Brittany or Aussie? Woof!
February 15, 2011 10:16 PM   Subscribe

Brittany or Aussie? Which dog is the right dog for me? Bonus highlights if you have owned or have experience with both breeds!

I have been spending a few months getting everything ready to welcome a new dog into my home. I've narrowed my choices down to two breeds, and am having difficulty deciding between them.

I have owned an Australian Shepherd in the past; he was perfection in dog form. Sweet, energetic, smart, and goofy, Jack had the best personality I've had the pleasure of experiencing with a dog. Ok, perhaps I'm a bit biased; but Aussie owners know that these dogs are fantastic to those who lifestyles suit owning one. For the record, I've done my research and then some. I'm aware of the activity levels both breeds have, and can easily satisfy the pup with my current lifestyle and hobbies. But damnit, I keep going back and forth about WHICH dog...

This time around, I have been seriously considering a Brittany. I know the breed types are different: sporting vs. herding, but I'm really looking for a sweet, intelligent, and connective personality. From what I've read, Brittanies fit the bill. I had nearly settled on definitely getting a Brittany, until Thanksgiving. My boyfriend and I went to his family's for the holiday, and they had an Aussie there. Playing with Sawyer, cuddling with her next to the fire, and running all around the snow with her reminded me how much I love Australian Shepherds.

I think the unknown of owning a Brittany is causing me to second guess. The breed seems as though it would be a great fit (I don't hunt, but I do "explore", and hike all over), and they seem similar to Aussies in "what's important", ie: personality, temperament, intelligence. Aussies have this cocky little confidence that I find utterly charming; Brittanies seem as though they could lack that arrogant smug little attitude that Aussies sport. Aussies can also feel nearly human-like in the way they make eye-contact and interact. Could I find this behaviour in my Brittany as well? Or is it like comparing apples to oranges in the end?
posted by thatbrunette to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think one major difference is that Brittany's are more social and an Aussie might be more OK with being an only dog (might prefer it) or left home alone all day.
posted by fshgrl at 11:14 PM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: I've lived with both Brittanies and Aussies, and either one would be fine. The Aussies I've known are smarter, but the Brittanies have been mellower. Not boring, or unintelligent, mind, just mellower in temperament - the one I'm thinking of loved to play tricks on us and chill out on squirrel-watching duty. He also was inordinately vain and would insist on showing off/extorting praise every time he came back from the groomers. Both breeds were extremely energetic for the first few years, both have loved seeing new places (the Brittanies were easier to leash train, though), and both have been wonderful family pets.

Since you're concerned about the unknowns, why not contact the American Brittany Rescue in your state? An afternoon getting to know some well-socialized dogs will give you a much better idea (and they really are sweethearts).
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 1:00 AM on February 16, 2011

We have two Aussies that live next door. They are evil. Constantly getting out of their yard to roam the neighborhood, the male is agressive and they're both destructive. Granted their owners are lazy and the dogs don't get enough attention, but they are a general PITA. I can't let my (usually really mellow) German Shepherd out in our yard when those dogs are outside because they both come running over to our fence yapping and snarling. The male has actually caused damage to the fence.

I had a friend in high school with a Brittany who I spent quite a bit of time with. Very nice dog. It did all the things you're talking about with it's family: hiking, playing, cuddling, they would even take it with them to the family business and let it be the 'shop dog' without ever having a problem. The only issue they had was that it got really loud during the day. They had a pool which attracted birds, and being a bird dog the Brittany would go nuts. The neighbors complained so much that they had the dog 'de-barked'.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:14 AM on February 16, 2011

Aussies require a lot to keep them occupied. They are working dogs (herding, actually) who love to what they are best at. We know people with horses and aussies and the dogs will spend the day out at pasture trying to herd the horses.

Kind of funny to watch a ~40lb dog chase around a 1200lb Arabian, but you get the point.

Very intelligent, very interesting dogs - but in order to avoid them becoming that dog, you'll want to be sure to keep them busy.
posted by tgrundke at 4:55 AM on February 16, 2011

I had a Brittany when I was a kid, and he was so sweet. And yeah, definitely mellower than an Aussie.

To be honest though, I think you should get the Aussie. You know the breed, you know their quirks, and you know that you love them. Why mess with a good thing?
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:36 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Greetings.

I had an Aussie in the past and have a dog very very similar to a springer now. Honestly, you cannot go wrong with either. I've got a Blue Picardy Spaniel now (I guess theoretically closer to a Springer than a Brittany, but still close.) and he's...well, he's super trained and super rotten. You teach a dog to open doors and pick up pennies and it's AMAZING what they can get into.

Someone mentioned that the Springer may be more social---which isn't untrue, but all the Aussies I've ever worked with are pretty fun. Aussies are heel-nipping herders, and some folks I know have had issues with this, but if you know what you're doing you should be fine. Brittany's are designed to work in a pack, so they've got that dynamic.

Really, I guess, I just want to say that you can't go wrong---but for EITHER dog I'd recommend you get involved with something like Agility, Flyball, etc., because either dog is going to want to work.
posted by TomMelee at 5:39 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Our Brittany had tons of energy in her early years, but both will. She also got a little bit of separation anxiety and became basically a lap dog in her later years, a little clingy. We also had to move the birdfeeders because she'd catch the birds. But otherwise she was a lovebug and a sweetheart. I agree that either breed might work well for you, but that if you're already good at training Aussies, you might want to stick with them.
posted by ldthomps at 7:19 AM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: I think a Brittany would definitely fit the bill. We have a Brittany named Barley, who we rescued when he was about 1.5 years old. I can tell you a bit about what he is like, and compare with Aussies a little bit. Our Brittany seems pretty standard for the breed as far as temperament goes. I have not owned an Aussie, but am familiar with the breed. My dog shortlist was also between an Aussie and a Brittany, and we went with the Brittany because their activity and shedding levels seemed slightly lower (and there was a Brittany rescue in the area).

-Active: yes. He has tons of energy just like an Aussie. However, he gets calm in the house when we need him to, and once it's dark he basically sleeps until morning. I would say he's not as demanding as an Aussie, although he does need something to do. He's easy though, he just needs something to chew on or some birds to watch (birdwatching is his "job").

-Sensitivity/Loyalty. This is my first sporting dog, but I was pretty surprised with how sensitive he is. He's very sensitive to raised voices and responds well to a simple "no" when we want him to stop doing something. Seriously, he just LIVES to make us happy. He has no trace of cockiness, and you can literally see him perk up with any positive attention. He's very trusting and will do anything we ask him to (which makes giving him medicine really easy).

-Social: I don't really know how Barley was socialized before we got him, but we noticed pretty early on that he had an interest in other dogs. He is an only dog, so we take him to "dog camp" once in awhile. He gets to run around with 20+ other dogs here and he LOVES it. Ultimately, I think his greatest social need is for his humans, and as long as we are around, he is happy. There are a number of Brittany owners I have talked to who say their dog is like this (for example, he waits at the bathroom door until I come out). New people are no problem, he greets them and then is not super interested unless they give him a good pet. Overall, he's very cuddly and affectionate.

-Intelligence: The breed is probably not as intelligent as Aussies (sorry, Barley), but they are super smart and they will remember things you teach them. Our dog seems to be very into his routine and does things on a schedule, from his morning "survey the yard" to his nightly "chew cow hoof". He's also a very good communicator, so it's easy to tell when he wants something. He does benefit from things that make him think, and his requirements are a little higher than most dogs (a game of hide and seek, a treat dispensing ball, a new trick). He was completely untrained when we got him, and we clicker trained him at first. He picked up some tricks after only a few tries.

-The sporting aspect: He's crazy about birds and squirrels. Crazy. This is obviously a pretty major part of the breed. The good thing about this is that he considers his main job to be inspecting the yard for any new wildlife scents. The annoying thing about this is that it made him very hard to train on a leash (this is probably also because we didn't have him as a puppy). But he will either be pulling or pointing on the leash. I'm sure he'd be a great hunting dog, but he doesn't seem to be at a loss for it since he gets to chase things around the yard. He's pretty funny to watch, because he stalks and points birds all on his own. He also loves the snow, and we're thinking of bringing him snow shoeing soon (mentioning this because you loved playing with the Aussie in the snow).
posted by smalls at 5:50 PM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: And to answer the last part of your question:
"Brittanies seem as though they could lack that arrogant smug little attitude that Aussies sport. Aussies can also feel nearly human-like in the way they make eye-contact and interact. Could I find this behaviour in my Brittany as well? "

At least for our Brittany... no, I don't think so. This is a bit of apples/oranges here.
Brittanys are confident, absolutely, but ours is a little too much of a "velcro" dog to come off as smug. And while he's attentive and very good at communicating, I don't get human-like vibes. He does "talk" to us though, which is pretty funny. I swear, he does ridiculous things on a daily basis, with the specific intention of making us laugh.

Brittanys are awesome, but if those Aussie qualities are crucial to you, your best bet is definitely an Aussie.
posted by smalls at 6:03 PM on February 16, 2011

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