D-O-Double-G For Me
July 8, 2007 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a dog. I love dogs. The wife does not. She has compromised with me, and said that I can have a dog as long as it is not too big. Big to her means a black lab. I am looking for a dog that can guard the house, bite bad guys whilst walking at night, play with kids, catch a frisbee, and convert my wife to a dog lover. Does such a dog exist in a smaller form factor? Are border collies really as hyper as people say? Hook me up with a K-9.
posted by jasondigitized to Pets & Animals (80 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Caveat: I am not much of a dog person. But maybe that's actually helpful.

One of the only dogs I've ever really enjoyed hanging around and playing with was an ex's corgie. I found her fun, goofy, friendly, without being as annoying as I usually find dogs, especially smaller ones, or as unnerving as the bigger sort.

Mind you, I have no clue how much of this was "specific dog" vs "all corgies." But they're certainly in the smaller-form-factor category, relative to a black lab.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:39 PM on July 8, 2007

I am looking for a dog that can guard the house, bite bad guys whilst walking at night

Choosing a pet for its guard-dog traits inevitably leads to trouble. No matter how smart we think dogs are, they simply can't tell "good guys" from "bad guys."
posted by rajbot at 4:44 PM on July 8, 2007

I had an English Springer Spaniel that was the love of my life as a kid. Ours was particularly big for the breed, but normally they're around 40-50 lbs. (Labs, by comparison, average 60-80 lbs.) As a breed, they're generally active, sporty, intelligent and good with kids. (They also have their share of breed-specific health and temperament problems, so as with all dogs, your experience will depend on the particular dog in question.)
posted by cosmic osmo at 4:50 PM on July 8, 2007

Agree with rajbot about choosing a guard dog. You best bet is to try the shelters. We've had several great adopted dogs that pretty much fit your descriptions over the years. The shelter volunteers can help you guesstimate the adult size if you find a puppy. Treat them right, make them part of 'the pack' and they'll alert to anyone suspicious without much training involved. YMMV and good luck!!
posted by pearlybob at 4:56 PM on July 8, 2007

Take into account what rajbot says, but you may want a Jack Russell. Or maybe a beagle, if you'll forget the "bad guys" part and if he's not going to be left alone too much.

Of course, these both depend on your experience level with dogs, and what traits your wife will most like or dislike.
posted by dilettante at 4:56 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Boston terrier. Smallish (25 pounds), highly intelligent, goofy at times, serious at times, looks a bit like a boxer so people always seem to shy away from mine, and they don't shed much. Very, very easy to train, and loves to play.

I actually took a "Which breed is right for me" quiz and Boston terrier is what came up. Since owning my first one I've decided (and heard the same from other owners) that you never end up having just one Boston.

I should add that my now-husband was not a dog person, and had never had a dog in his life until we met, and now Gus is more his little buddy than he is mine.
posted by Brittanie at 5:00 PM on July 8, 2007

I agree with the above that what you want is some sort of terrier. A Jack Russell would be a good choice.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:06 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Border collies are great dogs, they generally are hyper, but I have known a few that were quite mellow. I'm not sure but it seems there is a distinct difference between the larger, bred for show, mellow temperment border collie and the smaller, bred to work, hyper border collie. I prefer the latter myself, but they are a lot of work, I certainly don't recommend one if it will be left by itself during working hours.

Great for playing frisbee, insanely good at rounding up soccer balls (or kids) and very endearing. And so cute!
posted by Tixylix at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2007

i am not a dog person, but i liked my neighbor's boxer. very mellow but friendly, short hair (so it didn't smell like dog) and didn't seem to drool much. a bigger dog than i would choose for myself, but i would have lived with it.

if you have kids, i wouldn't go for a dog that bites. go for a dog that barks--an intruder will not likely stick around long enough to learn the difference. or install an alarm system. they're cheaper than pets (and court fees when your pit bull takes off your neighbor's toddler's arm).

mutts rule.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2007

I'm not just a dog person, I'm a Lab person.

So it's just my Lab compulsion that has me here saying that not all Labs are big dogs.

My Yellow Lab was a fawning companion, no larger than an average Boxer, was much loved by the entire family and all the family's friends, and astoundingly protective of me.

In fact, that last part comes with a story...My best friend of many years was over. He knew the dog, she knew him well, they were good buddies.

But he and I were playing rough, and he gently threw me over his shoulder. I was fine, but the dog was having none of it. She took an attack stance, and began creeping toward him and between him and I. Her teeth and growl made it clear that she meant business.

I hugged her around the neck until she calmed down, and they were friends again. It was amazing though, how quickly a perceived threat to me turned her "protect" switch on.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:17 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think looking for a "guard dog" is a bad idea. If you want home security, get yourself a security system or a shotgun, depending on your point of view, not a dog. With the exception of highly-trained police dogs, any dog in your house is just going to be a momentary speed-bump to a thug with a tire iron or baseball bat.

Anyway, putting that aside, I definitely recommend scoping out your local shelter. A small, mixed-breed, adult dog may be just the ticket to getting your S.O. into dog ownership; you'll avoid most of the puppy issues, and get a dog that will probably be a little more sedate. Plus, no surprises on how big they'll grow.

I'm a big fan personally of beagles and beagle mixes, but really it's all about individual personalities. As long as you're not looking for a show dog, go for a mutt. :)
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:17 PM on July 8, 2007

Pembroke Welsh Corgi. My dog can catch a frisbee, is great with kids (and all people), attentive and protective. Plus, he's small enough that I can run him around the house for exercise in the winter.

Big fan.
posted by peacecorn at 5:17 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

30lbs. can be a good size for people who don't want a dog that's too big or too small. A mixed-breed adult like Kadin2048 mentions is a nice idea. Puppy time while cute - can be challenging.

I had a Field Spaniel mix who was a wonderful dog. She was about 30lbs. Really mild, very calm temperament. Easy to train. Great to exercise with. Beautiful. She had a good bark that sounded bigger than she really was which was great for security. This type of dog or similar mix could convert someone into a dog-lover.

Border collies are a special kind of commitment. We have one now and I love her to death, but she can be crazy demanding. She seriously wants to play frisbee straight until one of us dies. I would not get one unless the whole household is in agreement. This is probably a dog for the already converted.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:20 PM on July 8, 2007

I am a cat person, through and through. Dogs are all right, I like to watch and look them, but never really wanted one as a pet.

Until I spent some significant time with a couple of corgis. Wow. If I ever were to get a dog, a corgi would be it.

So thirding corgis, at least on the grounds that non-dog-people seem to like them.
posted by Squee at 5:35 PM on July 8, 2007

posted by IndigoJones at 5:37 PM on July 8, 2007

If border collie size is small enough for her, you could probably have your pick of many different mutts at a rescue organization or shelter. (petfinder.com even allows you to search for dogs by size.) If you specifically like labs (I'm not sure from your question), I'm sure you can find a lab mix that's an acceptable size.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:39 PM on July 8, 2007

I agree with the above that what you want is some sort of terrier. A Jack Russell would be a good choice.

If your wife is not really a dog person, as you've said, the hyperactive Jack Russell is not the breed I would recommend to convert her. They require a lot of attention and a lot of exercise, and they can be into bark bark barking, perhaps more than she might be able to stand. I've had all kinds of dogs my whole life and I know I could never have a Jack myself.

On the other hand, every Tibetan Terrier I've ever met has been a great mix of alert (bred to guard temples, will watch for your car and meet you at the door), active (can go on a run with you) and mellow—the sweetest, floppiest dog I know will sleep upside down all day and let babies crawl all over him and nap with him.
posted by lia at 5:42 PM on July 8, 2007

We had several herding-type dogs growing up. The best dog was an Australian Shepherd who was a total failure at being a sheep dog. He was too sweet to actually bite anything, but he did herd our chickens in a non-violent sort of way and was quite athletic. We had him from a breeder that my dad knew, and his biggest problem was just that he was really energetic and that scared small-me. Looking back, Joe was an awesome dog.

The worst dog we ever had was a border collie. She was bad at being a border collie, but not because of her disposition - it was because she was stupid. I'm sure this is true of any dog that isn't too bright, but her lack of IQ was a real hindrance. I say she was stupid, but honestly, she might have been made stupid by her former owners - she was a rescue, and from what I understand, working-type dogs that don't get adequate training at an early age turn out to be idiots.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:46 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

If your wife is not really a dog person, as you've said, the hyperactive Jack Russell is not the breed I would recommend to convert her. They require a lot of attention and a lot of exercise, and they can be into bark bark barking, perhaps more than she might be able to stand. I've had all kinds of dogs my whole life and I know I could never have a Jack myself.

I am not a dog person, my aunt owns a Jack Russell, and whenever I go over to her house, even with the dog crated, it drives me crazy. Yarp yarp yarp yarp just shut up already. I can't imagine having one in my house 24/7.
posted by Lucinda at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Rather than first choosing a breed, I think you could do extremely well by going to your local animal shelter and giving them exactly the description you gave here. Asking for a dog who is "medium sized, active, and good with kids" will (at least at the three animal shelters I have ever visited) give you plenty of wonderful dogs to choose from. Add a few more qualifiers (short vs long hair; age; already trained or not) and you will be able to narrow it down pretty well. Not all shelter dogs have behavioral problems or histories of abuse -- many, if not most, are just "surplus" dogs that are sweet and well-natured.

Similarly, there are a bunch of breed-specific rescue societies; the advantage of working with them is that they have a reputation for doing a lot of screening of both dogs and owners, so there is a good chance that the match between dog and household will work out well.
posted by Forktine at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Corgi or Jack Russell. Or just visit the pound and fall in love.
posted by ReiToei at 5:56 PM on July 8, 2007

I feel strongly enough about this that I finally made an account so I could answer. Tibetan Spaniels fit your criteria in every way except that they are very unlikely to bite strangers. (also, mine is completely uninterested in catching balls and Frisbees, but that's just him, it's not a breed characteristic.) Tibetan Spaniels are about 15 pounds at their heaviest, but they lack the nervous temperament that many small dogs have, though they don't exactly have a big dog personality, either - if anything, they are more like cats. But even though they're small, it doesn't mean they're dainty, or pushovers. my 12 pound dog regularly wrestles with 50-100 pound dogs at the park. though he never wins, he doesn't give up, either. Tibetan Spaniels are calm and friendly, and great with kids. it's in their nature to be guard dogs - they were bred to guard monasteries, and my dog's favorite pastime is to sit on the windowsill and look outside at what's happening in the yard (they like to sit up as high as possible). But they don't bark excessively, either, unless someone rings the doorbell or something particularly striking catches their attention. They also lack the really strong dog smell that a lot of other breeds have, and are generally very easy to take care of, in that they don't need a huge amount of exercise or grooming. They're energetic and sociable, and full of personality. downsides - their excess of personality translates into stubbornness and independence, which means they won't always listen to you; they're also hard to find and expensive when you do locate them. But in my opinion they're the perfect dog for people who are looking for small dogs. I couldn't ever see myself owning another breed again.
posted by dropkick queen at 6:00 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a C W Corgi. They're badass. Smart as hell, very easily trainable at any age, always learning new tricks, mischievous, insane memory, hyper alert 24-7 (those big ears ain't for nothin'), kid-loving, sweet, aim to please, obedient, funny. Hyper alert, but not hyper - they're calm and mellow indoors, and they like their naps. So cute, and entertaining.

Possible bonus (if you like this sort of thing, which I definitely do): they're herders, and if you and/or your kids run around the backyard they will relentlessly chase after you and bark at you and demand that you be herded to their satisfaction. Also, they're unbelievably good at gauging your mood and assessing whether or not to leave you alone or trot out the toys. When I walk into a room my dog freezes and stares at my face and studies my eyes for cues. He's pretty cool.

Minus: the shedding - they need to get brushed at least once a day.
posted by iconomy at 6:02 PM on July 8, 2007

Short notes. Guard dogs are not typically good family (or community) dogs. Herding is better than hunting is better than guarding, but your very best bet is probably to look at the breeds that have been bred for companionship; the Shipperkes, the Pomeranians, (my quest) the Keeshonds and others. They are smart AND sweet.

I've not known anyone who had Border Collies that would recommend them them to anyone who would not truly work them as herding dogs. They are truly dogs on a mission. OTOH, Shelties might work for you.
posted by vers at 6:03 PM on July 8, 2007

I've had several dog breeds over the years. Now have 5 Jack Russell Terriers. They are great if you'll give them the exercise they need (and most dogs need) tennis balls and frisbees . They are one of the smartest breeds (IMHO) that's one reason they show up in all those commercials. BUT if you're not able to get yourself obedience trained and give the time/commitment to the dog, maybe the Cat is the better alternative .
posted by Agamenticus at 6:07 PM on July 8, 2007

My SO and I had a border collie. Loved her greatly, but they are hyper and need a lot of activity and attention. They will try to 'herd' you in the house, which can be quite annoying. Ms DarkForest (the primary dog person here) says to give you an emphatic no. She also says Jack Russel Terriers are even worse in terms of activity level, and without the border collie's desire to obey.
posted by DarkForest at 6:17 PM on July 8, 2007

Whatever you decide, definitely check out Puppy Kindergarten for both you and your wife, oh and the dog too, I guess. Honestly? We went and the dog didn't learn a damn thing skills-wise. What Mr. JG and I took away from the class (he was SO not a dog person and I had dogs growing up) was invaluable. It gets you around other dog owners of various experience, it gets your pup out to see other people and other dogs (important!) and you have a little support group to vocalize frustrations and concerns.

He really didn't learn any of the skills during the class. That all came later. But our pup was well on his way to being the very well socialized little guy he is now, we figured out how to best approach training and understand the dog's behavior.

Also, Mr. JG didn't like or understand dogs much at all before we got ours and now they are buddies.

Good luck!
posted by jerseygirl at 6:21 PM on July 8, 2007

This is a hard question to answer without knowing how much space (indoor and outdoor), time and energy you have as well as your general lifestyle. I am a dog person; I have a pack of five mixed-breed rescue dogs. I highly recommend rescue organizations rather than shelters. Shelter staff are often so overwhelmed that they know little to nothing about the many individual dogs that run through the place. Rescue dogs are screened for adoptability and placed in foster homes, where they're observed in their interactions with humans and other animals, so they're more of a known quantity -- although there are no guarantees.

Purebred border collies and purebred terriers of every type tend to be VERY high energy dogs. They not only need a long daily walk (as does nearly every dog), but border collies and the other herding breeds such as Aussie shepherds need a full-time job or a constant, significant mental and physical challenge such as agility or therapy work. So you should consider those breeds only if you have ample time and energy to invest in tiring out your dog.

I have had two border collie mixes, though, and known several others, and while it's a crapshoot, I've anecdotally found that if you mix in another couple of breeds, it tends to retain the BC smarts, trainability and loyalty while cranking the drivenness way, way down. YMMV.

Everybody who is partial to a particular breed is going to say that breed is perfect for you -- but what you really need to do is meet a bunch of dogs, spend some time with each and dispassionately evaluate their *temperaments* and behavior. Don't take the kids, but do take someone along who has lots of dog experience and can size up dominance/submissiveness, anxiety, energy level aggression indicators, yata yata. If you really want to commit to a dog, you can adapt easily enough to more shedding than you bargained for (and if not, you shouldn't have a dog). What you want to avoid is bringing home that "cute," "right sized" dog that is actually a behavioral nightmare.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:21 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I say this as someone who doesn't like dogs: look into Jack Russel Terriers.
posted by lekvar at 6:26 PM on July 8, 2007

This is another vote for a Corgi, which is a sweet-tempered and versatile breed that also (in my experience) loves to chase a frisbee.

If you're negotiable on the frisbee point, though, I have to put in for the faithful basset hound. They're bigger than you think, at least the males are -- mine weighs roughly 60 pounds. But it's in compact form, so your wife still might agree that it meets your small dog criterion. My bassets are great with kids, loyal, and of course heartbreakingly cute if you like the droopy dog look.

As for the guard dog aspect, as far as I'm concerned the basset is the best of both worlds. They have deep, throaty barks, so prowlers around your house will hear an intimidating sound, but the dogs themselves are very friendly.
posted by jeffmshaw at 6:39 PM on July 8, 2007

Seconding the Schipperke. Go meet some today! They're a highly underrated sort of dog. And, according to Science, they are also just about too cute for words.
posted by barnacles at 6:40 PM on July 8, 2007

Couple things:
Nobody should ever advocate a Jack Russ to someone who is not a dog lover--at least not as a first dog. Same with a Lab---they're the most popular but usually the most common to find at the Humane Society because they're just too nutty.

I'm all for mutts, and they play into your scheme of getting her to love dogs. Take her to the shelter to see the unrelenting sadness that is an animal shelter.

I've had all kinds of dogs over time, right now I've got a border-collie mix and a golden retriever. Both are retired search-and-rescue dogs. I've worked with bite-trained dogs and show dogs...my Border is literally the most intelligent dog I've ever known. Every command she knows took 1 day of work, usually less than 30 minutes...I guess exceptions being some off-leash search commands and "fuss." (heel)

Great dogs for first-time dog people:
Border Collies--but they will REQUIRE training.
GSD's--don't meet your size requirement probably though.
Bull terriers--but no fetch
Golden's-gentle, sweet, devoted, ~ the same size as a lab. SAR people call them "Swamp collies."

But really--mutt. Get a mutt. Go to the shelter and get the dog that chooses you---don't choose a dog. You'll know. He'll tell you..."I'm your dog Dad" is what he'll say, and you'll adopt him, and you'll never look back.
posted by TomMelee at 6:41 PM on July 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

I absolutely love dogs-- of many different breeds. It delights me that the first and most common answer is the dog I came into the thread to recommend, the Corgi. They are so completely fun-loving and charming. I've never met one I didn't like immediately, and if I were to make a business of converting people into dog lovers, I would have mainly Corgis on my staff. And as a special treat for you, though everyone thinks of them as small dogs, if you look at them closely you will see that they are actually medium or even medium large dogs with really short legs. If you allow the breeder or anyone else to dock your dog's tail however, as so many do, please be aware that, although I will greet your dog with great friendliness, I will never speak to you again.

I would also say you should take a look at the Norwegian Elkhound. They are extremely intelligent and friendly, the females are just larger than cattle dogs, and I have been impressed with their protectiveness. At a Seattle coffeehouse, I once spoke sharply to a woman who was blocking an alleyway with her pickup when the exhaust from the running engine was getting in my face as I sat on a nearby bench, and about the next ten times she came there when I was present, her elkhound would come sit about ten feet away from me and peer at me until I noticed her (the dog) and made a show of friendly welcome, then she would wag her tail very briefly without approaching, and go back and lie down at her owner's feet. I was very disappointed when she stopped doing that.
posted by jamjam at 6:41 PM on July 8, 2007

Also, if you must have a purebred, I nth the corgi suggestion. Good-natured, medium-sized, medium-energy, unbreakable, and they don't have an ear-bleedingly annoying yap/bay/howl like beagles, Jacks. Other possibilities: border terriers are probably the most lowkey, laid-back terriers, but they're still terriers. Your wife would probably go nutty over a Cavalier King Charles spaniel; I know I do. But I'm thinking you want something more substantial.

Definitely not a Jack.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:42 PM on July 8, 2007

Jack Russells are terrible choices for people who "aren't dog people." They're hyper and yap and misbehave, on average, more than most dogs. JRTs are fairly well known as one of the more annoying, less trainable breeds as it goes.

Go to the local shelter and ask them what they recommend. They will ask the appropriate questions (housing, space, time, etc.). They may have something for you that day, or not, and you can check in every week or two with them if they don't.

I'm not inclined to recommend *for* a specific breed, but two not mentioned above that may work for your wife are Italian Greyhounds and Papillions. They are both smaller, laid-back dogs with incredible intelligence. The latter sheds a bit more than the former, but I like both. They are not guard dogs, but I don't really buy into that angle either in all honesty. The only guard dog I'd use is an ill-bred pitbull on a chain in a junkyard, and that's another story entirely.. seconding the "can't tell good from bad" above when it comes to "good" guard dogs. It's mostly show, and any dog barking will do if it's going to deter an intruder in the first place.
posted by kcm at 6:46 PM on July 8, 2007

Yeah, definitely choose the *dog* not the *breed*. I had my heart set on getting a big mellow greyhound and wound up falling for a Jack Russell (the lovely and talented Lyle, who's been nothing but delightful. The warnings I got about the breed, many of which have been given above (too hyper, not good as a first dog, etc.) have simply not been true in this case. He's 21 lbs, super smart, fetches and plays, would be a guard dog if I let him, and seems to have a winning charm with non-dog-people.
posted by judith at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2007

(I second the "dog, not the breed" people implicitly with what I said - that's why I recommend asking the pound/shelter what they recommend, since they will know their current dogs very very well and will work to match you up with the *dog* regardless of breed.)
posted by kcm at 6:53 PM on July 8, 2007

I had an English Springer Spaniel that was the love of my life as a kid.

Same here, really. Not a guard dog, but everything else you want.
posted by poppo at 7:04 PM on July 8, 2007

you could also adopt a retired racing greyhound, seeing eye dog, or police dog. they're all well trained.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:10 PM on July 8, 2007

I'm kind of surprised by all the Corgi and JRT recommendations -- I guess that this is a good reminder that you need to find the right dog, not just the right breed. All the Corgis and JRTs I've ever encountered have been not only incessant barkers, but also ankle nippers. No big deal if you are an adult (as long as you aren't on your bicycle), but scary for small children (and dangerous to Queen Mums). Perhaps the ones I've met have been atypical for their breeds, but if the wife is not really a dog person, I would proceed with caution with these breeds, making sure that you get a non-yappy and non-nippy individual dog.
posted by Forktine at 7:25 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

My corgi just died a couple of years ago -- he was a purebred show dog who ended up in a shelter. Being purebred, he was dumb as a brick, but he was a complete sweetheart. He also had a surprisingly deep bark that did a good job of freaking people at the front door out before they actually saw him.

Also helpful: he was an excellent indicator of coming thunderstorms. Two hours before any storm he was in the basement cowering in a corner. Helpful to know when not to grill out!

At any rate, my dad was absolutely not a "dog person", but even he grudgingly got to like the dog. They do blow their coats in a crazy way in the spring and fall, but that's what dark carpet is for.
posted by olinerd at 7:26 PM on July 8, 2007

Be careful about a Border Collie if you don't have work for it to do. My parents' dog is a sweet and amazingly smart animal, but when she doesn't have something to occupy her she can cause a lot of trouble (destroying furniture, for example). Training is a must, and they need far more exercise than your average house-dog. They're definitely up for frisbee playing, just be prepared to do it (or something else active) every single day. A bored herding dog could sour your wife on dogs permanently.

I'm a big fan of mutts as well. We had cocker spaniel-poodle crosses growing up that were playful, well mannered, and barked surprisingly fiercely at strangers. I wouldn't call them a serious guard dog but they were at least a deterrent. Definitely consider taking your wife to a shelter to see if there's a mixed dog that calls out to you.
posted by waterlily at 7:37 PM on July 8, 2007

Blue Heeler or Aussie Shepherd. I've had border collies and they are very intense- but the heelers and Aussies or heeler/ aussie mixes are really great- a bit mellower, still need the exercise, but they are not neurotic about having an activity like the borders....

Heelers are fabulous clowns, too.... with an appealing, compact but robust build... and short hair. and they smile!!
posted by mistsandrain at 7:41 PM on July 8, 2007

Are border collies really as hyper as people say?

posted by normy at 7:45 PM on July 8, 2007

Let me just point out that no dog can convert a dog hater into a dog lover. I hate dogs because they smell, they poop, they shed, and they make noise.

Get one you'd like and just make sure it doesn't inconvenience or bother your wife.
posted by konolia at 7:47 PM on July 8, 2007

My favorite dog's mother was a sheltie, dad was a basset hound, she had the most amazing ears I have ever seen on a dog, they flopped down like dad's, until she heard something interesting then her ears would go up like mom's and indicate the direction of the sound.
posted by hortense at 7:48 PM on July 8, 2007

Retired racing greyhounds are generally not 'well-trained' straight from the track unless you mean that they can walk on lead, which is an extremely minimalist definition of 'well-trained'.

Greys are wonderful, but straight off the track they don't know anything about being a pet. There is an adjustment period for them. Tae would tell you this, if she could talk. But she's asleep on my floor.

I owned corgis as a child, and they are extremely bright and high energy. I would not recommend one as a dog for someone who isn't a dog person.

A JRT for someone who is not a dog person is going to be a nightmare. They smoke crack to maintain their energy levels, as far as I can tell. I love dogs dearly and JRTs are just too much for me.

You need to investigate very seriously and think about your lifestyle, not get advice off the internet. Dogs live a long time.

Read this for a start.
posted by winna at 7:59 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Blue heelers and kelpies are great too, but they are working dogs and can be a bit nippy. Like the border collies they are smart, very trainable and very loyal.

Gotta say, as an Australian, I've never seen an Australian shepherd. From the google image results I'd say they look about 3/4 border collie and 1/4 blue heeler, though a lot of those pictures look like border collies.

Get a Jack Russell if you want your wife to leave you. Digging, yapping, tearing things apart and generally playing mind games with you. Aggressive - the epitomy of small dog syndrome.
posted by Tixylix at 8:02 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

In my experience, small dogs are either stupid, hyper or both. Small Dog Syndrome (as Tixylix points out) is a horrible thing and very common. I admit that I'm biased buy - for heavens sake - don't choose a dog purely on size.

Judith's suggestion of going to the local shelter is an excellent one. Failing that, if you have your heart set on a particular breed, visit breeders around your area. Talk to them. Look at the puppies but pay close attention to the parents.

Lastly, if your wife's primary probelm (other than not liking dogs) is size, then just get a puppy of any sort to steal her heart. Small, helpless and not the slightest bit scary, it will literally grow on her. Also, puppies will fit into the family a lot better than an already grown and pre-socialized dog.

(I grew up with Dobermans - while not amazingly intelligent, they are loyal and protective, excellent with children, good for either couch-potatoes or fitness fanatics and are an low-maintenance dog. Get a puppy from a reputable breeder and you will have a sweet friend for about 12 years).
posted by ninazer0 at 8:23 PM on July 8, 2007

My boyfriend and I have a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retreiver (basically a miniature retreiver). He is a fantastic dog - very loving, never barks and extremely intelligent. He is about 30 pounds and I cannot even beging to count how many compliments we have recieved on what a good looking dog he is. He does shed though - he sheds a lot.

We found him on petfinder after spending a lot of time looking and researching which dogs would be good for our lifestyle. I actually saw his picture, fell in love with him and then researched the breed. I spent about two hours with him at the shelter before adopting him to make sure we were a good fit. Take your time when finding your dog - this is not an impule buy.
posted by miss meg at 8:29 PM on July 8, 2007

I'm about to go to bed and don't have time for a full read, so let me just second (or n'th) some thing a few people have said. As a life long and very dedicated dog person who prefers dogs to almost all humans and gives substantial time and money both to my own beloved cairn terrier and to various dog causes, let me say this:

1. Under no circumstances get a Jack Russel. My parents-in-law and brother-in-law both have them and they are spectacular dogs whom I love with all my heart, but they are the worst possible choice for non-dog-people and they are a terrible fit for the situation you describe. The people recommending them don't seem to own JRTs themselves, or they wouldn't be recommending them in your situation.

2. I know and love many Border Collies, often called the smartest dogs in the world. They are (or can be) incredibly smart and they are almost all incredibly gentle and good-natured, and my LORD they are beautiful, however they are extremely purpose-bred herd dogs. This is so true that most serious BC breeders and owners will tell you that it is actually cruel to the animal to own one of these dogs if you do not intend to spend several hours a week "working" the dog -- either in serious, goal oriented "play" (such as frisbee, fetch etc.) or, better, simulated (or actual!) herding. These dogs are not "hyper" (JRTs, on the other hand, are), but they do want and really need to work and if they don't they can have severe mental problems. Unless you're ready to put in the work, a BC (or Australian Shepherd) is not a good choice.

Go to a rescue shelter and get a mutt. Seriously, take your wife and let her fall in love. It's going to be great. (Also, I don't know if anyone mentioned this, but if you insist on buying a purebreed (and I did, so no judgments) please, please, please, I beg you, buy from a reputable breeder and not a pet shop. Please. I thank you, and you will thank me.)
posted by The Bellman at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2007

Get a Jack Russell if you want your wife to leave you. Digging, yapping, tearing things apart and generally playing mind games with you. Aggressive - the epitomy of small dog syndrome.

Again, this is completely the opposite of my experience. My Jack Russell has done exactly none of that. The adoption coordinator at the SPCA said that in her experience, the right dogs mostly find the right people, especially when the people have done a lot of research and thought about what they want. My dog totally chose me (we played for a bit and then he laid his head in my hand and went to sleep - I was smitten). You might go hang out at some dog parks and see what sort of dogs charm you, and then talk to their owners about their experiences.
posted by judith at 8:32 PM on July 8, 2007

Nthing, please go to a shelter and get a mutt. I think that asking for a recommendation of a breed is just asking for trouble. The animal that you get might very well not fit in with what is considered the typical disposition of the breed.

The shelter will have a wide variety of sizes, mixed breeds and temperaments to choose from. Purebred dogs more often have health concerns. There is a mutt out there that is perfect for you. Your local animal shelter probably has a website or check out petfinder.com
posted by fieldtrip at 8:41 PM on July 8, 2007

I vote for rat terriers and fox terriers. When I was a kid living in the country, we had rattlesnakes, foxes, etc. infringing on the property. Our rat terriers and fox terriers protected us and let us know when a predator or stranger was around. As an adult, I had a rottweiler mix, the biggest marshmallow on earth -- let kids yank her ears, tail, etc. and never tried to bite. The bad press about rotties (and pit bulls) all being attackers is one-sided; it's the PERSON and not the dog who makes a dog bite, attack, etc. And please get a dog from a rescue organization or shelter.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 8:42 PM on July 8, 2007

Super happy owner of a Beagle mix.


-Small enough (25-30 pounds) that she's never feels "in the way."

-Big enough to take on backpacking trips and multi mile long bike rides.

-Very active when let out, likes to run and "hunt."

-Seems just as content to sleep 20 hours a day--kind of like a convenient "off switch."

-Classic "hound" look. Perfect masculine "dude" dog.

-Overall a perfect take along companion dog, on the bike, trail, car of friends backyards.


-She's a hound: She snores. Loudly. Kind of cute , but she has this ability to sleep around the clock.

-She's a hound: She's ruled by her nose. You do not exist when she's "on the chase."

-She's a hound: She hunts. Every living thing that is not a dog or a person is potential food. In the past eight years she has bagged and eaten squirrel, rabbit, cat, birds, opossum, and even thought it would be fun to flip a koi out of a pond, bear-style.
posted by sourwookie at 9:10 PM on July 8, 2007

Also, puppies will fit into the family a lot better than an already grown and pre-socialized dog.

I have to strongly disagree. After having had both puppies and adult dogs in my lifetime, I will always prefer to adopt an adult dog. My 14 year old chocolate lab passed away a year ago January. I adopted her when she was five. She was the coolest dog I have ever known and I have known a lot of dogs. She was being fostered when I met her and her previous family had to give her up because of the kids' allergies. (They had the dog before they had the kids.)

Adult dogs are a known quantity. You know their personality, they are frequently already trained, they've already had their shots. You know what you are getting. There are many great adult dogs out there looking for a second chance and who were given up for many reasons...family had never owned a dog and didn't realize what they were getting into, family wasn't willing to take an obediance class, breed didn't match owner, family moved and couldn't find a dog-friendly apartment, etc. I'm a big fan of mixed breeds for many reasons.

Puppies are cute. Yes, they are. But unless you are a stay or work-at-home dad and can take over the training of a puppy, don't force a puppy on your wife and kids. Especially if your wife isn't a dog fan already.
posted by jeanmari at 9:21 PM on July 8, 2007

Get a Jack Russell if you want your wife to leave you. Digging, yapping, tearing things apart and generally playing mind games with you. Aggressive - the epitomy of small dog syndrome.

Well, that's my experience with them, and these traits are typical of the breed. My sister's JRT, well, it was about four or five years before it settled down and stopped being a complete nightmare.

SourWookie makes a point about hounds: if you call it, it won't come. It is off sniffing something and the only way to get it's attention is to run it down and tackle it.

That Tibetan terrier looks like a good boy. Thanks Lia.
posted by Tixylix at 10:10 PM on July 8, 2007

nthing the mutts are great crowd and the suggestions of going to a shelter.

If you're set on a purebreed though, I can recommend the keeshound. The site says 35-40 pounds, although if mine weighs 30, I'd be amazed.
Keeshounds are quite pretty as well.

Best dog I've ever had, hands down (after a lifetime of dog ownership) was a pet-quality purebred sheltie, so another vote there.

Working dogs are great; easily trained, smart, family friendly. Have fun choosing!
posted by faineant at 10:24 PM on July 8, 2007

Gotta say, as an Australian, I've never seen an Australian shepherd. From the google image results I'd say they look about 3/4 border collie and 1/4 blue heeler, though a lot of those pictures look like border collies.


The name is misleading -- they were bred in the western US.

Around here, it is really common for people to cross-breed Australian Shepherds and Blue Heelers, which seems to produce really pleasant dogs, good both for working stock and as pets. It's a combination you might want to keep an eye out for -- the size is right, and they certainly like chasing frisbees. Not nearly as maniacal as a border collie, either. Might be hard to find in areas where they aren't in demand as working dogs, though.
posted by Forktine at 10:30 PM on July 8, 2007

You don't want a dog that would be purpose built to bite intruders--too much of a risk around kids. The main "guard dog" function you actually need is just barking, since this is usually enough to let you know if someone's creeping around, or to encourage a potential intruder to try another house.

I second what others have said here, that you should find a dog who's personality you like; if you're looking for purebread though, you might consider a golden, since they're an especially fun, gentle, trainable sort of dog, who will probably love the whole frisbee thing, and can usually win over just about anyone.
posted by washburn at 12:16 AM on July 9, 2007

Also, I'll second Bellman's advice above re buying from a reputable breeder if you decide to go with a purebred. Purebred dogs often have species-specific medical issues that tend to pop up, and good breeders will take these into account when choosing which dogs to breed. Hip Dysplasia, for example, is common problem among Goldens that needs to be watched out for.

The easier solution, of course, is to just go the mixed breed route, unless you're really planning on training or using a purebred dog for the sort of things it was bred to enjoy doing.
posted by washburn at 12:28 AM on July 9, 2007

Jeanmarie: Out of the dogs I've had that were adopted as puppies and the ones that were adopted as adults, the puppies always fitted into the family better (3 puppies and 3 adult dogs over the last 30 years). This could be because the adults were usually hard-luck cases and badly socialised, but that just reinforces my point. Puppies grow into a family and it tends to reinforce the loyalty - especially of the dog to the children. My own father couldn't give me more than a stern talking-to for years because the dog would disapprove and tell him off with a quiet but earnest growl.

However, you make a very good issue about puppies for couples that do not have a stay-a-home partner. I hadn't considered that but you're quite right - puppy training is not for everyone and leaving a puppy at home alone is usually not a good thing.

OP - this is one other thing to take into consideration as well.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:34 AM on July 9, 2007

I think you should consider a pit bull from a reputable breeder who focuses on temperament. These can be very sweet dogs that adore human attention. Intelligence is higher than most breeds. Some claim they are also good with kids. I've never seen any interact with children so I can't say. Whether they make good guard dogs or not is debatable. If I was you I wouldn't bother trying. Do get them involved in a canine good citizen program and pay attention when they are around other dogs because the dog aggression is for real. This may be a controversial choice with your wife if she is already against dogs. If that's the case there is no point in swimming uphill but I do think these dogs are under rated as companions.

I have mostly owned mutts and other adopted dogs. I don't recommend doing this. A number of them have had health issues from bad breeding. Putting down a 3 or 4 year old dog with bad joints, sucks. Never mind the vet bills that came first. This issue is more prevalent in large dogs but I am no longer a fan of adopting dogs of any size. I think puppy nutrition and early care make a marked difference in the health of all dogs. Furthermore real breeders don't make much money from their dogs. It's usually nothing more than an expensive and time consuming hobby. I intend to support the breeders who are devoted to the care and long range good of the breeds they work with.

Please think twice before you get a Jack Russell terrier.
posted by BigSky at 2:27 AM on July 9, 2007

DO NOT consider a border collie. They make acceptable pets for very dedicated dog families, but even then, keeping them entertained is something of a full time job.

My family dog has been a Springer Spaniel for the past 10 years. She has, seriously, converted more non-dog people into dog lovers than any other dog I've ever known. Including an ex- who was not a dog person and who started to talk about wanting a dog after meeting the Springer.
posted by OmieWise at 4:19 AM on July 9, 2007

Seconding Sourwookies points about Beagles/Beagle mixes; they are great with kids and pretty laid back in general, have short hair so shedding is less of an issue and are smart enough to take well to training without being too high-strung. But if there are rabbits around, they will take off after them. Also agree with everyone else that guard-dog traits should be the least of your concerns. I have heard that the mere presence of a dog tends to discourage evil-doers, though.
posted by TedW at 5:41 AM on July 9, 2007

On the "guard dog" tip: if someone really wants in your house, they'll kill your dog. (Or, in my case, no need to kill them - open the front door and let them out, you won't see them again.) On the other hand, if someone is looking to be opportunistic, a barking dog behind a door is less attractive than a silent house. Get a dog that barks, there's your requirement there. We had a toy poodle when I was a kid with a terrifying bark. We didn't need a "no soliciting" sign by the door - people would walk away after the dog started up. We had to lock her up in a back bedroom at Halloween because it scared the little kids.

There is no guarantee with breed (I've got a beagly dog, she's awful, we love her in spite of herself) except general size and coat. Do not get a longhair dog if your wife doesn't really like dogs, because the more hair the more upkeep and the more shedding. Beware water dogs because they have a particularly doggy smell from the oiliness of their coats. I've got the beagle-thing, a pit bull or Staffordshire mix, and a boxer; none of them really have much of an undercoat (which is sticky and hard to get off the sofa cushions) and they don't need brushing, just an occasional bath. My greyhound had masses of undercoat (they tend to grow it thick when the weather is cool because they don't have much body fat) that stuck to everything and had to be picked out of the vacuum brush with a chopstick and scissors, though aside from that I agree that a small grey is a great non-doggy pet because they're big obedient cats.

Little baby puppies are very hard to coat-predict. You want them 4-6 months old before you get a good idea of what their adult fur will be like, if you don't know exactly what breed they are.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:29 AM on July 9, 2007

I personally have transitioned from "dog neutral" to dog lover. Our wire haired fox terrier has positively changed my life. The dog is more like a member of the family than a dog. She helps with groceries (in her doggy way of course), swims in the pool, chases tennis balls, hunts rodents, and generally keeps guard around the perimeter. I can't imagine my life without a fuzzy terrier around.

She does not bite, but this is a personality trait more than a breed thing. She was socialized at a young age.

IF you have a fenced yard, and IF the doggus has enough to keep her busy and fatigued (frequent walks are a good idea) then a well socialized wire fox is definitely a good family choice. (I can't stress the well socialized part enough - but this applies to any breed).

Foxes can be yappy, but again this is personality (dog-anality?) rather than breed specific. You should note that Jack Russells were bred down from the wire/smooth fox and energy levels can be representative. I have found more mean Jacks than foxes tho.

Alternatively, go to the pound. There are a lot of really great dogs that have been neglected. WARNING: going to a pound with kids can be a BIG mistake. Kids generally go for cute. You want the dog to choose you, not the other way around. Sometimes however, pound puppies have significant issues that take time to work through.

More info: wikipedia is your friend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_Terrier_(Wire)
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 6:42 AM on July 9, 2007

Go To a Shelter! you can test drive the used muttly dogs, and you'll immediately know if its an annoying yapper or too hyper or too hairy or too smelly whatever it is that specifically makes your SO "not much of a dog person".
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:52 AM on July 9, 2007

Bichon-Shitzu with some Cocker Spaniel thrown in for good measure. Does not shed! Was medium-difficult to house-train (Bichon's are notoriously bad at "marking") - if you already have hardwood floors - then you will be fine ;-)

Incredibly family friendly. Thinks he is a "big-dog", chases balls, sticks & frisbee's. Incredibly fast.

Excellent guard dog - in terms that he will bark at any non-normal sounds. Doubtful he could back it up, chances are he would lick someone to death, rather than bite 'em.
posted by jkaczor at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2007

My wife never had a dog and was actually afraid of them. Until we got a yellow labrador, she is now 10 months old and my wife LOVES her!
Very friendly dog. She is less than 70 lbs.
Labs like to be around people and kids can do whatever they want to them, they can take the punishment.

Go with a lab, you won't regret it....
posted by FLHunter3006 at 7:44 AM on July 9, 2007

Oh - and he converted my wife from dog agnostic to "I couldn't live without him". Heck - after he was about two years old, she actually let him sleep at the foot of the bed - amazing for someone who never owned a pet - let alone a dog before.
posted by jkaczor at 7:44 AM on July 9, 2007

You've already gotten a zillion responses so I'm probably repeating something here, but I wouldn't go strictly based on breed. Our two dogs are German Shepherd and Chow mixes (45 lbs), both of which breeds are supposed to be potentially vicious/dangerous, etc., but they're so well trained that they will obey a two year old boy. However, they LOOK and SOUND dangerous, which is important for protection. People cross the street when I walk them.

So, don't judge on breed or look - get whatever dog you want (check the local shelters!), and train them exceptionally well. Make sure you have adequate time, energy, and resources to devote to this, and make sure your wife is on board with the discipline, if not the caretaking.
posted by desjardins at 7:53 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've known my vet for 20 years - since before he was a vet, and I asked him this question before answering. His answers:

"Rat terriers, including the Jack Russell, are the ritalin kids of the dog world..."

"...your best bet is to adopt a great mutt. When you go with purebreds, you run a lot of medical and behavioral risks due to unsavory characters who pretend to be breeders." He went on to say that not all breeders were bad, but that he has seen and had to euthanize too many good, sweet, adoptable dogs and it pisses him off.

He adopted a dachshund many years ago, who is a great little dog. Full-sized dachsunds would meet your needs, but ferchrissakes ADOPT one instead of buying one. They're a little harder to train, but if you adopt one it's likely already housebroken. They're complete clowns, protective of their owners, portable, don't stink as much as other dogs and absolutely love to cuddle. My ex has a pair of them and they're simply awesome dogs.
posted by TeamBilly at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2007

I would add that JRT's can be territorial. I was always afraid that my parents' JRT would get overprotective and bite my kid when she was between 3-5 years old. I saw the dog growl at my mom several times. I would not choose to own a JRT, or any type of terrier because they can be so territorial, hyper, and annoying. LOL

I have a Boxer and Siberian Husky. Both are great family dogs, in my opinion. However, Huskies shed--a LOT. They are definitely not for people who love super-clean houses. The Boxer does not shed much or drool, and he lets us do whatever we want to him, practically. Don't overlook a medium-sized dog in your quest for the perfect companion. :)
posted by cass at 9:19 AM on July 9, 2007

Mostly you need to find a dog that clicks with your wife. It is all about the relationship/connection. I have a friend who is not a dog person at all, and when he sees the yellow lab I take care of, he goes completely gaga (despite the fact that he's quite allergic to her!). I never would have guessed how crazy he is for Beignet, it just happened.
posted by radioamy at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2007

I'd talk to a reputable rescue organization and tell them exactly what they've told us. Rescue dogs typically live in foster families rather than shelters, so you'll be able to get a realistic assessment of the dog's temperament in real-life situations. They can help you find a compatible dog. Also, since they know and care about the dog, they'll do whatever they can to help the settling-in process.

And Big Sky is exactly right about pit bulls, although in some communities they aren't welcome (and, to be fair, some of them have trouble getting along with other dogs). So if your perfect rescue dog turns out to have pit bull ancestry, don't let his relatives' reputation deter you.

I'm biased, of course. Mine is a sturdy little guy, even shorter than knee height on me (and I'm 5'1"), around 40 pounds; he's sunny-tempered, friendly, alert, eminently trainable, and he smells nice.
posted by tangerine at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2007

Wanting to point out traits of a reputable dog breeder...

First understand that any "purebred" dog is inbred...period, at some level.

A "reputable" /cough dog breeder will:
-provide pedigrees for both Sire and Dam ON SITE, 3 generations deep. See the same name? Don't take the dog.
-Have sire and dam on site for inspection.
-Allow you to play with any dog in the entire litter.
-Will interview you before allowing you to purchase the animal.
-Shots up to date and on record, and will provide MASTER copies of all of these things to you, as well as vet contact information.
-Not charge $300-500 for a dog. Wrong price. Someone who just loves the breed and wanted to chill out their bitch by letting her have a litter will charge less. Someone with a seriously good bloodline and fine pedigree will charge $1,000 or more. Usually more.

-a "vision" or "hip" guarantee simply means that if the dog develops one of these issues, they will give you a new puppy for free, take the old dog, and destroy it. They will NOT help you pay for vet fees.
-most puppies come home with worms, even ones from breeders, he/she WILL need dewormed. Their belly will feel firm and they'll seem sleepy if they're worminated.
-"Purebred but no papers" means, effectively, "not purebred". The papering organizations will not issue papers if several conditions are not met, and it's also not free. That being said, papers mean NOTHING about a quality pedigree and do NOT guarantee a lack of inbreeding.

With that being said...if you really want to spend $700 on a dog, get one from the pound and make a donation. That $700 will save dozens of animals, not just one who'd be sold to someone anyway.
posted by TomMelee at 2:23 PM on July 9, 2007

Chiming in with the "Do not get a Jack Russell" crowd. I own 2 Jacks and love them to death. I love the breed in general.. but let me tell you, my extremely dog-loving family practically hates them. They occasionally enjoy interacting with them, but for the most part they think that I am insane for having them.
I should add that my Father-in-law, who does not like dogs, can barely tolerate to be in the same room with them.
posted by citizngkar at 5:08 PM on July 9, 2007

N-thing the no Jack Russell/Border Collie crowd. Great dogs, but they are for dedicated owners.

A lot of people are recommending the pound. I think the pound can be a great place, but there are some advantages with purebreds. A good breeder can make your dog ownership experience easier- you can meet the parents, get advice, and purebreds are a little bit more predictable. No, they aren't perfectly predictable, but you won't end up like some people I knew with a tiny puppy from the pound growing into a 120 behemoth.

But the pound is a great way to do a good deed and avoid the tedious search for a decent breeder, as well as congenital defects that even some good purebreds harbor. For a good breeder expect to wait at least a few months and even then there are waiting lists for the best litters.

My tip for the pound is don't go for the cute puppies. Cute puppies are cute, but I think it's a gamble. Older puppies and younger dogs are easier to evaluate for temperament, size, and other qualities that are important to you. Also, if you are really lucky the dog came from an original good home and is already out of the wetting/chewing issues. A lot of people get puppies and then have to move or give up up because of lack of time. A pound dog is also nice because you can get mixes that have the good qualities of let's say a lab, with different sizes and colors.
posted by melissam at 6:34 PM on July 9, 2007

I've got a very sweet and mellow Jack Russell-Beagle mix (they call it a Jackabee).

Super smart, tender, friendly with other dogs and people. Loyal without being a bully about it, restful at home and a can o' whopass at the park.

Let me distract you with her cuteness

I wouldn't advise going with a JRT, but mixes are great and tend to smooth out the intensity of a purebred.
posted by cior at 8:50 AM on July 18, 2007

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