Do Your Research!--the Importance Of Choosing The Right Breed For You

Discussion in 'Dog Breeds' started by tx_cowgirl, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. MaryK Honored Member

    Excellent post Jackie!!!!!!!!(y) Brody's Mom, everything Jackie has said is absolutely right. Dogs do not come with a guarantee, whether they're from a reputable breeder or a shelter dog. All dogs have a quirk or two, even dogs from the same litter can be totally different in their personalities, likes and dislikes, what they're good at and what they don't like doing. Zeus (my golden oldie) and his late sister Tiger Lily were litter mates and two more opposite dogs personality wise, training wise in fact in every respect, you couldn't find. Zeus loved heel work, but hated agility (I withdrew him after his fist class he showed me very clearly he wasn't into agility) whilst Tiger Lily hated heel work but loved Agility and went on to be a top agility dog. Zeus was, and still is an extrovert, whereas Tiger Lily was the puppy everyone says 'don't get', extremely shy and nervous, to a point where when I first attempted to take her out for a walk, she splatted down on the pathway and refused to budge, not even a treat or her bro's influence could make her move. Zeus loved car rides, Tiger Lily hated them and no training on earth got her past 'tolerating' car rides. I did get her to go for walks without fear, but she was always the one sitting down behind me if strangers wanted to pat the dogs, whereas her bro was up front seeking a pat. Did I love Tiger Lily any the less or Zeus any the more - no way I accepted both dogs for what they were and trained each dog to be the very best dogs possible. So as you can see no dogs come with a guarantee as to what they will be like.

    The only dogs which do have more of a 'guarantee' are older dogs, over two with most breeds. They're more 'set' personality wise, though those with issues can still be re-trained. I did that with Jacques my GS, he was two when I got him. But I did know what I'd be in for, and was prepared for all the work necessary to re-train a dog who'd had a terrible start to life.

    Shelters do the very best they can to asses a dog. But a shelter isn't the best place for any dog and assessment can be difficult. Even dogs from foster homes, which are wonderful and the people who foster are angels, can show up with issues when taken out of that environment, as it's yet another change, another unsettling factor in their lives.

    Just like people, no dog is absolutely 'perfect'. They are what they are and it is up to us, as their companions, to help them become the very best dog they can be.

    Please do not lump all Shelter dogs into one, some are the easiest dogs in the world to re-train and others take a long time. With Brody you were told he had socialization issues, that alone would tell me 'this dog will not be re-trained over night', maybe you didn't realize just how hard it can be to re-train an under socialized dog, even a youngster of seven months old. The first six months of a dog's life are THE most important. It's the time when, in a perfect world, they learn a lot, explore the world, are taken to puppy pre school, kindergarten and allowed to get used to the big wide world outside the confines of their initial home. And even then, with all the right training and socialization, there is still as Jackie has pointed out, the 'fear' period, just like children. A baby may not show any signs of being afraid of the dark, but as a young child/toddler suddenly be terrified of the dark for no apparent reason. Dogs aren't any different.

    You also say you're a long distance runner. I am assuming that you run many miles per day. Did you take Brody, when you first got him, on a long run? Because if so, he may well be in pain, for as a youngster of just seven months old he should not be going for long runs, his body hasn't developed sufficiently at that age to withstand a long, continuous run. Yes, puppy seem to be 'always on the run' but in their home they can flop down when they're had enough. On a leash this isn't possible. Good long walk, sure, but a long run no way, until the dog is at least a year old (depending on breed/size) and it's skeletal/muscular body has matured.

    It takes time, patience and more time and patience to re-train some Shelter dogs - not all and the aim is to always have the dog become the best THEY can be.

    Maybe Brody will never be your 'dream dog' - and he sure shouldn't be doing any long distance runs until he's at least two years old - but with love, patience and a heap of training he will be the best dog he can be. May I say that if you haven't the time to re-train Brody, then for his sake, it may be best to find him another home with people who have the time so to do. This is NOT meant as any slur on you, not everyone has the time to re-train a dog, and with your own training taking up what I imagine would be quite a bit of your time, this may well be the case.

    But again, please do not warn against adopting a Shelter dog, rather ask people to think about how much time they have, what breed of dog is best suited to their lifestyle etc. etc. A working dog such as Brody will take a lot of time, even without issues, and just long runs isn't enough, neither would it give the dog time to sniff and explore the world around them. Dogs find a run, or walk, without any time to sniff and explore, very boring. They also need a LOT of mental stimulation as well. BC's especially are highly intelligent dogs, who need to use their brains, exercise alone is not enough to keep them happy and well adjusted.

    There are so many beautiful dogs in Shelters we need to encourage people to adopt, rather than put them off. And this means asking them to think through everything very carefully, as being a companion to a dog, any breed or size and whether the dogs from a Shelter or a reputable Breeder is a life time commitment.
    Pawbla and jackienmutts like this.

  2. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Jackie and Mary, I am sensing your frustration with me. Don't misunderstand. I love Brody and am willing and able to put in the time. My intention in posting what I did was to give a little empathy to people who have done their research and think they are well-prepared for the dog they are getting. I know full well that dogs are living, breathing, emotional beings and that they come with no guarantees.( I have five children between the ages of 11 and 23 years, and each one was a learning experience, and still is to this day.) That was precisely my point. The OP was admonishing people to do their research so they could select a breed that was appropriate for their lifestyle/personality/level of commitment, etc. I believed I had done that to the best of my ability, but I still ended up with a dog that is more of a challenge than what my whole family expected. Much of the stuff I have learned since adopting Brody I wouldn't have thought to research before hand because I had no reason to, like fear periods and leash aggression. We've all had our surprises. That's what I was trying to say. Researching the breed isn't enough.

    I am not knocking shelters. I admire those who work in rescues and such, and they do so much with so little. For experienced owners who are not put off by a little aggression, reactivity, fearfulness getting a shelter dog is a great idea. For those who know little about dogs and how to train them or even assess them, it can be very difficult to get a sense of what the dog is really like when you are not seeing them in a "normal" setting. The intention of the OP was to inform people who adopted certain dogs in ignorance of breed characteristics that there are things they should do to make an informed decision about buying a dog. My suggestion was that a dog that has been in foster will come with a lot more accurate information than one that hasn't.

    Mary: I did research about running with young dogs. I talked to our vet as well. I didn't even try running with Brody for the first couple of weeks, then only took him on very short ones, about 2 miles. I don't run very fast, really just a jog. And at the time, he was so mouthy and jumped up on me all the time, so I was constantly stopping to settle him down. Every time we saw a person on the path, we would stop and pull over so I could give him treats while the person passed. So it was really only slightly faster and longer than a good walk. It became too difficult, so I actually stopped running for a while and replaced it with our 2 long walks every day. Then when he started reacting to people and dogs so much, I had to start walking him much earlier in the morning to avoid the dog walkers.

    Jackie: For distance running, I need to select areas that are safe for my body as well, so I can't go long stretches on concrete. Unpaved trails are the best, but they tend to be hilly and curvy, running through wooded areas, so very poor distance visibility. Asphalt is next best, but they are so busy with other runners and dog-walkers that I would be constantly pulling off to the side. I am hoping he is going through an extended fear period, but I doubt it. It has been several weeks, and is a bit too early as he is only about 11 months old now. Maybe he won't ever be a running companion. That's okay, it wasn't the only reason I wanted a dog, but it was the reason I chose an active breed.

    I'm not the kind of person who gives up on anything easily. I know Brody and I have made progress and I am willing to work with him for as long as it takes to help him be the best Brody he can be. I am just asking that people not judge others harshly because they are doing the best they can with what they have. Our situations are all different, none are perfect. I envy those of you that have years of experience in training and rehabbing difficult cases, and I am so grateful to have you all available to me, because you are all I have when it comes to help with Brody. Please continue to be patient with me. I am an old dog who is trying to learn a lot of new tricks in a very short time.
  3. southerngirl Honored Member

    Brody's Mom, my situation with Missy is similar to yours and Brody's. Before Missy I had never trained a dog certainly not one with issues. Having Missy who is reactive toward dogs and has some other mild issues I've had to learn how to work with her. Without everyone on this forum especially tigerlily, MaryK and Jakie n mutts I. would still have a dog who flipped out when she saw other dogs and I would still be terrified of running into dogs. At times I would get so frustrated and I still do. But Missy has pushed me to become a better trainer and more knowledgeable about dogs than I ever would have if I had a "normal" dog. Keep up the great work with Brody we're all cheering for you.Soon you'll find yourself using your experience with Brody to help others.
  4. MaryK Honored Member

    Brody's Mom. I cannot speak for Jackie, but I can say I am not frustrated with you, just very concerned, as I know just how much time and effort it takes to train a dog who's got issues. And have seen too many really beautiful dogs returned back to a Shelter, which sets them back so much and with some Shelters - the RSPCA over here (will not speak for elsewhere) means instant euthanization, no second chance. Breaks my heart and I now will only work at No Kill Shelters.

    I was also concerned about warning people about Shelter dogs. And just wanted to make it clear that no matter what breed of dog, or where the dogs comes from they can all have issues of some sort. Research is only part of the equasion, but a good thing to do, the other part is the dog itself, it's personality etc. Even reputable Breeders do not always socialize the puppies and leaving Mom and siblings is a huge thing for a puppy, which in itself with some, can cause issues.

    Danielle I know has really put in very hard work with Missy and it's taken her quite while, a lot more than four months that's for sure, but she's winning the day and Missy is now becoming a really good dog. Plus, as she's said, she had never trained a dog before, so starting with a reactive dog has caused her many frustrations - as it does all of us even those of us who've got a ton of experience. But the rewards are huge, ever little step forward is like a GIANT step, it's so rewarding to turn around a dog with issues into a well behaved Canine Citizen.

    One thing, with his walks, when you do get that you can take him for a run with you (so glad you got a vet check on that score) please also take him for a separate "Brody Walk' where he can stop to smell the Daisies, or more likely LOL the pee-mail left by that smashing looking little girl up the road. He will need that special time, as just running will get boring for him, as dogs get to know the world through smelling all the thousands of smells which we, fortunately most of the time, don't register.

    I know you love Brody, so hold that in mind when you feel like tearing out your hair, which will happen of course, you're human:) And of course, we're all here to help you. Keep working with Brody, I know it seems like forever, but it's only a very short time really. The fear phase can last for quite a while too, but with your help and guidance, Brody will over come his fears.
    jackienmutts and brodys_mom like this.
  5. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Precisely my point, Mary. The breed profile only tells part of the story. It is not always possible to be 100% prepared for the dog you end up with, even if you get it as a young pup. That was what I was trying to communicate in my original post.

    When I said "four months" I wasn't implying that this was a long time to be working with Brody with little progress, but that it was a short time after I adopted him, yet he had shown some startling new behaviors which I found very surprising and challenging to deal with. When I first got him and was describing some of his antics to dog owners they all said things like, "that's a puppy for you. He'll outgrow it in about a year." This was in reference to barking, mouthiness, jumping up and generally acting stupid at times. His jumping and mouthing has trailed off considerably to where I don't even think of them as problems anymore. But his increased fear of strangers and his reactions to other dogs are things I wouldn't have expected because I began walking him regularly and letting him meet people and dogs in Petsmart and off-leash parks with no incidents. We were in an intermediate class at Petsmart at 1 pm on Saturdays, and he was fine. I am wracking my brain to pinpoint when/why he might have developed this fear of dogs, and I can only guess that it was a series of negative encounters with rude off-leash dogs on our walks, when Brody was on leash and got very scared. This was 3 separate events over the course of maybe one month.
    MaryK, jackienmutts and southerngirl like this.
  6. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Brodysmom, more concern on my part too, as opposed to frustration. Especially for anyone new to the forum, or to dogs (and there are lots who don't join, but just read for information), I would hate for someone to read your post and be too scared to ever consider a shelter dog because of possible "issues" - and think buying a puppy (from a breeder ... or yikes, from a pet shop!) would be the answer to their prayers. It is very possible that the encounters with rude dogs on 3 separate encounters happened during a fear period and it threw Brody over the edge .... or not. If only they could talk. I adopted Makena at someplace between 18-24 mos old (closest they could tell) - and she seemed really good with other dogs. Six months later wow, had that ever changed!! She went from a dog who was great and loved going for walks in the neighborhood and at the beach, and meeting other dogs beautifully, to a scary dog who would be up on her hind legs, barking ferociously, ready to rip any dog's head off that she saw from a block away! Whoa, what happened? Don't know. But things happen as they mature. And some dogs, like some people, aren't social butterflies. We can however, show them ways to behave politely in public, and show them that they can trust us to always keep them safe from whatever it is they fear.

    Had I opted to adopt a dog closer to 3 or 4 yrs old, I would have most likely known how they were with other dogs, and not had that "shock" happen 6 months down the line. But I met her, my boy met her (not Alfie, I had another old boy, Sherman, at the time), we all hit it off beautifully, she was a perfect fit, and we rode off into the sunset. And we have lived happily ever after. :D But - she has made me a much better trainer. I really had to step up. I've had to learn so much about fear-aggression, body language, what makes her tick (and go off! :eek:), what she was afraid of, what I could do to help, the list goes on and on. She's much much better now - but it was a long road. Years of work - daily work. And I could only go as fast as she could - and there were days when we'd take one step forward, and two steps back. And there were days when we'd take a giant leap forward. Back and forth.

    You'll most likely find the same with Brody. It will take everyone in your family, working together. Make sure you're all on the same page, treating him all the same, giving him lots of patience, love, kindness ... and did I say patience? ;) We're all here, ready to help - cuz we all love dogs. We're in your corner, and we're in Brody's corner. My bet - you'll learn more from .. and because of .. Brody than you ever imagined possible. And you'll be helping someone else down the road. That's how it always works. (y)

    I've heard it said that we don't always get the dogs we want, sometimes we get the dogs we need. Give Brody time - he just might turn out to be the dog you didn't know you needed. :love:
    Dogster, MaryK, brodys_mom and 2 others like this.
  7. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I can understand that, Jackie, but I was also concerned about this paragraph from tx_cowgirl's original post:

    "Not really sure what you want? How about a pure, 100% M.I.X.? (Millions of Interesting CROSSES!) More often than not, mutts are SMARTER, MORE TRAINABLE, AND LESS PRONE TO HEALTH PROBLEMS! Along with all those benefits, they are also SUPER EASY TO FIND! Just head on down to your local shelter, or check out Petfinder.com. Many of these dogs have been abandoned, lost, or never had a family at all. Don't want to deal with puppy raising? Adopt an adult dog! Some of them may have came from a family who couldn't keep them anymore for one reason or another. They may just have all their housetraining, kid-proofing, and basic manners out of the way! Still have your heart set on a purebred? Shelters have these too! Don't fall into the line of thinking that adult dogs are "set in their ways." Old dogs CAN learn new tricks! Plus, you'll feel great about rescuing a dog instead of buying from a pet store(where the puppies almost always come from puppy mills, and could have health problems)."

    For anyone new to the forum, or to dogs, as you say, this could also be misleading. I felt it was necessary to point out some of the potential pitfalls of shelter dogs as well, as this gives a bit of a "rose-colored glasses" view of rescue dogs. Brody was very young when we got him, so emotional immaturity could account for some of the changes we've seen in him. In your own experience, your rescue was a bit older, so even an experienced owner might not expect to see a sudden shift.

    I guess what I am trying to say to anyone thinking of getting a dog, from anywhere, at any age, is that you need to read about dogs in general, not just their breeds. Read "Culture Clash", or "Why Does My Dog Act That Way?", or "The Other End of the Leash", to get a clearer picture of what life with a dog really entails. Because "what you see is what you get" doesn't apply, and if everyone in your family isn't prepared to deal with the possible problems, or if rehabilitating a troubled dog is not something you want to do, don't get a dog at all. For myself, I was prepared to train a young dog with a lot of energy, but I didn't expect him to develop any issues because I wasn't aware of how they could develop in an environment where the dog is loved and properly cared for. I didn't know that the seeds of his fearfulness were already planted, and it would germinate so quickly due to situations that I could not have foreseen, nor prevented. Like I said, I love my dog, and my family loves him, too (well, except my husband), and we are committed to the dog we have. He is making progress. Any impatience I have is not with him, but for him, as I long for him to be able to enjoy life with people and other dogs without fear.
    MaryK likes this.
  8. MaryK Honored Member

    Sadly people who've never owned a dog before, do think it's all like the dogs in movies (and the way they're trained isn't always very nice either but we don't see that side just the glamor) and rush off to buy a 'Benje" or a dog without giving full thought to all it entails, be it a shelter dog or one from a reputable breeder or heaven help us a pet shop dog, which are in a lot of cases puppy mill puppies(there is now some way of checking that here but still I'm very wary) and then realize there's a lot more to training a dog than feeding, watering and allowing the dog to run in the garden. That's why so many dogs end up in Shelters - so a warning to do a full research, along with asking heaps of questions, reading all the books available on P+ training etc. is really needed. People need to be educated on what it takes to become a dog owner. I've always felt that rather than a dog license, which anyone can get, people should have to sit an exam on all aspects of dog training, to ensure the dogs get off to a good start in life. It's not the complete answer I know, but it just may make some people think twice before buying a dog, shelter or otherwise.

    Example here, very good friend of mine wanted to get a Female White Poodle. She's a very kind person but, when I asked her why a White Poodle, her answer was so she could dye the dog's coat different colors, paint her toenails and general treat the dog like a Barbie Doll. I then proceeded to point out other aspects of dog ownership, like for one, poo collecting every day without fail, rain, hail or shine, grooming (yes and the expense of keeping a poodle looking ship shape), training every day, potty training with a pup, etc. etc. etc. She decided, wisely, that may be owning a dog wasn't for her, well not at present anyway.

    With the fear aspect, some dogs can inherit this and it doesn't show up until they're past the puppy stage. Usually around adolescent time any issues will rise to the surface. Plus with Brody, three rude dogs, albeit it on separate occasions could well be the trigger, only takes one rude dog to get it into his mind that all dogs are rude!

    I know how frustrating it can be, but as Jackie said, all training must be at Brody's pace, not yours, sorry but that's how it is, and by doing so you'll have those ups and downs, but hey Brody will become the dog of your dreams, or maybe the dog from whom you learn so much. I've learned heaps, not just on training, but about myself, from all the dogs who've passed my way, that's what's so wonderful about dogs (and other animals I must add) we learn from them. It's a two way thing, like any teacher/student relationship, a good teacher always learns from the pupil, be it our furry friends or humanoid friends.

    Stay with it, we're all on your side, keep working with Brody and asking for help if needed.

    I too have heard the same expression Jackie quoted about 'we don't always get the dogs we want but we get the dogs we need' and my personal experience is that it's very true. Hang in there, Brody's a wonderful dog and will come good in his time frame.:D
    brodys_mom likes this.
  9. Pawbla Experienced Member

    I'll have to point out that the only thing being referred to in the original post is the breed of the dog, and there is no consideration for an actual individual.

    You can try to assess the personality of a litter of collies, but if collies aren't a good fit for your life, then it's likely that no matter the personality assessment, you won't get what you wanted or what you needed.

    However once you've settled on the breed, then you can start looking at individual dogs. If you've picked a mutt, then, find your ideal mutt. If you've picked a collie, then go find your ideal collie. The selection of the breed is very important and that is what the original post is emphasizing (hence the title "Do your research! The importance of choosing the right breed for you", not "right dog for you"). But it's not the only important thing. Like you've experienced, dogs are individuals.

    Can you or anyone predict future issues of a puppy? Not really. And it's the same for shelter dogs and bought puppies. So, buying from a breeder (particularly if it's not a very reputable one, or if it's a pet store) won't make choosing a puppy any more "secure".

    There's no guarantee.
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  10. brody_smom Experienced Member

    You're right, Pawbla, I did digress from the original topic, and I apologize, as this is a bad habit of mine. But I did feel it was warranted because of the one paragraph about mixes and shelter dogs, which sounded very warm and fuzzy, like a cuddly well-behaved puppy. I thought that tx_cowgirl was making a bit of a "wake up and smell the coffee" kind of post until she got to that point, and then it got all dreamy. Adopting the "wrong" dog can be a nightmare, no matter what breed or where you got it. It is a commitment that will have lasting repercussions for the owner and the dog, and too many people make it without enough forethought. I felt it was necessary to add that people should go beyond researching breeds to actually studying dogs.
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  11. MaryK Honored Member

    Studying dogs, dog language, dog habits, needs etc. is very important, that's for sure before making what should be, in a perfect world, be a life time commitment to their well being.:)
    brodys_mom likes this.
  12. threenorns Well-Known Member

    did you have any experience with border collies before deciding on one?

    border collies are NOT DOGS. they're border collies. they're highly sensitive and highly intelligent. what works for a regular dog-type dog is often overkill and overwhelming and confusing to a border collie, esp one that's only 7mo old (too young for long-distance running anyway).

    it's entirely possible that you did see aspects of his real nature but not managing a border collie properly always does end up with a neurotic canine - i know! i had one! when i got my rescue BC mix, he was a very calm, very sweet puppy. i knew his nature bec my bff had fostered him for nearly two months before i got him at 9wks old (he was going to be put down by the farmer because at 2wks, he and his sister were being kicked out of the nesting box - now i think an overwhelmed, petite mama was trying to split the litter, not actually reject them, because it doesn't make sense she would reject the two largest and healthiest pups of the litter of 9 surviving pups [1 was born dead, another died the first night]). by the time i had him 4mo, he was a hyperactive terror - not aggressive (except when definitely needed, such as the two guys in my house in the middle of the night claiming they needed to use the phone) but he was totally out of control.

    to go on long-distance runs, i don't think a border collie was a good choice. yes, they're high-energy but you have to look at the job they were bred to do: run up and down mountainsides all day long after sheep. that means brief bursts of very high speed interspersed with periods of rest (either actually lying down, walking, or loping at a slower place). that's why they're such a good fit for agility and flyball.

    that doesn't mean you can't keep him and that he won't fit into your family: it means you need to go at it progressively and you really do have to exert leadership. border collies were bred to think independently which is why punitive methods such as yelling and hitting with a rolled-up newspaper are epic failures.

    i would start with observational training: this is where you grab a book and take your dog to a park or a street corner and just sit there for a half-hour or more. your dog is not allowed to greet anybody and nobody is allowed to touch or greet your dog. (i found it useful to put his backpack on and have a clipboard handy and tell ppl "oh, i'm sorry - he's in training mode right now but next time we're out walking, you can definitely play with him then" bec it's amazing how ppl will get right offended when you ask them not to greet, pat, or talk to your dog, rather if they have some right to do so!). focussing on observational training will teach your dog that there's a time and a place to just damp it down and should really help make him less reactive.
  13. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Hey, we found a loophole in my post! Lol thanks for pointing that out. Certainly did not intend to sound like adopting a mutt is all rainbows and lollipops. It certainly isn't. With any dog of any combination of breeds, you can't be 100% sure what you're going to get. Sometimes you CAN do everything right, and you're still going to end up with a dog who might have an issue.

    My thinking with adding that paragraph at the end of the post was that if someone ran across a, for instance, JRT/Italian Greyhound cross, they might look up JRTs and Greyhounds. Of course, that doesn't mean that that dog is going to be EXACTLY what they researched in JRTs and Greyhounds. It could be a total couch potato, it could be a ball-crazy fetch machine, it could have a really high prey drive or a nearly nonexistant prey drive. The fact is it's a mix of genes and not just that, not every dog fits a statistic. I've met a small number of Border Collies who are kind of lazy, a couple Huskies who were highly trainable and not at all stubborn, and other examples of various breeds who didn't really fit the bill at all. My hope was just that people would do some research and be more prepared for possibilities. Of course this isn't perfect either, because what if the shelter guessed the miss completely wrong? That happens. I can think of a couple of rescues in my hometown that seem like they are always waaaaaay off. Not that I'm perfect, but just very obviously wrong... And, there are shelters in my hometown that will NOT under any circumstances label a dog as a "Pit Bull" or "Pit Bull mix" for fear that they will not be adopted or might attract the wrong attention. So they are frequently labelled as anything but a Pitty mix.

    Now, off to think of how to re-word that paragraph...lol!
    brodys_mom likes this.
  14. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I know what you mean about shelters mislabeling dogs. Our SPCA here has cookie cutter labels for breeds and don't consider the individual dog much at all. Our last dog, GSD/Chow Chow, was 7 years old when brought to the shelter. They said something like "will chase cars, children and bicycles. Older dog should not go to home with children as she is sensitive and may bite". That is hogwash. My step-sister fostered her for 2 months before we adopted her, so we knew she would be great for us. She never chased cars, children or bicycles and was the gentlest, calmest dog I have ever known, even when she was in great pain with cancer.

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