Help us choose a dog breed!
February 24, 2014 2:17 PM   Subscribe

We are considering a second dog, and would like some help narrowing down the potential breeds we'd look for at adoption fairs, shelters, etc. Our main priorities are: security (we live in an area with frequent burglaries) and kid-friendliness. Other priorities inside...

With the full understanding that individual dogs have individual personalities, and training is a huge part of all of this, our ideal dog is:
•a good security dog
•good with kids (we have kids)
•good with other dogs (we have a rescue mutt already)
•hopefully not a huge shedder (rescue mutt has us covered in that department) (this is less important than the other criteria, certainly)

Our list right now is: German Shepherd. Any other ideas?
posted by Anonymousness to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This may sound strange but, Standard Poodle.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

German Shepherds have a downy undercoat that is very much in the "huge shedding" category. And, it's fine, fine hair that works its way into everything, and is nearly impossible to be completely free of. In case no one ever told you that about them.
posted by kellyblah at 2:24 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

kellyblah: yeah, we've heard tales of German Shepherd shedding. That's why we are holding out hope that there's another breed out there we haven't thought of. Thanks!
posted by Anonymousness at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

We just adopted a rescue puppy and she is a Belgian Malinois. They're like German Shepards, but a little smaller, a little smarter, and they shed way less often (two major shedding times a year).

She is super smart (we are basically house trained without crating, she knows her name, sit, lie down, come. and speak within 3 weeks of having her).

She LOVES children. Tiny people with faces at height level to lick! The only downfall is she gets VERY excited to meet children, so we are working at keeping her excitement down to prevent giving a life long fear of dogs to the neighborhood children.

She LOVES other dogs. We get the saddest whimper and puppy eyes when we have to drag her away from the dogs we meet on her walks.

She is very alert and aware of everyone around her, and everyone around us when we are out and about. She goes to the door every time there is a person/noise and wants to investigate.

Overall she's a great dog. We've had very few problems with her. She even keeps her energy in check when in the house, and only goes "puppy wiggly butt nuts" when we go for our morning and evening runs.

Be aware though - they are high energy dogs that require training, patience, and exercise. So if it's not part of your lifestyle now to go for mile long walks/runs twice a day (she's just a puppy now, as she gets older we will be expanding the length of her outings), it may not be the best idea to get any of the Shepherd varieties.

Best of luck to you on your search!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 2:31 PM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bullmastiffs were bred specifically as guard dogs, and specifically to physically block intruders from entering (rather than attacking them) and scare the living crap out of folks with really deep deathhowl barks. They are awesome with kids and have gigantic adorable jowly heads.
posted by phunniemee at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

We are currently fostering a German Shepard. She is sweet and smart and beautifully trained and a pleasure to have around. She requires 20 minutes of thorough brushing once a week; when she is seasonally blowing her coat, twice a week. At that time of year, a professional bath, brush and blow dry is helpful. This is going to be true of all double-coated breeds. So she's basically a fantastic, sweet thing until the doorbell rings, at which point her bark is truly ferocious and terrifying.

The barking is true of almost all dogs, however, so I'm not really sure what your criteria for "security" is. I have owned a Standard Poodle, a GSD, several Boxers, and a disastrous Char Pei in my lifetime. If you want a fantastic family dog, great with kids, low coat maintenance, and intimidating to people at the door and scary to fearful strangers, adopt a mature Boxer.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2014

I've said this in every single AskMe asking about getting recommendations for specific breeds: Pick a dog, not a breed.

Every trait you've listed could be a chihuahua, a corgi, a retriever, a lab…. you name it. I recommend you contact accredited rescue groups who work with great people who take the time and effort to foster (like DarlingBri) lots of amazing needy animals and can give you lots of insight into an individual dog's personality traits and habits.
posted by HeyAllie at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2014 [13 favorites]

It always sounds funny to people who don't know the breed, but Scottish terriers are great guard dogs -- they're extremely protective, courageous, and persistent, plus they have a bark that sounds like a dog three times its size. It can be hard to find purebred Scotties to adopt (rather than by going via a breeder), but it's not impossible -- especially if there's a dedicated Scottish terrier rescue group in your area.
posted by scody at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2014

A relative has a Newfoundland Poodle cross and it is a great dog. Great with kids, protective, smart, trainable, and doesn't shed much. (A Newfoundland would also be great for most of the same reasons. They are very loyal and protective and if you live in a rough neighborhood it can be nice if everyone knows you have an enormous bear-like dog; however, they can shed a lot.)
posted by Area Man at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2014

I totally agree with phunniemee-bullmastiffs are fantastic family dogs. They are considered a giant breed and look frightening. Don't tell anyone, but if they are socialized as puppies, they are just really big marshmallows! They love children, do well with other dogs if you get one as a puppy. They do shed, but I only saw the hair in the dryer filter. Please check out the list of the top ten 'dogs that bite the most' before considering a GSD. As has been said above, the Standard Poodle is also a smart dog, doesn't shed much at all
(you don't have to have it cut like a little poodle-just always get the 'puppy cut') They are friendly and if raised with children from a puppy, are great family protection.
Yes, contact the rescue clubs of these breeds and remember, many dogs are considered 'puppies' until they are about two years old.
posted by donaken at 2:59 PM on February 24, 2014

A Rottweiler or Rottweiler/Boxer mix.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2014

Please consider adapting a shelter mutt. Every dog can meet these critieria. It is all about the dog, as HeyAllie says, and not the breed. This is also true of the "top biter" list -- biting is about the dog, not the breed, as well. There are fear-aggressive labs and Goldens who will bite, and pit bulls and Rotts and Rhodesian Ridgebacks that wouldn't dream of it.

I'd strongly suggest going with the kids to the pound, finding the one you all love, and doing some positive reinforcement based training. A bigger dog is more likely to scare intruders, and a dog with more of a wiry/less of an undercoat is less likely to be a shedder.

If you are fixed on getting a breed, then sure, a mastiff of any sort, a GS, a Malnois, etc. are all fine. Go to a reputable breeder, not a puppy farm.

Keep in mind that the bigger the dog, the shorter the predicted lifespan, in general. I adore Neapolitans, but their longevity of as little as 7-8 years is a heartbreaker.
posted by bearwife at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

[Constructive helpful answers folks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:28 PM on February 24, 2014

We have two rescues - a GSD and a Boerbel (South African Mastiff) both are great dogs - I've never felt safer!
posted by Middlemarch at 3:29 PM on February 24, 2014

I've got a rottweiler-lab mix and it's the best of both worlds. He loves to play and run and swim etc. with other dogs, but he's also a cuddly lazy bum who likes to sleep in, is really relaxed around kids, very obedient. Not much shedding. And while I'm not sure what he would do if someone actually broke into the house, he's got a terrifyingly vicious sounding bark that even scares me if he thinks he hears someone outside the house.
posted by mannequito at 3:40 PM on February 24, 2014

There never was a better dog than a lab (or a lab mix).

And they hit all of your needs: notoriously wonderful with children, dog-friendly when well-socialized, smart and easy to train, loyal/protective. They do shed but not as much as some fuzzier dogs do. And, as a big proponent of pet adoption, there are many labs and lab mixes in the local pound and in a variety of rescues and shelters.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I agree with adopting the individual dog and not the breed, I would just point out that there are many pure bred dogs in shelters and pounds, and many breed-specific rescues. Wanting to meet a dog of a specific breed does not preclude rescue (the Boxer we lost at Christmas came from our local pound; the one we've just adopted came from a pound on the other other side of the country.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:50 PM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

my favorite breeds are labs and goldens, and they're basically the same dog except goldens have a longer, finer coat which requires more grooming, so i vote lab. your kids will adore your lab just as i did.
posted by bruce at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll offer another vote for a Standard Poodle!

They are tremendous dogs. Like all dogs, you'll see variations in their "dogonality"--our last poodle was more reserved, our current one is a clown--but generally speaking they're smart, alert, don't shed, fantastic with children, and can be great watch dogs.

Don't be put off by the look of a "poodle cut"--that look, which was originally developed to help them swim better (they were originally hunting dogs) is optional. Our poodle (the second we've happily owned) as a "puppy cut" and looks like a dog, not a crazy cartoon. As a bonus, our poodle, when she was a puppy, basically potty trained herself.
posted by donovan at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Doberman, Doberman, Doberman. They are highly intelligent and naturally protective of their family (especially children) but are not the scary evil devil dogs portrayed in the media. They have a short, single coat (minimal shedding) and most burglars will think twice about breaking in your house if they see a Doberman (even if said Doberman would not actively attack).

As with any breed, you need to look for a specific dog that is comfortable with kids and other dogs (very common). I suggest checking out a breed-specific rescue - they will know EVERYTHING about the dog they adopt to you and will help you make the right choice for your family. Check out the Doberman Pinscher Club of America for info about the breed and a directory of rescue groups.
posted by tryniti at 4:20 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's important to remember that the personality of the individual dog totally trumps whatever you think the breed's traits are — but of course "security" is about what other people are going to think when they see the dog, too. And on that score it really seems like you're a perfect fit for a pit-bull breed (or pitty mutt): they're very available at shelters, and often they're unbelievably sweet and tend to be good with kids (a century ago, people say, they were called "nursemaid dogs"), but some people are still quite intimidated by their appearance.

Though it varies a lot by region, in many of the places I've lived animal shelters are full to overflowing with total sweetheart "bully breed" dogs because of the scare factor — but that can work for you, too, both in that you'll have many adoptable dogs to choose from and that the way the dog looks might help a bit to deter burglars.
posted by RogerB at 4:43 PM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

I always had large dogs - the bigger, the better. I shared a twin bed with a lab, had a Great Dane, babysat a Dane/Mastiff mix for a year, had a Great Pyrenees and a German Shepherd, and my best friends raised champion Dobermans. Of them all, I loved the Dobermans the best, I think - no, I can't say that - I loved them all. I also have a friend now who has a Bernese Mountain Dog and I'd say that might be the very best for you, all things considered.

One thing I found about the huge dogs, and it's very sad, is that kids tease them mercilessly to see if they're "mean." Even friends and neighbors want to challenge the dog in some way - wrestling or growling or looking ferocious - stupid stuff that the dog doesn't understand. I've had kids drag sticks along fences and throw rocks over the fence at the dog and a neighbor - a full-grown man - who thought it was amusing to bark and growl at the mastiff when he pulled in next door at night. After a short time, the mastiff ignored him, but as the owner you have to be constantly on the alert for someone trying to make your big dog do something. That's the only negative thing about any of the big dogs I've had. And personally I'd avoid a pit bull terrier, rottweiler or doberman for that exact reason - it isn't the dog, it's the stupid people you have to worry about. I also had a little miniature poodle and she absolutely ruled the roost - she bossed the big dogs around and they obeyed.

My in-laws had a full-sized poodle and she was the most people-pleasing dog you'd ever want. She was smart, didn't shed, did whatever she was told, and still had a good bark. She was also very protective of my kids when they were little. She was a stray who showed up the week before Christmas to have puppies on Christmas Day. They "weren't dog people" but Misty changed that. I think kids wouldn't be as likely to tease and taunt a full-size poodle, either.

The lab is absolutely perfect for all your needs. For kids, growing up with a lab is heaven - it's like having three brothers all in one. I will say, though, that shelters are full of "lab mixes" and sometimes there's very little lab in there, meaning the personality characteristics of the lab may be diluted drastically. Not a reason to pass up a good dog, but be wary of the "lab" label.

The mastiff/Dane mix was an incredible dog - he was massive, with a head like a lion. His name was Boomer, and for good reason. He didn't bark or growl often - when he did it seemed like it took a lot of effort for the bark to work itself all the way forward from his back end to his big mouth, where it finally erupted in a sound that would chill the blood - and his growl was even worse. But God, he was lazy. The Great Dane I had wanted to run and chase any female in heat for ten miles around, but the Mastiff was too lazy. He just spread out all over the floor and snoozed - until the poodle made him move so she could have his spot. But - one day some police came by to warn me about a burglar in the area and as they got out of their car, Boomer just slowly stood up, and up and up and up. They watched him as he slowly walked to stand between the policemen and me, stretched and yawned, and just stood there. The cops were uneasy, but they were small-town cops who knew most everyone, so they didn't do anything stupid. In today's world, I'd be afraid one of them would shoot the dog just because he looked intimidating.

The Bernese is a wonderful dog - he simply shadows the kids everywhere they go, he's friendly and beautiful and doesn't LOOK like a guard dog, so he doesn't challenge the macho idiots out there, but those kids are safe in his paws for sure - he wouldn't hesitate to stand up to anyone or anything for the kids. And can he ever catch a Frisbee! Wow!

God, I love dogs. I miss them all and I'm so glad you're going to adopt one. You'll never regret it. But go slowly and pick the right dog - or, more likely, let him or her pick you. And yes, do remember that the huge breeds don't live as long as the mid-sized dogs - that matters some few years from now.
posted by aryma at 5:43 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Doberman. My Dobie will be a year old next month and he's a dream. Huge bark, no shedding (grooming is a bath like, maybe three times a month), cuddly, great with everyone including very difficult children, and he can vary from being super energetic when I jog with him to laying under my chair and being a sleepy goofball in the evenings. He alerts to people shutting their car doors in my driveway even when the TV is on and I'm making noise. My Doberman doesn't have cropped ears or a docked tail so a lot of people honestly don't even know what breed he is... but the delivery men are always a little wary. ;)
posted by sarahgrace at 10:09 PM on February 24, 2014

My friends just adopted a standard poodle and she's a great dog!

You can find them on rescues, but pretty much anything crossed with a poodle is going to have a shed free existance.

My sister adopted a dog from the humane society that turned out to be a Portuguese Water Dog! The dog is a complete love, but pretty vicious when the mail-carrier or strangers or squirrels come around. No shedding.

My sister's previous dog was a shepherd/chow mix, and was a great guard dog. People don't mess with Chows, but the Shepherd in her made her good with children. She played with the neighbor's doberman, so it really depends on how the dog is socialized. She did have tumbleweeds of fur everywhere though.

Go to your local shelter and start looking around. You may find a dobie mix or a poodle mix or a shepherd mix that will meet your criteria.

Really, breed is a place to start, but you can end up with a great dog regardless.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:57 AM on February 25, 2014

Pit Bull! Despite their bad reputation, pit bulls tend to be awesome, super loyal dogs. There is a reason they used to be know as the nanny dog, most of them are good with kids, though with any dog, socialization and the dog's past experiences matter. But really, they fit all your points - muscular, and have the perception of being "tough," short hair, minimal shedding. They are terribly over represented in shelters, so a dog that fits your family will be easy to find. They also tend to be very trainable dogs, they were bred to listen to their person, even in the middle of a fight. They also score higher than German Shepherds, Labs, and other popular breeds in temperament tests. In fact, last time I looked, only French Bulldogs scored above pit bulls overall.

Despite any preconceptions you may have about pit bulls, I urge you to seriously look into them. This breed needs help above any other breed right now. People that get to know my pittie tend to be surprised at what an exceptionally good dog she is, but she is not an outlier, she is typical of her breed.
posted by catatethebird at 9:42 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

P.S. My dog gets along great with other dogs, and so do most of the pits I've met. Pit bulls are not naturally dog aggressive, like everything else, it's about socialization.
posted by catatethebird at 9:44 AM on February 25, 2014

Pitbull mix, for sure!
posted by Neekee at 1:53 PM on February 25, 2014

But honestly, call up local shelters/rescues and tell them what you are looking for. Responsible rescue organizations want you to find a dog that is a good fit so you'll actually keep it.
posted by Neekee at 1:55 PM on February 25, 2014

I've known a lot of black labs who are excellent dogs--that's probably what I'd incline toward if I was looking for a dog. One of the coolest dogs I ever met was a black lab/pit bull cross. Pretty minimal shedding with both of those breeds.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2014

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