Help us choose our new dog!
October 1, 2006 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Need help choosing a new dog!

We want to get a new dog to keep our four-year old lab company. Which breeds would best co-exist with our sweet, gentle lab? She is very calm, rarely barks (unless we get her riled up) and sleeps a lot, although she does get very excited and active during play time.

We want a dog with a temperment very close to hers, as she is not aggressive in the least, and we don't want the new puppy to dominate her. We've thought about another lab, but we'd really rather have something a little smaller, as our first lab grew to be a lot bigger than we expected (over 100 pounds!) and our house just isn't that big.

We do have a good sized, fenced-in back yard, and currently play with our lab at least an hour or so each day. The new dog will have to be able to deal with being alone in the house for at least 4-5 hours a day (My husband and I both work the same hours, but he can usually come home during his lunch.)

So, most importantly--NOT a barker, and not aggressive. Any suggestions?
posted by saucy to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about an Italian greyhound? Relatively small, very sweet and non-agressive, minimally barking, don't shed.
posted by shoos at 11:49 AM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Googling "dog choices" brings up a wealth of advice - perhaps not specific to co-existing with your lab, but seems like good info nevertheless. Good luck.
posted by Pressed Rat at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2006

I don't know that you need to worry about a new puppy dominating her.

A simple way to avoid this (in expectation) is to get a male; males will usually defer to females.

But more broadly, you don't need to worry that Lab will become second-place. Dogs aren't people, and don't mind being lower on the totem pole so long as they agree on the placement.

If you bring in a new dog and, between themselves, the dogs work out that NewDog is #1 and Lab is #2, this isn't something that Lab is going to feel bad about. She's not going to feel that you love her less or that she's lost a competition or anything like that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:35 PM on October 1, 2006

Why not adopt a six-month or year-old dog from a rescue/pound/shelter? That'd give you the opportunity to establish the individual dog's personality, not just the breed generalizations, and see firsthand whether the pup gets along with your current dog?
posted by stet at 12:38 PM on October 1, 2006

Please, please, please adopt. It's so important that you do. Imagine five people shoulder-to-shoulder in a queen-sized bed---when the sixth person climbs in, the person at the end rolls off. There are only so many people out there looking for a dog, and vastly more dogs out there looking for people.

Although a puppy can be completely disarming, I do suggest going to a shelter and checking out some other dogs closer to your lab's age, perhaps two and up. Because they're adults, their true personalities will already be apparent (like stet said). Some shelters (especially adoption agencies) will allow you to bring your own dog, and let her interact with each candidate.
posted by changeling at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2006

Best thing to do is make sure you introduce the dogs in neutral territory and see how they interact. When I worked at the Louisiana SPCA, it was a requirement for people to bring in their other dog(s) if they were adopting a second (or third...) to see if they were compatible. Usually we're take them for a walk or in an office or somewhere the shelter dog didn't normally go. They don't have to be best buddies instantly, but make sure one doesn't totally intimidate the other.
posted by radioamy at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2006

Also, I don't know if you're familiar with Pet Finder and 1-800 Save-a-Pet, but they're incredible resources---they're like personal ads for adoptable animals, and you'll discover rescues in your area you never knew existed. Good luck!
posted by changeling at 1:02 PM on October 1, 2006

I'd also recommend an older male dog, at least four to six months. That way you can see the personality a bit more and make sure your dog seems to get along.
posted by fshgrl at 1:23 PM on October 1, 2006

Getting a dog from the pound is a fine and noble thing to do. But you shouldn't feel guilty if you decide to get a puppy from an ethical breeder, even if it's for no better reason than you would prefer to do so.

If you end up buying a dog from a pet store or from a neighbor who bred their dog so that the kids could see the miracle of birth, however, you should feel rather a lot of guilt, in addition to constant, piercing, and unending shame.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:27 PM on October 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I do appreciate all of the comments, however, I was looking for a more specific answer regarding which breeds have temperments that would best co-exist with my dog--not whether I should adopt from a pound or buy from a breeder.

I realize this is a sensitive subject for animal lovers, and I am definitely considering adopting--I just didn't ask to be convinced to do so. My question was basically: which types of dogs are generally quiet, calm, and non-aggressive. Sorry if this ruffles any feathers.
posted by saucy at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2006

Calm, quiet, non-aggressive dogs arise from a combination of breed and training, so I wouldn't be overly focused on a specific breed. Certain dogs are notorious barkers, like Shelties, so I wouldn't recommend them. On the whole, though, larger-ish dogs seem to have calmer dispositions than little dogs. I know you said you're hoping for something smaller than your lab, but have you considered rescue greyhounds? The ones I've encountered have been very mellow and easygoing (but you'd need a fully fenced-in yard!)
posted by ambrosia at 1:59 PM on October 1, 2006

Terrier = no, except for airedales.

A lab mix with a non-terrier, a greyhound like ambrosia suggested (world's fastest couch potatoes), or some kind of spaniel-type, like an English, Springer or Brittany.

Also "no" on Chows, Akitas, Shar-peis and energetic setters (Irish, Gordon).

I'd go the pound route and look for dogs that were deliberately given up rather than lost, as you're more likely to get a better idea of their temperament.
posted by frogan at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2006

Its tough to say X breed is perfect, 99% of labs are calm, loving, gentle dogs, 1% are high strung, nasty critters. (yeah, I met a lab who liked to bite people, couldn't believe it!)

I'll put my shelter mutts up against any purebred for temperment, and when we already had one shelter boy in residence we brought him with us and the calm quiet fixed female we were thinking about tried to kill our calm quiet fixed male when they got together the same room...ended up with another fixed male :)

Anyway, expecially if you are already thinking about adopting, check out petfinder and bring your boy with you when you meet the new fuzzy love bundle.

posted by legotech at 2:13 PM on October 1, 2006

I'd favor a Basenji in your situation if I had a choice, but they do need attention - they're smart!

Your vet may also be able to make suggestions for companions that are suitable.
posted by vers at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2006

Before getting a Basenji check out the following Ask MeFi about a Basenji ( It is worth the read if nothing else. As far as a recommendation --a Portuguese Water Dog PWD (have to get through the puppy phase )or one of the increasingly ubiquitous poodle mixes--we have a poodle/terrier (not by design but default) and he has the most perfect disposition I have ever come across--very mellow, smart, barks only at delivery men and plytful when appropriate. He is very regularly confused for a PWD and that lead to one thing after another about PWDs. PWDs do reguire regular exercise.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:24 PM on October 1, 2006

My question was basically: which types of dogs are generally quiet, calm, and non-aggressive.

A broad question gets a broad answer.

You might look at any of the many breeds that were bred to be companions and to have relatively low exercise needs from the get-go rather than to have a drive to perform some manner of job.

Or, go to a local dog show and see which dogs seem like calm, quiet sweeties to you.

And even then, there is easily enough variation within any given breed that temperment is still a crapshoot. You can bias the odds by picking a breed, but they're still odds.

Your question of what sort of dog will co-exist with your dog is still somewhat misguided. Unless your dog is actually insane, she would be quite happy to be "underneath" another dog if that's how it worked out between them. And irrespective of breed, you can go a long way towards having a new dog that takes orders from Lab just by getting a male of whatever breed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:28 PM on October 1, 2006

I think you need to look less at breeds and more at individual dogs. You have a pretty specific list of requirements (some reasonable like "calm and not barky", some not - as ROU said, you have no say in which dog is the top dog, and most dogs tend to comfortably find their place with one another if left alone without humans trying to impose their ideas of how things should be), and you will likely not find the dog you want as a puppy, you want a dog old enough to have an established personality, so that you can accurately judge if it will work in your house or not.

Whatever you choose, a male is most definitely your best bet (same-sex with dogs is very often a recipe for disaster, and no sane properly-dog-socialized male dog will ever be aggressive at a female dog). Even though you want something smaller, avoid most Toy breeds and delicate breeds (like Italian Greyhounds - lovely dogs, not at all suitable playmates for a Lab). You do not want a terrier of any kind (robust enough to be a Lab's playmate but barky and often aggressive, especially with other dogs). Other than those two caveats, I'd simply be looking for a mixed-breed adult or smaller Lab from a rescue - adopting from a rescue (if it's a good rescue) means you'll get a properly-evaluated dog which has been living in a foster situation (usually with other dogs, so you'll know that it's good with other dogs), and they'll know with the best possibility of accuracy if it will work with you or not. My one specific breed suggestion is that you consider a rescued Greyhound (from a reputable rescue), they are generally quiet, sweet, loving and many are very gregarious with other dogs (which a rescue will know and tell you about). They are not small, but they don't take up much space as a general rule, and rescued ones are already crate trained and leash trained.

I know the common wisdom has always been to introduce dogs on neutral territory, but I don't agree with this, I think it's important that the newcomer knows that the original dog was in the home first, NOT because it means that the newcomer will automatically be submissive to the original dog (and people have no say in pack dynamics, dogs decide for themselves), but because this is the situation the dogs are going to be living in, and it's better to have both dogs aware of who was there first from the get-go. If your dog is likely to attack a strange dog in her backyard from the outset, you should be reconsidering getting another dog, IMHO. The back yard would be my choice. The important aspect is space, dogs need enough room to maintain an appropriate distance from each other and display proper body language to each other.

So I'm sorry it's not really an answer, but I don't think the right question is "what breed", but "what individual dog". Good luck! Also, please do not leave the dogs loose and unattended together - when you are not home crate one or the other, at least for the first six months to a year.
posted by biscotti at 4:15 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

biscotti, IGs aren't as delicate as you might think. My wife and I have had three over the past decade, and have not found them to be in any way less robust than other dogs of similar weight. They are generally very gentle and do have spindly legs, but we haven't had any problems from them playing with other, much larger dogs. No injuries or broken bones or anything at all like that, despite fairly frequent visits to busy and often rambunctious dog parks. Our youngest IG was even stung by more than 50 bees when she was about two years old. The vets told us she had only a small chance of surviving, but she came through like a champ (after two blood transfusions!). They're not exactly pit bulls, but they're not wimps either.
posted by shoos at 4:55 PM on October 1, 2006

Our dog's an adopted "bassalier" -- half basset, half Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. A half-basset, if bred with a smaller dog, seems to be pretty ideal in every mix I've met. Quiet, lazy, friendly with other dogs. (Pure bassets are a little too lazy for my tastes and a few have the tendency to bay/howl.)

Petfinder (as recommended above) has a pretty awesome breed finder where you can rank what's important to you in a breed and so on. (The top two breeds it recommended were a Cavalier and a basset and then it helped us find any rescues in the area.)

Smaller dogs in general tend to be more aggressive and energetic than larger dogs (painting with a broad brush here).

If you don't mind drool and it's square footage rather than poundage you're trying to avoid, English Bulldogs might also fit your criteria.
posted by Gucky at 7:13 PM on October 1, 2006

I believe you shoos, I'm not saying they're wimps (and I am a big fan of the breed, I think they're lovely), but Labs are big and can play really hard and it might be too much for an IG on a daily basis.
posted by biscotti at 7:16 PM on October 1, 2006

Beagles!! They are full of love and get along with everyone.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:04 PM on October 1, 2006

All I can do is speak from personal experience:

Once it became clear that our dog needed a companion, we set up parameters for what was important to us humans - for us it was an adult, non-shedding dog - and the rest we left up to our dog.

We took him to a big adoption fair (not advocating, just describing) and spent two hours there with him, letting him hang with different dogs. We had our eye on several different ones, but none of them seemed to interest him. One overpowered hiim, another ignored him. We noticed, though, that our dog kept going back to this one particular dog (one my husband and I really had no interest in) and our dog Max, would sniff at him and airhump near him. We figured this was a good sign.

We checked him out - he was an adult dog with a non-shedding coat, some kind of mix-breed. We decided that, even though we weren't really "into" him, our dog was, and that was the reason we were getting a second dog in the first place!

We put the two of them in our back seat together, seat belted next to each other, and from that moment on they were attached by the hip. A total lovefest. And of course, within a day, my husband and I had also fallen in love with the little guy.

Someone recommended this route to us, and we have never regretted it. It's less about breed specifics and more about what's important to you and which dog does your dog like, and vice versa.

Good luck!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 9:01 PM on October 1, 2006

I also vote for a older dog. Their personalities are developed and you really know what you are going to get.
I'm not sure where you are located but there are thousands of terrific dogs euthanized in the South every year. I know of many shelters that recieve them from the south to adopt because they are such great, adoptable dogs.
And I vote for a Lab or similar dog. They are mouthy during play normally and I think another type dog might be a bit freaked at having a dog knawing on their neck-- my dalmatian did NOT know what to make of my Lab when I adopted him.

If you want to let me know where you are located I could hk witha few rescuer and point you in a direction.

Maybe someone like this:
posted by beccaj at 5:44 AM on October 2, 2006

Our Catahoula Leopard Hounds would have a blast with your Lab. We got the biggest puppies we could find in a litter, and they grew to be 80 lbs each; but the breed varies from about 40 lbs on up. (We are pretty convinced the black one has some lab in him). They are Very Playful -- rough and tumble (at 2 years old) and only bark for about 30 seconds total per day (generally when someone is approaching or walking by the house). They sleep most of the day and are playful in the evenings.

***We put effort into training them properly and most people comment on their obedience and friendliness. Your results may vary depending on your efforts.***
posted by iurodivii at 9:02 AM on October 3, 2006

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