Dog breed suggestions
March 2, 2012 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What breed of dog should we get?

My family is interested in adopting a dog. Here are our requirements, in order of priority:
1. Not an avid digger. I understand this is more a matter of training and boredom, but we REALLY don't want a digger, for the sake of our garden.
2. Lives well with cats.
3. Jogging companion (not super long distances-- 5K or so).
4. Small to medium size
5. Short coat, or at least one that doesn't require crazy amounts of grooming.

Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.
posted by acidic to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Mixed! Bring your list to some animal shelters and see what they've got. Repeat as necessary until you find awesome.
posted by Glinn at 11:20 AM on March 2, 2012 [16 favorites]

Go to your local animal shelters and you will find one that will be perfect for you.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:21 AM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

A rescue Australian Shepherd. (For a picture of a cute one, mine, check out my profile picture.) Don't forget that the way you do introductions is key to number 2 for almost all dogs.

Or, you know, a mutt. There are wonderful dogs at every shelter. They'll let you know how those dogs do with cats. Just stay away from dogs based on terriers, beagles, and similar breeds raised for tunneling. Good running companions tend to be mixed dogs with herding in their backgrounds like Aussies and border collies.
posted by bearwife at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes--mix breeds tend to be healthier and in my view much more wonderful. If you do cotton to a particular breed, try searching for "[breed x] rescue" online, and you'll find a cornucopia of wonderful part-that-dogs.

I can't even express how how happy our shelter dogs have made us. We love our Beagle-hound mix to an absurd degree, and felt the same about our Chow-Shepherd mix. My mom's madly in love with her Schipperke-Chihuahua.

It's the right thing to do, and you get a wonderful dog for your trouble. Also, frankly, you'll save money now and likely later in vet bills (purebreeds, even from a good breeder, often have breed-specific health problems).

I would also say avoid terriers. They're great dogs but they dig like mad.
posted by supercoollady at 11:27 AM on March 2, 2012

Since you have cats I think you should look for an adolescent or adult dog that does well with cats first off. Because that's a biggie.

If you plan to run with the dog, get a breed built for it. Sustained running at human speed is hard on the more roly-poly moving breeds like pit bulls, spaniels and labs. Other breeds, like pointers, hounds or huskies are literally designed for it.

Given your criteria a nice hound or pointer cross, border collie x (with something mellow. Like a log) or maybe a terrier or beagle mix would be good. If you get a male look for one that wasn't fixed until 9-12 months if possible, there is a lot of evidence that their joints are stronger. Don't get a husky, they dig like back hoes!
posted by fshgrl at 11:27 AM on March 2, 2012

If you live somewhere warm get a short haired breed for running btw.
posted by fshgrl at 11:28 AM on March 2, 2012

Yes, as bearwife said, a breed that was bred to hunt vermin (like many terriers) will be more likely to dig. I have also found the hunting breeds AND the herding breeds (border collies etc.) to be way more likely to want to chase/eat cats.

But it is going to depend on the individual dog.
posted by cairdeas at 11:29 AM on March 2, 2012

(Right now I have a backyard that looks like the surface of the moon from a Norfolk terrier trying to get at the groundhogs).
posted by cairdeas at 11:33 AM on March 2, 2012

Just seconding a mutt from the shelter. Also, one who is used to cats, and likes to run. Not a really small dog, it could not keep up. Shelter pets are the best and often the healthiest.
posted by mermayd at 11:33 AM on March 2, 2012

My cat has lived successfully with an Aussie shepherd mix (but much less so the springer spaniel mix,) and a friend has an Aussie cattle dog (crossed with... yeah, probably a log, good god that dog is lazy) that also does fine with the cats, as does their "Dodger from Disney's Oliver and Co." mutt. It really is dog-specific, and a shelter or rescue will know who is good with what.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:43 AM on March 2, 2012

Here is AKCs list of sporting dogs and hound dogs:


I would not recommend a herding dog (Australian shepherd, border collie) unless you have something for it to herd.

Start your research by reading about those breads. Once you have a good handle on their traits and requirements, I second the popular sentiment here: go rescue a mix that is mostly what you're looking for. If you must get a pure bread, work with rescue agencies.

Ridgebacks are great runners, but may be too big for you, and may eat your cat. I think you want a nice hunting dog, but they can howl and bark a lot. Either way, adults are better with cats in general, and you absolutely do not want a Jack Russell because it will dig all day. But it's awesome when you get them trained to dig on command.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:44 AM on March 2, 2012

I'm all for mutts, but I'll also add that my parents and brother now both own King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, and I've been impressed. They enjoy running that far, are friendly without being needy, and one, at least, has relatively short hair (why the other's is longer, I don't know). They're really great with kids - that's why my brother ended up with theirs in replacement of an (otherwise lovely and loved) rescue mutt.
posted by ldthomps at 11:44 AM on March 2, 2012

How about a rescue greyhound or whippet. They are pretty mellow, not much hair, easy to care for. I have found two smaller dogs that take care of each other take less attention and care and are happier than one dog that gets left alone during the day. Ours are a jack russell terrier and sheltie both of which are notoriously high maintenance dogs but together they keep each other busy (that and lots and lots of toys and rawhides).
posted by bartonlong at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2012

Aussie are not infrequently diggers. They like to keep busy and, when it's warm, they like to keep cool.

That said, there are diggers in every breed and mutts can dig.

Find a shelter or rescue that you feel good about and let them match you with a dog. Preferably one who had some time in a foster home with cats and an un-dug backyard.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2012

Oops- the coat thing. Aussies are wooly like sheep. You might want to Google for positive reviews of the Furminator and avoid the types of dogs those people have!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:55 AM on March 2, 2012

I'm confused at why Labrador Retriever hasn't come up yet. They meet all of your criteria.
posted by 2legit2quit at 11:57 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Aussie is NOT wooly like a sheep! He's a once a week, run the comb and brush over for five minutes kinda dog. The dogs that are big shedders are the ones with undercoats. Which includes a lot of water dogs/cold weather dogs like labs, golden retrievers, collies, and huskies.
posted by bearwife at 12:00 PM on March 2, 2012

Had a wonderful Pyrenees Mountain dog that passed on a couple of years ago.

Coped extremely well with a couple of fairly neurotic cats. Very friendly temperament. Shed a little hair now and then, but the grooming wasn't too bad.
posted by Adrem at 12:20 PM on March 2, 2012

Jut to chip in on the Cavalier King Charles, beware as they are riddled with health problems from inbreeding. They even get a section in wikipedia devoted to their issues. They are wonderful dogs but if you're getting one, get a rescued one via who are an organization that takes the health of the breed very seriously.

Here's the facebook page of a friends rescue Cavalier.
posted by merocet at 12:35 PM on March 2, 2012

Since digging is your number one priority, stay far away from terriers. They were bred to dig for ground-dwelling animals.

That said, I've never actually had a dog that was a digger, including a lab/collie mix, a pure lab, a pit bull, a cocker spaniel, a toy poodle, a german shepard, and a rhodesian ridgeback/boxer. The last is my current dog's mix and would probably meet your needs. Short hair, has never dug a thing, great endurance for running, fine with our cats.

That said, individual dogs may vary far from breed standards, especially when it comes to chasing cats. We ended up going through an organization that fosters because a lot of the foster parents had cats and were able to talk about how well the dogs did with them.
posted by zug at 12:57 PM on March 2, 2012

Pics of ridgeback/boxer mixes.

Mine is about 70lbs but that's because she's incredibly muscled. By size, she should be about 50.
posted by zug at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2012

My 40-pound pit/greyhound fits your bill, but has to be kept on a leash or she'll run ahead at very, very high speed.

She likes to chase cats but doesn't hurt them.

Mutts are always better.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:15 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the recommendation of labrador retriever--there is a reason why they are very popular family pets. While individual dogs can vary quite a bit, on the whole they have a reputation for being laid-back dogs that are not particularly interested in digging. The labs that my family had growing up were extremely laid back and got along quite well with the two ill-tempered kitties in the household. However they are also athletic enough to enjoy going on a jog or an afternoon hike without pooping out after 2 miles.

One thing you probably want to be thinking about if you're looking for the sort of dog who can go jogging is the risk of ending up with a dog that NEEDS to go running every day--this is the type of breed that often ends up in the Runner's World lists of "great running dogs". That type of breed may work well if you are a pretty avid runner, but if you're more casual about it you want to be careful about ending up a with a high-energy dog that will get bored and destructive if you don't take it out for long walks or runs every day. In terms of digging and other undesireable behavior, I think getting a dog with a laid-back (as opposed to energetic) personality will probably make the biggest difference, as bored dogs are more likely to do all sorts of things that cause headaches.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Labs shed like fiends and, in the US, average about 50lb and the OP specified a smaller dog with a low maintenance coat.
posted by fshgrl at 1:20 PM on March 2, 2012

Maybe a Labradoodle then? Lots of them don't shed at all... and even though (or, really, BECAUSE) they're like the quintessential "designer breed" there are lots of them in rescues.
posted by cairdeas at 1:25 PM on March 2, 2012

I guess it depends on your point of reference; the labs I've lived with shed heavily for a month or two in the spring but the rest of the year the hair shedding was significantly less than other breeds I have experience with (like german shephards or corgis). More than something very short-haired like a pit bull, though. Maintenance in terms of preventing matted hair and other issues you can get with long-haired dogs was nearly nil.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:33 PM on March 2, 2012

Whatever you get don't let them see you gardening. To them they see 'digging! Fun!'.
posted by whalebreath at 1:39 PM on March 2, 2012

In my experience (helping out with a rescue over several years), no breed of dog is at all consistent. You get border collies that are couch potatoes (like mine) and placid breeds that drive you nuts by digging and barking. Mostly because some dogs just need more stimulation and exercise than others. When dogs dig, they are either obsessive about it, or bored and restless. Just about every dog in existence will moult once a year (in Spring, when the weather changes and they lose their undercoat). The degree of shedding depends on the dog - breed is no guarantee that they won't shed buckets-full. If you have central heating or air conditioning your dog may constantly shed, as its body perceives frequent changes from winter-spring and back again. Or at least, that's my vet's theory.

My advice is to go online to look at the dogs in your local shelters and then visit to see what they are like. If you're in the USA, allows you to search or browse by distance from your home.
A good rescue shelter (not the same thing as a local government shelter) will evaluate each dog and tell you which dogs can play nice with cats, won't be likely to dig, and will be good around kids. Even government kill shelters have people who exercise the dogs and see their behavior around other animals. So they know how the dog behaves.

The big advantage with shelter dogs is that the average age at which dogs are dumped is 18 months-2 years old. At this age dogs are likely to be housetrained and you can see their temperament. This is the real deal - no paper training and no getting up in the night to let them out! Most dogs are dumped because their vacuous owners get tired of them once they are no longer a cute puppy. The dogs that come through our rescue tend to be really great and loving pets. Some dogs can sometimes seem standoffish in a shelter, because they are depressed after being abandoned. Many dogs - especially smaller ones - can be scared of being caged next to lots of big, barking dogs. They tend to show their true nature once you get them outside. Play with the dog in the yard and take the dog out for a walk, to see how it behaves out with real people.

Also, remember that short-haired is no guarantee that a dog wont shed. Our short-haired collie/greyhound mix sheds twice as much as our longer-haired border collie. But he does require less grooming.

I've had purebred dogs and I've had mutts. Give me a mixed breed every time - they tend to be brighter (so better company) and live way longer. Which is less heartbreaking and more fun.
posted by Susurration at 2:20 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

> A good rescue shelter (not the same thing as a local government shelter) will evaluate each dog and tell you which dogs can play nice with cats, won't be likely to dig, and will be good around kids. Even government kill shelters have people who exercise the dogs and see their behavior around other animals. So they know how the dog behaves.

Yes! Find a good rescue group near you that has a solid behavioral/training program in place and ask them to help you find a dog who fits your lifestyle. Excellent rescue groups want to see their dogs go to the right home and are often very knowledgeble about the dogs in their care, so they can be an fantastic resource.

We've had purebred and mutts, but they've all been rescues! There are plenty of breed specific rescue groups out there if you do find a specific breed you love.
posted by OsoMeaty at 2:31 PM on March 2, 2012

Lots of good suggestions. I of course support adopting from a shelter and getting good ole mutts, both of ours are mutts and would pretty much fit your bill. If you are specifically wanting a pure bred, one of ours is a Basenji mix, and as much as I know about basenjis would be pretty perfect for you. They are usually around 20-30 lbs so they are a nice medium size and have a short coat and are actually pretty good for people with allergies. Our loves to run and play and even though she can be a little stand offish with new people she is very affectionate with us, and has built a strong bond with me specifically, these are things that seem very typical with that breed. I have never seen ours dig either. The only potential problem could be getting along with kitty. Generally I have found though that there are efforts that you can take to work with that issue. (I had a car when I got a border mix and though it took some time and they were never besties they co-existed peacefully). Our other is a Cheasapeake Bay Retriever/ Bassett Hound mix, which a combo like that would also work for you because we've gotten the retriever temperment in a smaller frame haha. Good luck making your choice!
posted by Quincy at 4:40 PM on March 2, 2012

Um sorry... cat... not a car. I mean.. I did have a car when I got my border, but I also had a cat.
posted by Quincy at 4:42 PM on March 2, 2012

Thanks for all the great suggestions-- lots of very helpful info on breeds to avoid. Very amused on the info on mutts and shelters-- thought that was a given; I guess for some people it is not. I get that it's all about falling in love with a dog, but the veterinarian in the household really doesn't want her work to follow her home and destroy her precious gardens in the process.

Anyhow, we found an undersized, non-wrinkly Sharpei/lab mix and we will probably bring her home tomorrow. Thanks!
posted by acidic at 5:19 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yay!!! I happen to have an undersized non-wrinkly Shar Pei mix also (but mixed with Chow). He is the easiest dog EV0R. Not so into the jogging thing but that might just be his Chow side.
posted by cairdeas at 5:36 PM on March 2, 2012

Yay! She sounds perfect. I never realized that female dogs were so - well, girly - until we adopted one. Now everyone I speak to says the same thing.

Hope you realize that photos are obligatory on these posts ... :-)
posted by Susurration at 5:46 PM on March 2, 2012

Yes, photos please...
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:00 PM on March 2, 2012

I would not recommend a herding dog (Australian shepherd, border collie) unless you have something for it to herd.

Sigh. We have a border collie-Australian shepherd mix, and she has no interest whatsoever in herding. In fact I took her to a sheep farm once for the express purpose of allowing her to herd, and she ignored the sheep totally and focused on exploring the enclosure.

I'd ask you to consider the individual dog, not make stereotypes based on breed. If you get an adult dog from a shelter, their personality will already be formed, and by interacting with them and talking to their caretakers, you should be able to piece together whether they would be the right pet for you.
posted by parrot_person at 11:45 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

On all points I'd recommend a Cockapoo (cocker spaniel/Poodle mix) if you want a smaller dog (10-20lbs) or a Goldendoodle (golden retriever/poodle mix) if you want a little bigger in the 30-50lb range. Very even temparament, good amount of energy for exercising, don't shed at all because of the poodle blood.
posted by erstwhile at 8:41 AM on March 3, 2012

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