the temperament of a dog by it's breed. The dog will have a "personality" but the way the owner raises the dog will also play a big part in the dog's temperament.

Personally, I don't like the idea of "buying" a dog. There are so many dogs put to death each day just because no one wants them. People breed them, people buy them, then they don't sell, or those who purchased them get tired of cleaning up poop, annoyed with the expense of feeding them, and burdened by the amount of time the dog requires for physical activity and socialization, then the poor dog ends up in the pound and is put to death.

Rather, I prefer adopted dogs. Every dog I have ever owned has been a rescue--adopted from a pound, humane society, or rescue team. For the most part, most of my dogs have been mixed breed, and they have all been wonderful. When you stop breeding for personality traits, the stronger traits from all breeds, the traits that make it easiest for a dog to adapt to new situations, emerge.
Getting a mixed breed dog can be scary because it is more difficult to determine the amounts of shedding, the size, etc. and those can be very important things to consider, but if you are flexible, you can rescue a dog that fits your family beautifully.

My current dog has been with me since I was 20. He is 12 years old now, and is a German Shepard mix of some kind. I was actually looking for a small dog when I found him, but I am glad we ended up together--he has always been here for me, and I love him very, very much.

My last dog was a poodle/beagle mix. He was also a wonderful dog. He was the result of two dogs escaping from their breeders' homes and mating. Poodles and beagles both come with some traits that make them difficult to live with, but this dog was fabulous. He got me through middle and high school.

The dog before that was a miniature dachshund that had been "set out" because she didn't house train quickly enough and barked occasionally when others walked their dogs by her house (btw, this is common for dogs--they can take up to a year to completely house train, and almost all of them will bark at other dogs). I wasn't looking for a dog when she came around--I was actually homeless at the time and attending elementary school for most of the day. The dog would sit outside the school and meet me when I got out every day (I don't know if she was there all day or if she just knew when to come meet me). I loved her very much, but there was a high homeless population in our area at the time and another homeless person ate her while I was in school one day.

Spend time with the pup before you adopt. After spending a few hours with the pup, ask the agency if you can take the pup home for a day to see how s/he adjusts to your home. Most are more than happy to allow you to take the pup for a day or even a weekend. If there is an adoption fee, they will probably ask that you pay it before taking the pup, but they will refund it if you bring the pup back before a designated time.

Denikka - posted on 04/22/2013




There are certain breeds that should generally be avoided with small children, cocker spaniels are one of those breeds. It's not a temperament thing, they can be the sweetest pooch ever, it's a physical thing. Those long ears invite tugging and they tend to be prone to ear infections that the owner may not always be aware of. Patting them around the ears can cause them pain and so they may react by biting. Even if the dog stops right away, serious damage can be done to a small child.
It's the same with most small breed dogs, especially terriers. Although with them, it is more of a temperament thing. They are bred to be high energy and they are bred to be hunters. If you have other small pets, especially prey animals, it's inadvisable to have them around in close contact. Because they are easily excitable, they can be more prone to nipping and things like that.

The best thing I can suggest is to research into different breeds. You can't judge every single dog by a single standard, but you can get a better idea on how many dogs of a particular breed may behave. Some are high energy, some are low. Some require a LOT of physical maintenance, others don't need as much grooming. Some are high shedders, some are not. And some are extremely prone to certain health issues.

I personally had a Collie, Chesapeake, wolf cross dog when I was young. Her mom was a wild dog that ran with a pack. She started hanging around with a friends dog (pure bred Collie) and ended up giving birth under their wood pile. The first 3 months, my dog had no human contact, but these friends eventually caught the two puppies (one male, one female) and brought them up for another 3 months. I got her for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 years old. Another set of friends got her brother.
Sweety (my dog) was always super healthy and lived until she was about 14. She unfortunately died in a tragic accident, but the only health issues she really had was arthritis as she got older (which actually led to her accident).
Her brother on the other hand was wracked with health issues. He had a sever allergy to sawdust (living on a horse farm, this was a major issue), ended up with massive cysts on his rump because of his scratching (small cuts got infected), lost most of the hair on his back half. He also had a very sensitive stomach, would throw up constantly, couldn't hold his bladder even as a young dog and had a myriad of different problems. He got caught out by a pack of coyotes and passed when he was about 7 years old. Even had he not been killed, I highly doubt he would have made it another year anyways with all his problems.

Even the same genetics can lead to very different results, But at least you can get a good idea as to how a particular breed should behave, and you can get even more specific by watching the parents behavior and the behavior of the puppy themselves. The more active pups will probably stay pretty active, the more subdued pups will probably be quieter. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask questions and take your time to observe before jumping to get a pup.
Good luck with a new family member :)

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