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Hi guys,

I am thinking about buying my first dog and am looking at different breeds to try and narrow down what to get. I have plenty of experience with dogs but none with training them. I've done lots of research into training techniques (I've got a 10 page document that is still a work in progress!) and I think I've got a good idea of the theory behind training (obedience training, clicker training, positive reinforcement methods, puppy training classes etc) but I imagine the practice might be quite different!

In my research into different breeds, some are said to be much more trainable than others, which I totally understand, but I suppose my question is if you put time and effort into the correct training methods (doing multiple short sessions each day with a puppy), will you generally find that any breed can reach a good level of obedience? Or are the harder to train breeds likely to lack this ability even if you put lots of effort into trying to teach them?

I mentioned pet standard in the title as I'm not looking to enter any dog shows or anything, but I would like a relatively well-behaved dog that is toilet trained, isn't overly mouthy or vocal and can master the basic set of commands (sit, stay, heel, come etc) Of course I know that dogs are dogs and they will never be perfect, but as I will be caring for him/her on my own, I would like them to be obedient.

The breeds that I'm currently considering are pomeranian, cocker spaniel, or goldendoodle, all of which seem to vary in trainability/intelligence/energy levels quite a bit (again I'm aware that dogs can be very individual even within the breed). I'm hoping to work out what the best things are to prioritise - any help gratefully received :) I really want to provide the best possible home for my pup and make sure that I'm doing things the right way.
 

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I think breed traits are important when choosing a dog. Is the breed meant to be friendly with strangers or aloof? Are they meant to work in close proximity to other dogs, or were they originally bred for solitary work, or even for outright dog aggression? Were they bred to work closely with people, or have they been bred to make their own decisions on their own time without human input?

"Trainability" the way it's used in breed websites/descriptions tends to really mean "biddability", or how much the breed as a whole tends to care what you want. It is sometimes described as "willingness/motivation to please". It often relates to the extent to which a breed has been designed to do a job WITH people, based in relationship. Those breeds will often be described as "high trainable". EX: Labs and goldens care a great deal about what the humans want, and tend to be innately motivated by praise. Huskies could give a flying hoot and are more concerned about what's in it for them. A bulldog will think about it and get back to you in the next five minutes if it's worth doing.

Basically- yes, every dog can be made to change behavior with the right motivations, but the journey to a dog that responds the first time you tell it to do something is not always the same roadmap. There are also breed traits that may make certain things more or less difficult, and problem behaviors that may run in breeds to be aware of. For example, Pomeranians are often quite vocal and can trend towards being high strung and nervous. Cocker Spaniels, specifically the "buff" color, are known for widespread resource guarding issues (I believe specific to American Cockers). Goldendoodles have a HUGE range of personalities because of the lack of standardization in breed practices, but most pet professionals will tell you they come across a lot of difficult to upkeep coats (which mat VERY easily if not properly brushed daily, which most breeders do not explain t puppy owners how to do), and hyperactive temperaments (likely from poor breeding stock being chosen for the mix, since high quality breeding stock isn't going to be sold to be mixed with another breed).

What traits are you looking for in a dog that is leading you to these three very different breeds/breed mixes?
 

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I think breed traits are important when choosing a dog. Is the breed meant to be friendly with strangers or aloof? Are they meant to work in close proximity to other dogs, or were they originally bred for solitary work, or even for outright dog aggression? Were they bred to work closely with people, or have they been bred to make their own decisions on their own time without human input?

"Trainability" the way it's used in breed websites/descriptions tends to really mean "biddability", or how much the breed as a whole tends to care what you want. It is sometimes described as "willingness/motivation to please". It often relates to the extent to which a breed has been designed to do a job WITH people, based in relationship. Those breeds will often be described as "high trainable". EX: Labs and goldens care a great deal about what the humans want, and tend to be innately motivated by praise. Huskies could give a flying hoot and are more concerned about what's in it for them. A bulldog will think about it and get back to you in the next five minutes if it's worth doing.

Basically- yes, every dog can be made to change behavior with the right motivations, but the journey to a dog that responds the first time you tell it to do something is not always the same roadmap. There are also breed traits that may make certain things more or less difficult, and problem behaviors that may run in breeds to be aware of. For example, Pomeranians are often quite vocal and can trend towards being high strung and nervous. Cocker Spaniels, specifically the "buff" color, are known for widespread resource guarding issues (I believe specific to American Cockers). Goldendoodles have a HUGE range of personalities because of the lack of standardization in breed practices, but most pet professionals will tell you they come across a lot of difficult to upkeep coats (which mat VERY easily if not properly brushed daily, which most breeders do not explain t puppy owners how to do), and hyperactive temperaments (likely from poor breeding stock being chosen for the mix, since high quality breeding stock isn't going to be sold to be mixed with another breed).

What traits are you looking for in a dog that is leading you to these three very different breeds/breed mixes?
Thank you for this - I suppose eagerness to please is fairly important to me. The main traits I am looking for is a small to medium dog that will be affectionate and reasonably easy to please, or at least train. Happy for a fairly active dog but ideally not one that is impossible to tire out (so I'd be looking at show cockers rather than working). My house is a terrace so ideally not a huge barker. My 'dream' dog would be a golden retriever but I just don't have the space (or strength probably!) for one so I'm basically trying to look for a similar dog in a smaller package.
 

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Thank you for this - I suppose eagerness to please is fairly important to me. The main traits I am looking for is a small to medium dog that will be affectionate and reasonably easy to please, or at least train. Happy for a fairly active dog but ideally not one that is impossible to tire out (so I'd be looking at show cockers rather than working). My house is a terrace so ideally not a huge barker. My 'dream' dog would be a golden retriever but I just don't have the space (or strength probably!) for one so I'm basically trying to look for a similar dog in a smaller package.
I know SO many people with wonderfully trained Goldens. And they come from all different financial backgrounds, so where they live varies quite a bit. I have one friend who has a beautiful home and a large backyard, she plays fetch with her Golden. I have one who lives in a teeeeeeeeeny apartment. She and her Golden go for walks, go to dogparks, local doggy daycare.

They are both wonderfully trained, amazing temperament dogs. I wouldn't say Goldens require a huge amount of "living space" as long as you can get them out and get them appropriate exercise.
 

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I know SO many people with wonderfully trained Goldens. And they come from all different financial backgrounds, so where they live varies quite a bit. I have one friend who has a beautiful home and a large backyard, she plays fetch with her Golden. I have one who lives in a teeeeeeeeeny apartment. She and her Golden go for walks, go to dogparks, local doggy daycare.

They are both wonderfully trained, amazing temperament dogs. I wouldn't say Goldens require a huge amount of "living space" as long as you can get them out and get them appropriate exercise.
Thank you for this! Maybe I should consider it more :) I just think they are the most beautiful dogs
 

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I've personally lived with three Goldens in an apartment, and multiple Labs, including my very high energy field Lab (not all at once- I had my Lab and my Boston and a single foster at a time over a period of 2 years). Living with a large dog in an apartment is do-able, even a higher energy one. It does require you make more of an effort in exercise, meaning both walking and playing. If you have access to a large open area dogs can be, you can play fetch on a longline (while training off leash obedience) just as easily as in a yard. If you're able and willing to dedicate at least 2 chunks of the day in the morning and evening to exercise, and possibly feed some meals through a food toy and put energy into finding good places for the dog to burn off energy, it can be do-able. The key is being realistic about time constraints and your ability to handle a large dog zooming around a small space sometimes, IMO
 

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Energy levels and exercise needs vary a lot. It's probably more important to make sure you get a dog that's compatible with you on this point than to worry too much about the breed.

The differences between individuals can often be greater than the difference between breeds. My parents had a cocker spaniel and friends of ours had one from the same litter and they were two very different dogs in terms of obedience, aggression and response to training.

In terms of being able to train a dog, I think any dog in normal physical/mental health can be trained/conditioned to be a good pet. There will be certain breed traits but you can train around those.
 

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I've personally lived with three Goldens in an apartment, and multiple Labs, including my very high energy field Lab (not all at once- I had my Lab and my Boston and a single foster at a time over a period of 2 years). Living with a large dog in an apartment is do-able, even a higher energy one. It does require you make more of an effort in exercise, meaning both walking and playing. If you have access to a large open area dogs can be, you can play fetch on a longline (while training off leash obedience) just as easily as in a yard. If you're able and willing to dedicate at least 2 chunks of the day in the morning and evening to exercise, and possibly feed some meals through a food toy and put energy into finding good places for the dog to burn off energy, it can be do-able. The key is being realistic about time constraints and your ability to handle a large dog zooming around a small space sometimes, IMO
Thank you for this, definitely something to consider! I do live in a house but the garden is pretty small so not loads of space to run around. I love walking so would be happy to take them for lots of walks, but I suppose the time constraints may be an issue
 

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Energy levels and exercise needs vary a lot. It's probably more important to make sure you get a dog that's compatible with you on this point than to worry too much about the breed.

The differences between individuals can often be greater than the difference between breeds. My parents had a cocker spaniel and friends of ours had one from the same litter and they were two very different dogs in terms of obedience, aggression and response to training.

In terms of being able to train a dog, I think any dog in normal physical/mental health can be trained/conditioned to be a good pet. There will be certain breed traits but you can train around those.
That's really interesting, thank you. It sounds like a lot of it is getting the right breeder/ choosing a pup from a litter that will be suitable for what I'm looking for
 

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That's really interesting, thank you. It sounds like a lot of it is getting the right breeder/ choosing a pup from a litter that will be suitable for what I'm looking for
You'll be fine. You don't strike me as impulsive and the fact that you have looked into training BEFORE getting a dog is actually somewhat unique. The only thing you're missing now is to give considerable thought to how much effort/time you're willing to put into the dog and to choose a dog whose demands are similar to what you can give them. Again, don't worry about breed. That's secondary.

I'll tell you a little story.

My son actually chose our current dog out of a litter because he was the most timid/anxious one of the litter and he thought that a dog being shy was cute.

I wasn't personally involved in the process because at the moment this happened I was up to my armpits in work and couldn't get the time off to go see the dog ahead of time. My wife WAS involved but she was (and still is, to some extent) afraid of dogs so she too thought that the timid one was a good match for her.... *facepalm*

So here they took an anxious dog out of a litter and put it in a family with an anxious family member with zero experience with dogs who was afraid of animals in a kind of general sense.

This was a recipe for disaster, of course. A lot of people in this position would have snafu'd the dog's training to the point that neither they nor the dog were happy. Even though I had been around dogs my whole life and felt confident that I knew a thing or two about training we found a really good trainer early on, who, since then has become a friend. She taught us the basics and over a period of about a year, trained my wife to not be so afraid of dogs (I ended up training the dog).

The main issues I had training him, of course, were due to fear, aggression related to fear and a certain degree of resource claiming. He's a poodle, and a smart one at that, so everything else I wanted to train him to do went pretty easily.

The thing that makes this dog a perfect dog for our family, however, isn't all the things that were "wrong" with him (which seems to be what you want to avoid), it was what was "right" with him. He's very active, athletic, dexterous and sociable, both with humans as well as with other dogs.

Where his challenges lay is that he doesn't like humans to initiate touching. If he's in a cuddly mood HE will come and get it. Oddly, perhaps, he's more keen to get petted by strangers on the street than by his own humans. I had to teach my family that this dog had a "users manual" and since I've gotten everyone on the same page (including the dog) he has become a lot LESS anxious and a LOT happier then he was when we bought him.

As for my wife, she inadvertently hit the bullseye with this dog. She is a runner and the dog absolutely LOVES the run. She runs with him off leash most days (of course in places where this is permitted) and there is a perfect match between her energy level and the dog's. What was the result? When we got the dog my wife wanted little to do with him because of her fears. 2 years on, they are completely in love with each other.

The point of this story is to impress a couple of things upon you:

1) get a dog that is a good match for you in terms of energy and exercise needs
2) no dog is perfect and any dog you pick, no matter age or breed, no matter if he comes from a breeder or a shelter, will have a "users manual". It's up to you to discover it.
3) you can "fix" a LOT of stuff with training
4) don't get a dog with anxiety issues unless you know what you're doing :D
 

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You'll be fine. You don't strike me as impulsive and the fact that you have looked into training BEFORE getting a dog is actually somewhat unique. The only thing you're missing now is to give considerable thought to how much effort/time you're willing to put into the dog and to choose a dog whose demands are similar to what you can give them. Again, don't worry about breed. That's secondary.

I'll tell you a little story.

My son actually chose our current dog out of a litter because he was the most timid/anxious one of the litter and he thought that a dog being shy was cute.

I wasn't personally involved in the process because at the moment this happened I was up to my armpits in work and couldn't get the time off to go see the dog ahead of time. My wife WAS involved but she was (and still is, to some extent) afraid of dogs so she too thought that the timid one was a good match for her.... *facepalm*

So here they took an anxious dog out of a litter and put it in a family with an anxious family member with zero experience with dogs who was afraid of animals in a kind of general sense.

This was a recipe for disaster, of course. A lot of people in this position would have snafu'd the dog's training to the point that neither they nor the dog were happy. Even though I had been around dogs my whole life and felt confident that I knew a thing or two about training we found a really good trainer early on, who, since then has become a friend. She taught us the basics and over a period of about a year, trained my wife to not be so afraid of dogs (I ended up training the dog).

The main issues I had training him, of course, were due to fear, aggression related to fear and a certain degree of resource claiming. He's a poodle, and a smart one at that, so everything else I wanted to train him to do went pretty easily.

The thing that makes this dog a perfect dog for our family, however, isn't all the things that were "wrong" with him (which seems to be what you want to avoid), it was what was "right" with him. He's very active, athletic, dexterous and sociable, both with humans as well as with other dogs.

Where his challenges lay is that he doesn't like humans to initiate touching. If he's in a cuddly mood HE will come and get it. Oddly, perhaps, he's more keen to get petted by strangers on the street than by his own humans. I had to teach my family that this dog had a "users manual" and since I've gotten everyone on the same page (including the dog) he has become a lot LESS anxious and a LOT happier then he was when we bought him.

As for my wife, she inadvertently hit the bullseye with this dog. She is a runner and the dog absolutely LOVES the run. She runs with him off leash most days (of course in places where this is permitted) and there is a perfect match between her energy level and the dog's. What was the result? When we got the dog my wife wanted little to do with him because of her fears. 2 years on, they are completely in love with each other.

The point of this story is to impress a couple of things upon you:

1) get a dog that is a good match for you in terms of energy and exercise needs
2) no dog is perfect and any dog you pick, no matter age or breed, no matter if he comes from a breeder or a shelter, will have a "users manual". It's up to you to discover it.
3) you can "fix" a LOT of stuff with training
4) don't get a dog with anxiety issues unless you know what you're doing :D
Thanks so much for this, really helpful! And I'm really happy to hear this story turned out so well :D When I started reading I thought it was going to be a sad story! I definitely don't intend to get a dog with anxiety issues as I essentially don't know what I'm doing! As much as you can research something, I don't think this is any substitute for actual practical learning
 

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Then there's my story... loved hiking/walking and wanted a dog that would walk with me. Got a mutt puppy rescue... 4 sessions of puppy classes and she was trying to kill the other puppies when she was restrained, and she barked like a maniac at everyone she doesn't know.



We got to the point where she won't lunge at people in the street and that's probably as good as it's going to get. Needless to say... not quite what I was looking for (also needs to be muzzled when we got to the vet).
 

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That must be frustrating.

We have to crate her when we have guests too. Not quite what I had in mind when we adopted her. I still love her though (she's a total velcro dog... with me).


Then there's that Newfoundland we got from his breeder at 13 months. He had been returned at 6 months, had never been housebroken, spent days and nights in his crate because of that (plus one of the other males did not like him). He passed his Canine Good Citizen test one month after we got him, with absolutely no work on our part.



My point was that some dogs need MUCH more training than others.
 

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We have two Westies. For some reason I still can't fathom, Westies have the reputation of being, well...snarky. My Westies are the sweetest dogs imaginable, and our vet has several times remarked that they are the ONLY Westies she's ever seen that are so sweet-tempered. I find this weird, because we're pretty sloppy dog-trainers....if they're house-trained and don't bite anyone, we're pretty much good with that. But my theory is that some dogs are more difficult to train than others, UNLESS the dog-owner is experienced and makes it clear that no nonsense will be tolerated, in the most loving way possible. We've trained Chows, Goldens, Collies, Shelties, and now we're into Westies, only because I am increasingly elderly and can't really manage a bigger breed, am not into Toys, and I happen to enjoy purebred dogs because they are all so different and interesting. We have been raising dogs for years and years and it's been a long time since we had any trouble, but that's only because our dogs know what is expected of them and behave accordingly....not because we know anything special. I guess what struck me about this post is exactly this: if you are sure of yourself and do your reading and let your dog know what the deal is, your dog is going to fall in line. But if you are scared and insecure with your dog, your dog will very likely take advantage...at least, some breeds. There is a web site for choosing a purebred dog (well, probably more than one), so pick something that appeals and fall in love with your dog!
 

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Hi,

you only want one of three: pomeranian, cocker spaniel, or goldendoodle or you would consider other breeds also?
why don't you go google and search for top easiest to train then you choose the one that you like in the list?
 

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That is quite a mixture of breeds in your interests. LOL I would say that all dogs do have the ability to be trained. Some are definitely more willing to please than others, but I've been a trainer for 13+ years and had almost every breed and mix in classes over the years. Any dog can learn and thrive. It's up to their person to do the work and communicate clearly, so the dog has the best chance at learning.
Pomeranians are quite vocal, so if you don't want a barker, you may want to reconsider this. Poms and doodles need extensive brushing pretty much every day. Cockers aren't as bad for grooming needs, but I have seen many Cockers who have issues with submissive peeing for some reason. Doodles are ALL different. Their personalities can range all over the place because of the variables, but I've seen more crazy doodles than calm ones.
Goldens are wonderful dogs, but they've been so overbred over the years. I think the last statistic I heard was at least 50% of Goldens come down with some form of cancer. It's so sad. It was interesting that the Goldens with European lineage did not have cancer nearly as frequently.
Have you considered a rescue mixed breed dog (besides the doodle which is a mixed breed)? There are so many dogs killed everyday at shelters because of overbreeding and irresponsible people. I have 2 wonderful small mixed breed dogs that I got from a rescue/shelter that are very obedient and well trained. I don't know where you're from, but it's just something to think about.
 
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