DogFilter: What dog is right for us?
April 4, 2022 4:36 AM   Subscribe

Ms Fabius and I have never owned a dog but have been thinking of getting one for some time. We're a little uncertain about what kind to get and would like suggestions for any breeds that might suit us.

About us... We live in rural England, with a large garden, surrounded by farm land (a lot of sheep and some cows). We moved here just before covid but didn't want to get a dog early on because we wanted to wait for more "normal" life to see if we still wanted one, rather than get a "covid dog" that we later regret. We think we do still want one!

We're middle-aged, with no kids. We work from home: me occasionally, freelance; Ms Fabius half-time. At the moment I'll go for a walk every day, either 20 minutes or 1 hour. Ms Fabius often goes for longer walks 2 or 3 times a week. We could increase that to suit a dog. And we’re looking forward to the training (of both the dog and ourselves).

The breed we both like most is the border collie but we're aware that they need a lot of exercise, mental stimulation, and work to do, and so think this might be too much for us. Any thoughts if you've experience of collies?

So, other than that, what might suit us? Similar size, intelligent, friendly. We're not personally keen on lurcher or greyhound varieties, or pugs, or bulldog types, although have met nice examples of each!

Any suggestions?
posted by fabius to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most collies need extremely high levels of stimulation and exercise. They are bred to work and will be demonstrably unhappy if they do not get enough of a mental and physical workout. Highly recommend you do not get a collie. Ditto other working breeds, unless you're prepared to do 10+ miles in walks every day.

Had you thought of looking at rescue dogs? Rescue centres can help match you up with your perfect dog, which may not always be a breed you had considered.

Please don't buy a puppy without thoroughly investigating the background of the breeder. Puppy farmers are sickeningly good at hiding their cruel practices these days.
posted by doornoise at 4:52 AM on April 4, 2022 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit but… I didn’t want to get into the related question of how to get a dog here, because it brings up so many other questions. Why do I hear shelters are crying out for owners and that shelters advertising dogs for adoption are inundated with offers? How do I tell a good breeder from a bad one? What are the pros and cons of getting a puppy versus an older dog? Etc. etc.

For now, I’m purely looking for suggestions as to what breeds might suit us. But I appreciate the idea that a shelter might help us answer this question. Thank you!
posted by fabius at 5:00 AM on April 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

I used the AKC dog breed selector quiz to choose my puppy's breed and am very happy with the results. It recommended a dog breed that I'd never considered, and that very dog is looking at me expectantly right now as I goof around on Metafilter instead of preparing his breakfast.
posted by twelve cent archie at 5:01 AM on April 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Please don't get a border collie. The Border Collie's need for activity is overrated and poorly understood; exercise is not the problem. The problem is that it will, quite rightly, want to herd the neighbouring sheep. An untrained collie will become a sheep bothering collie in an instant, and in lambing season that is an expensive disaster that will make your rural neighbours hate you.

But we have rescues, and all of our rescues have always been pure-bred dogs. We've had Alsatians, Boxers, Dogue de Bordeaux and French Bulldogs. In your situation I would get a Bernese Mountain Dog or a Dogue in a heartbeat. Just Lazare is in your neighbourhood and as you can see, Dogues make excellent rural dogs! If you are interested in Dogues but do not want a puppy, I can connect you to a breed-specific rescue here in Ireland if you can't fine one in the UK.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:02 AM on April 4, 2022 [12 favorites]

Another suggestion is a Great Pyrenees. They are guardian dogs and not herding dogs so very much happy to laze around all day - I speak from experience owning one. Your walk schedule should suit them fine.
Bonuses: Very affectionate big dogs. They love to cuddle and are great with kids. Just need a yard and some company to be happy.
Drawbacks: Big barkers and very alert to threats/noise. They have a thick coat and suitable for cool climates but not for warm climates. In the heat of summer, make sure they have cool shade and do not do the walks midday.
posted by vacapinta at 5:12 AM on April 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

The problem is that it will, quite rightly, want to herd the neighbouring sheep.

Stopped in to say this.

Please rescue. You can speak with a rescue organization and tell them exactly what you told us. They should be Abe to help find the right dog for you.

Good luck. Dogs are wonderful.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 5:14 AM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]


We have two. One is a two year old boy, he never raced and is a big toddler. One is an 7 year old female who was an excellent racer. They both will walk for miles and miles - or not at all. They're sort of like cats who sleep most of the day. Our boy is more puppy-destructive - he steals shoes and shreds boxes. But she takes her retirement very seriously.

I'm sure there's lots of groups in England that home retired greyhounds. They really are a delight, and the groups are great at figuring out what dog is best for you (our boy, for instance, really needed a second dog, and a fence; our girl needed to be trained to use stairs).

Happy to chat more if you hit up the PM!
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:36 AM on April 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'd suggest a collie cross (ours is pointer x collie with occasional herding instincts, mostly with toddlers rather than sheep and we live in a rural area too).

Do talk to a local rescue before deciding anything - there are so many wonderful dogs coming into rescues now that working life is sort of getting back to "normal" that desperately need new homes.
posted by humph at 5:37 AM on April 4, 2022

Use guidelines to make an informed decision about the types (not breeds) of dogs that would suit you. Then get a mutt. See the mating pair if getting a puppy.
And be aware that people lie about dogs and cats, so check with your close circle of acquaintances first about pets that need a new home. Take your time, because this is a decade or more of commitment.
If someone tries to sell a sob story, run away. Your dog does not require pity, or a bank loan, or an itemized background check.
Your dog needs, love, patience, and common sense.

Size: Can you get it out of a burning building, up a flight of motel stairs, and into a vet's office when sick or injured? You will be getting older and so will the dog.
Temperament: Chill and a lap hound, or a partner for adventures? Good with kids and other pets, or a lone wolf?
Grooming: The life of an outdoor dog is filled with excitement. See also -- ticks, burrs, smelly things to roll in, etc. Think twice about getting a long-haired dog.
Age (the dog): You see what you get with an adult dog. Puppies are fun... until they are not.
Age (the owner): Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will your lifestyle still accommodate a pet? What kind? Plan for changes in later life.

One thing that families put on the back burner is deciding who will inherit the pets. Think about it. This may be how you find your dog.
Good luck!
posted by TrishaU at 5:44 AM on April 4, 2022 [12 favorites]

If this is your first not get a puppy. It is akin to having a baby, you will be up throughout the night. And there are so many potential missteps to be made in training. Not to mention all the ethical issues mentioned above.

As a lifetime dog dad, here is my best recommendations: Look for a housetrained, spayed female around 1-3 years old. Preferably a mutt. If she's previously had a litter, even better.

Females tend to be less ornery than males, and they're even more chill after they've had pups. Mutts tend to be healthier in my experience and avoid some of the negative genetic predispositions of purebreds.

And you may think this is insane....but consider getting two dogs if you have the space. Two dogs are not really much more work than one dog - and many issues with anxiety and adjustment disappear when there is another dog by their side. They are pack creatures and they feel so much more safe and secure with a buddy. I'm honestly not sure if I'd ever own just one dog again. For many dogs, I don't think it's great for their mental health to be alone so often.

Please rescue if possible. There are so many sweet, wonderful dogs waiting for a lovely life with work-from-home parents in a rural garden next to a farm.
posted by gnutron at 6:32 AM on April 4, 2022 [15 favorites]

Get a rescue and put the dog first in your decision. Many large dog breeds were created to routinely do things (hunt, chase, guard, herd) that may not align with your current or future lifestyle and getting one of those breeds simply to have one wouldn't be fair to the dog.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:40 AM on April 4, 2022

Border Terriers were literally made for your part of the world, and the UK is (comparatively) flush with them. I'm in the US and have a purebred border terrier from a breeder. I know folks in the UK who have rescue full bred and mix breed BTs just due to them being more common there.

Border terriers are such hardy inquisitive little dogs. They're a mid size dog personality in a small dog body and have long legs and normal faces so aren't plagued by a lot of the health and breathing problems a lot of small dogs have.

Go look up the #borderterrier hashtag on instagram to see a ton of pics of this dog in its various natural habitats: sleeping on the couch, ripping soft toys to shreds, and trotting majestically through the English countryside.
posted by phunniemee at 6:41 AM on April 4, 2022 [10 favorites]

I feel like a lab or lab cross would be a good fit for your situation. There's a reason why they are so popular and have been for decades. Maybe a bit larger than you are thinking, but if you go the rescue/mixed breed route you can often find ones that are on the smaller size. I also think you're in a good situation to raise a puppy, and having owned several adult rescues in my and now having raised one rescue puppy from 9 weeks I recommend going the puppy route if that's an option. While it's true that raising a puppy is a lot of work, it is also SUPER rewarding and if you do your homework it's just nice to know you have set your dog up for success in the world to the best of their abilities.

I've met a lot of border collies and the dog park and doing disc dog, and maybe people with direct border collie experience will correct me, but it seems like they not only need a lot of exercise and stimulation but also tend to focus on their "job" to the exclusion of having much interest in, say, interacting with other dogs or people outside their immediate family.

My current dog is a German shepherd/lab mix and she is literally the best and I heartily recommend this relatively common mix to anyone who is home alot and likes to spend time outdoors. Smart, trainable, athletic but does not require hours a day of exercise, friendly and outgoing, and avoids some of the physical problems that you see in purebred lines of either breed.
posted by drlith at 6:42 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is Alfie. He's a good lad, and gets on OK with the cats and the chickens. He's been expensive (two DeAngelis knee reconstructions) but seeing him haring across the oval at full pelt again after recovery has been more than worth it.

I think he has a fair bit of Maltese Terrier in him, maybe some poodle too. He turned up on our doorstep one day, then we found his owner, then we babysat him occasionally, then his owner's circumstances changed and he came to live with us full time. He's been here for, I dunno, six years maybe? Not sure how old he is. He's definitely getting on a bit now, so I'm glad all that surgery is already out of the way.

Chelsea lived here before Alfie. Before moving in with us, she used to belong to the neighbours across the street but not long after they moved in she had pretty much adopted the entire street and was a regular visitor both here and next door. She was originally bought as a puppy for the daughter of their house, so we know for sure that she was a jackapoo (Jack Russell / poodle cross). Slightly smaller than Alfie (~6kg to Alfie's 7.5) and only needed the one knee reconstruction after a sudden change of direction while chasing a magpie. Lived to very nearly 18 before her kidneys packed it in.

Chelsea's Jack Russell ancestry made it possible to razz her up and play good growly games with her until she got completely beside herself and ran around in furious tail-wagging circles, and her poodle ancestry made her super affectionate. She was a total sweetheart and smart as a whip. I could walk with her anywhere, off leash, and she would always stick close and sit to cross the road until I told her OK and wait for me reliably outside the shops without needing to be tied up to keep her there.

Alfie's much more likely than Chelsea to see some other dog in the distance and bolt unstoppably toward them for a meet and greet, traffic be damned; so he walks in a harness clipped to a long extending leash. Unlike Chelsea he seems completely baffled by almost all attempts to razz him up. His signature move is going on strike if there's something he really doesn't want to do: call him back to get in the car when he thinks he's about to go out on a walk and he'll fix you with the most guilt-inducing sad puppy eyes, which look he will then maintain with an absolute laser lock as he slowly rolls over on his back and refuses to move until one of us goes and picks him up.

He's also the household Cuddle Police - if there are hugs or snuggles being offered to any household member other than Alfie and Alfie senses it going on, he'll be straight in there to break that nonsense up until he becomes the snugglee.

Chelsea had way less snuggle jealousy than Alfie. Her big thing was the front door, and she would announce every visitor very very loudly until firmly shooshed, and then give them a TSA-grade sniffing over to make sure they were the kind of person she wanted in her house. Most were. Those who weren't got a big-time stink eye, though never any overt aggression - just a lack of the usual affectionate overtures.

Small fluffy dogs are, in my experience, a lot easier to live with than big ones, especially if they're going to be indoors dogs which every dog will want to be at least some of the time. Dealing with little Alfie scuts when out and about or in the back yard is also vastly less unpleasant than disposing of the huge steaming elephant turds that Lucky, the otherwise splendid golden retriever across the street, sometimes fertilizes our front lawn with.

And if you're going to get an indoors dog - any indoors dog - you're going to need a better vacuum cleaner than you already have.
posted by flabdablet at 6:44 AM on April 4, 2022 [9 favorites]

Myself - I would recomend a Daniff, which is a combination of English Mastiff and Great Dane.

Typically mild tempered, do not require the attention and physical work that a Border Collie or Lab requires. Two or three 20m walks per day and the dog will just want to lie around.

One thing to remember with them - is that you should get a bed/couch dedicated for them, so that they do not have to lie on the floor all-the-time (even with a soft floor dog bed), with a bigger breed, their hips will bother them more as they get older, giving them a living situation where this does not have to happen frequently is a must.

But yes - as others have pointed out - a bigger breed is... well bigger everything - more food (this guy eats better than me), and I need some serious tools to pickup his waste. But - he loves to cuddle on the couch and can surprisingly fold himself into taking only a single seat on a two-seat loveseat style-couch.

He was my wife's choice - if it were me, I would have stuck with a breed under 20lbs (but - now - he is wonderful). Our beloved 11-year old "Westie" (West Highland Terrier) just passed two weekends ago - he was also amazing - I highly recomend that breed as well.
posted by rozcakj at 7:07 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

The neighboring sheep and cows are a concern, but not just with a border collie. There are many dogs of many breeds that would love to chase sheep. Will you be walking the dog in a place where sheep or cows are often in sight? That could be difficult for a border collie. The dog could get overly excited or fixated. But the same thing could happen with other breeds.

I owned a border collie for twelve years and right now I have a 6 month old border collie pup, both from working lines. (The ones bred for show are sometimes calmer.) People sometimes exaggerate the border collie's need for exercise and work. It's real, but may not be as extreme as you're imagining. But the amount of walking you're doing now doesn't sound like enough for a border collie. Can one of you walk at least 3-4 miles every day? And can the dog be off leash for all or most of that? That would be a pretty reasonable amount of exercise. Other options would be running with the dog on a leash or riding a bike with the dog attached. On top of that you should expect to spend some time each day (I'd say at least an hour) doing things like practicing obedience, training tricks, playing fetch, or training the dog for some activity like agility or herding, and take the dog along on errands and outings as much as possible.

Maybe the biggest issue with border collies is not their energy level but their tendency to be a little (or a lot, depending on the dog) nervous and prone to developing quirky fears or obsessions. They learn very quickly but that can mean developing a fear based on a single bad experience or developing an annoying habit based on doing a thing once or twice. They may also pester you incessantly to get you to do what they want. If you aren't good about training the behavior you want it's easy to end up with them training you instead. I would say you should avoid a border collie unless you're really serious about looking forward to training. If actively working with the dog is not one of the main things you're looking forward to, another breed would probably be a better choice.
posted by Redstart at 7:10 AM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Use guidelines to make an informed decision about the types (not breeds) of dogs that would suit you. Then get a mutt.

This says what I was going to suggest, picking for a type of dog (large/small, affectionate/standoffish, active/lazy, herding/pointing/etc.) and then even more picking the individual rather than the breed. In your situation I would be looking for a dog with low prey drive (meaning less likely to attack someone's farm animals if it gets loose, say), among other things.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:20 AM on April 4, 2022 [8 favorites]

A well-bred border collie is not a good first dog.

Several of the smaller herding breeds have some of the border collie traits but Not As Much. Any herding breed is likely to be a lot of dog for a first dog, but they're also bred to work with people (and not just around people) so they tend to be biddable and trainable which cuts against that. Corgis, shelties, vallhunds, Lancashire heelers...

Lord knows all of those breeds have their ups and downs and delights and you've-gotta-be-fucking-kiddings. Go to shows, meet them, ask breeders about them.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:27 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Why do I hear shelters are crying out for owners and that shelters advertising dogs for adoption are inundated with offers?

You can have both at the same time. Lots of people competing for cute puppies that look like golden retrievers but lots of adult pit-mix dogs nobody wants to adopt.

How do I tell a good breeder from a bad one?

Easiest tell: an intrusive, nosy application process. biscotti has guides here and here.

What are the pros and cons of getting a puppy versus an older dog?

Like with so many things, raising a puppy has really wonderful moments but the need to be consistent about lots of things is a real drag. Puppies are cute and wonderful and so much work and oh god the biteys and then they get to be "teenagers" and you want to punt them to the moon. Adult dogs are adults, and tend to be set in some of their ways for good or ill. You don't have to do all that work with them at the beginning, but on the other hand you don't get to do all that work with them at the beginning.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:36 AM on April 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

We rescued a hound mutt, and there are walks for snuffling about and I take her out to stretch her legs as she trots alongside my bike, leashed, to get some exercise. She is not eligible to be a free-roaming dog as she literally is more interested in the next scent (so many dogs & animals in our literal neck-of-the-woods) so we go to a huge dog park to give her freedom to socialize and revisit dog manners. She’s a goofy good girl, but with our unfenced yard, we routinely think about installing a dog run, though our house-on-hill makes it tough.

Ooh, also, we intentionally chose a slightly larger dog as the local fauna (including foxes and now coyote) maimed a previous cat during its last successful walk about. Size may be a consideration for you as well.
posted by childofTethys at 7:41 AM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Raised with Goldens here, but then went with standard poodles due to the lack of shedding. They are great dogs. Affectionate, big but not too big, very smart.

And yes, puppies are work. We have a just about to turn two "puppy", and she was the only one of ours we actually got as a puppy. Much like having an infant, but less crying and more jumpy and bitey. But, they are sweet puppy bites, so it was OK.

Since you haven't trained a dog yet, I would go for an older dog rather than a puppy. Older dog might have already had some training, that you can piggyback off of.
posted by Windopaene at 7:47 AM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

It seems like you know what you want to get out of having a dog, which is good. My impression is that you want to walk with the dog in the countryside (and possibly expand the amount you're already walking without a dog) and maybe do some other dog-related activities in the garden. I don't know what your local customs are regarding dog control, but it's worth asking - is the garden fenced? Do you plan on using a lead for dog walks? Would a potential dog have the ability to escape from your garden or pull itself out of your grasp, leading to complications with the local livestock? Do you have any concerns about large holes in the lawn or trampled flowerbeds?

Given your circumstances, you might want to look into some traditional hunting breeds. A well-adjusted retriever could be a good option, as they're not likely to go after livestock - spaniels, Brittanies, even standard poodles could be good walking companions and are meant to have good recall and self control.

You may find some luck with a "reject" from a working dog breeder. If there are pups in a litter that are not showing the right aptitude for the task they're meant for, the breeder may find homes for them as pets. Why they're not being sold off as working/hunting dogs would be important to know - too small, health issues, behavioral issues, etc. If it's something like "this dog is healthy and well behaved but cannot get over the sound of gunshots" then it may be a perfect option as a companion animal.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:50 AM on April 4, 2022

A "mixed" breed will probably be less prone to health problems. Have you ever seen Bondi Vet? You really get to know which health issues plague which breeds there. It's quite a thing.

You can find a lot of sweet sad little things on Craigslist or the like -- no need to go to a shelter.

I just learned about this web site for rehoming animals without subjecting them to a shelter: There's at least one other such site.
posted by amtho at 7:50 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Seconding that labs and lab mutts are popular for a reason.
posted by brachiopod at 7:52 AM on April 4, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks all, great stuff so far! Just to answer some questions...
Can one of you walk at least 3-4 miles every day? And can the dog be off leash for all or most of that?
We're unlikely to manage that far every day, and it wouldn't be safe for most dogs to be off the leash for all of that, unless we were driving elsewhere to start the walk.
I don't know what your local customs are regarding dog control, but it's worth asking - is the garden fenced?
Partially, and we're aware we need to fix it - just deciding whether to fix the entire boundary, or only fence a smaller part of it.
Do you plan on using a lead for dog walks?
Definitely, probably, in places. Looking at other local dogs – and most people around us have a dog – it varies enormously. One dog wanders around freely from its home and pops into our garden occasionally. Other dogs are always walked on their lead. Some dogs are walked off the lead but put on the lead when a car or other dog approaches. Some dogs are walked on the lead but let off when they're walked through a fenced field that's currently free of livestock. We'd certainly be erring on the side of caution.
posted by fabius at 7:59 AM on April 4, 2022

Would a potential dog have the ability to escape from your garden or pull itself out of your grasp, leading to complications with the local livestock?

This is important - see here for information on sheep worrying in England/Wales. Basically, it's an offence, and a farmer can shoot the dog as a last resort. While there are breeds that are less likely to chase cows or sheep, a lot of it is still down to the dog's personality and how well it's been trained.
posted by scorbet at 8:07 AM on April 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

You mostly tell a good breeder from references. In the US, there are breeds to avoid - Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, French Bulldogs and other breeds with flat faces - they have health issues specifically because of the facial characteristics for which they're bred, German Shepherds have been weirdly bred for a lower hindquarter and now have health issues. Search Dogs with inbred health problems or dog breeds to avoid. This may vary quite a bit in the UK.

After adopting shelter dogs in the past, I just bought a 10 month old purebred poodle whose owner needed to re-home her. I took her to a vet, who explained that hip issues can't be diagnosed in puppies, but found her otherwise healthy. I've known a lot of poodles and they're smart and trainable. Mixed-breed dogs, whether from private owners or shelters, might be healthier. My previous dog was a Jack Russell Terrier from a shelter and a fantastic companion. Your farm neighbors might appreciate a terrier in the neighborhood because they may hunt mice, rats, and other nuisance critters. I let my last dog run free after 10 p.m., when any chickens were in their coop, and traffic was negligible; this is controversial.

Call local vets to see if they know of good dogs who need to be re-homed, or check shelters that have way too many dogs as they will have more options.

I'd recommend against a herding breed because one benefit of living in the country is allowing a dog to run free sometimes, a herding dog will herd, and farmers will probably object, unless you and your dog are exceedingly well trained. You might find that a hunting dog like a spaniel, pointer, retriever, gun dog, foxhound, would be welcome in your area, there may be good breeders around you, and they are more likely to be a medium size.

No matter what, go to training classes, and go for quite a while. Dogs have evolved to live with humans; you are highly likely to have an excellent and devoted companion.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on April 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Also came to say get a mutt.

I'm a dog owner (mutt), but have also dog-sat around the world (23 dogs in 5 countries so far). Not only has this allowed me to meet lots of interesting breeds, but I've also seen how various types of dog owners work well or clash with the breeds they've chosen.

Almost without exception, every problem dog I've ever met is a pure bred. Further, those dogs were chosen for their appearance / size, more than their breed temperament and personality.

In my experience, the chillest, best behaved dogs are mutts. My own dog, Shakedown, is a Husky/Shepherd/Akita/Poodle — smart, fast, hardy, quiet, agile. When I travel, she stays with sitters locally. Every one of those sitters, after having lived with her, have then decided to get a dog of their own because they've loved the experience (I travel for 5 months at a time). One of those people got a mutt and is thrilled. The others all got a purebred and all say their dog "is no Shakedown."

Where I live, we have something called "Res dogs" — dogs that are born on Native Reservations. I know at least 100 of these dogs and they're all great. The dogs are born outside, not raised by anyone one person, and know how to be a dog. They're adopted as adults. Shakedown is from a First Nations Reserve in Northern Quebec and came to me when she was around 2. I also know some of her offspring and they're also great.
posted by dobbs at 8:33 AM on April 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Another suggestion is a Great Pyrenees

As an owner of one I'm biased but I suggest the Great Pyrenees' Italian cousin, the Maremma. Though a friend of mine in school had a Bernese and those are great dogs as well. All pretty big though if that is an issue. Collies are great but they are a lot of work.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:06 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I will share with what I learned in my years with the Humane Society:

Please raise your dog to be a companion. Don't indulge them with treats or attention. The dog will learn to expect that from you and will become frustrated and angry if you don't provide.

Sit with your dog. Sit quietly. Your dog will come to know that "I'm OK and happy with my human friends." This is really important. You are acting as the dog's mom and he or she will take cues from you. A dog that is socialized properly around people will welcome humans as friends, not enemies. A dog that learns to trust people will be a great friend. A dog that learns to hate is a horror show.
posted by SPrintF at 9:13 AM on April 4, 2022 [6 favorites]

My dog is a German Shepard/Border/? mix, and we all love him, but I strongly regret that I found him at a time where I couldn't make it to dog school. At least the puppy classes would have been an improvement on none. He is a good dog, but he has few dog friends, and I attribute that to his lack of social training with dogs.
He needs exercise, but as others have said, most of all he needs a lot of stimulation, and here 5 days before his tenth birthday, that has only changed marginally. On the other hand, he is still ready to learn new stuff. If we don't teach him new stuff, he will teach himself how to open doors and steal chocolate, for instance.

Since he is all the herding dogs in one, he has a very strong herding instinct and a strong protective instinct. Once I accidentally let him loose in a field of sheep (they had arrived the day before, and I didn't know), and within ten minutes he had rounded them up and was waiting for my orders. It was OK, he won't even touch a mouse, unless it has been thoroughly processed, but that type of behavior can scare livestock owners who don't know him. The neighbor at our farm hated him at first, but now they are friends, after the neighbor saw that his horses voluntarily run up to play with the dog (they run about and he tries to herd them, all have fun).
His herding instinct means that he can be stressed out when people in our household are moving in different directions or are preparing to leave. His protective instinct can mean that if he misreads a situation, he can be aggressive towards other dogs, all cats and some objects, like cargo bikes. I've only once seen him growl at a human, and that human was threatening me. He doesn't bark at nothing, but he always barks at whatever he sees as an intruder. I don't mind that.

He is excellent with small children and old people, a completely safe dog for vulnerable humans. That's nice.

He comes with me to work often, and sits in the car while I do stuff. My students like him.

Like any dog, most hours, he just lies around, snoozing or sleeping. Dogs need a lot more sleep than humans, even very active working dogs.

The best thing about him, in the part of the year when I live on the farm, is that he has no hunting instinct and will not roam at all, ever. I enjoy being able to let him run loose around the house when the doors are open in summer, and that I can just let him out for a bit when it is cold and dark and he needs to pee. I don't need to fence my garden, because he won't move beyond the place where the fence would be if I don't let him. Except: my aunt and uncle are my neighbors, and when they are home, he will visit them, through the back alleys. He steals their pets' food and then returns. Their pets don't mind. He also knows where the local wolf keeps his stash, and will steal that if I don't have him on a leash when we go past it. The wolf minds.

In conclusion: my dog is work every day. I like that, but if I'm ill or very busy at work, is is a problem.
posted by mumimor at 9:35 AM on April 4, 2022

One of the really nice things about older dogs is that they generally don't need as much physical exercise as younger dogs. You can tire them out and keep them happy with a mix of walks and training, nose work, and/or puzzles*. It's really amazing how chilled out dogs will get after even 15 minutes of training. I haven't tried nose work, but it's another, similar outlet to get dogs using their brains. Likewise, puzzles can be an easy way to challenge a dog without requiring much hands-on effort. It's way easier to max out a dog's intellectual energy than their physical energy, which I don't think gets talked about enough with new dog owners. There are plenty of dogs that are fine without miles-long walks every day. Physical exercise is important, but what you've described as being your existing routine could be perfectly fine for many adult dogs. If I were you, I'd find a local dog trainer to consult with, both to advise on choosing a dog and getting off to a good start once you bring your dog home. You can infer a fair amount from a dog's breed/appearance, but there's a lot of individuality among dogs as well. I went looking for an older, mellow dog and ended up with a young cattle dog/shepherd mix who seems to have the soul of a Bassett Hound. I certainly wouldn't recommend cattle dogs to someone looking for "mellow"--but my sweet doggie is the embodiment of mellow.

*There are puzzle toys and snuffle mats you can buy and fill with food/treats so that the dog has to work out how to get to the food. You can also use stuff like paper bags and cardboard egg cartons to make your own.
posted by theotherdurassister at 10:08 AM on April 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Based on your desired dog and all of the above I would encourage you to consider a rough collie. This is the Lassie dog. Uniformly less manic that the border collie, but still exhibiting all of the great herding dog behaviors. An adult dog would be fine and there are a number of collie rescue organizations.
posted by mfoight at 10:23 AM on April 4, 2022

If you're interested in learning about the broader categories of dog breeds and their associated behaviors, I'd recommend Meet Your Dog by Kim Borphey (which our trainer recommended, and it was helpful in understanding that herding dogs are bred for hyperviligence and why they typically had certain behaviors). Unfortunately, it's been on backorder for a while, but here's the Kindle version (I was able to find an ebook copy from my library).
posted by sincerely yours at 10:46 AM on April 4, 2022

We're on our third Keeshond, and I really love them. They're very smart, easy to train, and good companion dogs, but also fairly independent, which on the plus side means you can leave them alone for a while and they can entertain themselves, and on the minus side means they're better on the leash outside because they don't always feel like coming back right away when you call. They're watch dogs and have a reputation for being barkers, but two of mine weren't; the one that is only really barks when someone's at the door, and outside when she's playing. They do shed a ton, though.
posted by Mchelly at 10:46 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice here.
I second biscotti's advice (linked above) if you decide to go the breeder route.
But you sound like a great fit for a rescue! There are lots of organisations for individual breeds and these are often great because the dog will probably come directly from a home without the trauma of going via a rescue. This obviously is easier for commoner breeds EG labrador re-homing is relatively easy.

Someone already mentioned this but I'd like to expand on it...since you are surrounded by sheep, you need to be extremely careful. Shooting a dog in a field with sheep is sadly far from a last resort, it's quite common, completely legal and some farmers won't hesitate, even if the dog is not actually worrying the sheep. I have two friends who have lost dogs this way. Any individual dog can be prone to chase sheep but don't increase the chances by getting a breed that is excited by sheep. I really wouldn't recommend a collie - they are not an easy breed to own. Take your dog to classes, and get it very used to seeing sheep.

Look at some local shelters and call up a few. There are a lot of dogs coming into rescue in the UK now as people go back to work. Ask their advice. I'd also research local dog training classes, these are really really helpful, especially if you haven't owned a dog before.

There's nothing like being around the actual dogs to help you work out what will be the happiest match for you - which ones you have a natural fit with :)
See if there's a local dog-owners Facebook group for where you are, and offer to do some dog-sitting.
Also you could contact the Cinnamon Trust and see if they need help in your area, or sites like BorrowMyDoggy. Or perhaps volunteer to walk dogs from a local shelter. In October there's Discover Dogs which is a very good event to meet lots of different breeds and talk to experts.
Enjoy! I have two now and also foster regularly. I love them and am so happy they are in my life :)
posted by tardigrade at 12:42 AM on April 5, 2022

I'm an experienced dog owner - and I only get adult dogs. Puppies are WAY too much work when you can get an excellent adult rescue with some idea of it's temperament before waiting a year to see it hints through puppy insanity!

I'm a committed big dog person but based on your location and my delight in the border terriers I've met, I'd second phunimee and would suggest checking them out. Awesome dogs, though I haven't had the pleasure of sharing my home with one! Similarly, standard poodles - super cool, some are very much working dogs that would be a bad fit but others could be an excellent fit, depending on the dog and their age.

I wouldn't rule out a border collie if you've thought long and hard about it, though I agree 1000% with the other posters that most herding breeds are a terrible/dangerous fit with your life/neighbors! However, with the right adult BC, I don't think they'd be out of the question. I've met a handful of "farm dog BCs" that have exactly the temperament you're describing, though the ones I've met have all been mature adults (over 5yo), so I'd say it's a matter of finding the right individual dog.

Figure out what you dislike too - for me long hair, any barking, any questionable temperament for any reason (ie a hairy eyeball directed at me, kids, humans doing non-painful handling of body parts, etc), and being herded are dead stops (for me!).

Think about your preferred activities - I'd generally summarize that as do you want a snoozing buddy or a running partner? I'm 90% snoozing partner, but want a dog that enjoys hiking and walks but doesn't require mandatory exercise, running, or having a job.

I've dealt with a bunch of other not fun things (medical, food allergies, severe separation anxiety, behavioral issues, cat aggression, manageable dog aggression, and bad behavior (no manners)) and will happily do so in the future. I know what I can't roll with, and most of my 'hard no' list would be no big deal for most people!

I'm picky about human and kid tolerance, but am willing to manage some types of dog aggression (predictable types or situations, if avoidance is the dog's preference, if I can manage them on leash on a city street, and if they've been growly/loud/posturing, but not if they've done harm, are unpredictable, or target small dogs, and only if they they have mild enough responses that if encountering other leashed dogs in public I can manage them without drama/risk/potential danger to other pets.

If you were to imagine your ideal dog's hypothetical dream job, what is it?

I have 2 dogs - one would like to live at a boarding school full of kids and the other would like about an hour of playing with puppies and 23h of sleep, maybe long term care to visit with residents. I expect/want a dog to roll with whatever and love humans, especially chaotic ones.

Pay attention to weather/seasonality/lifestyle assumptions you're making. If you assume you can walk an hr a day, does that include bunko night or on nights when kids have a bunch of homework or in midwinter dark?
posted by esoteric things at 12:34 AM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

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