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We are ready to get our first dog - doing due diligence on breed options

1006 Views 25 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Wannabe
A year and a half ago we were interested in a greyhound, and we read the books and went through the whole process with our local adoption organizations. We finally got the call that there was one available for us to meet and possibly take home...about a day after we decided to delay getting a dog until our youngest child was further along in potty training.

Fast forward to now, we feel like we'll be ready this summer. But my wife recently decided she'd rather we get a smaller dog. It needs to have a single coat. I didn't want a really tiny breed, so I suggested something closer to medium-sized like an IG and she likes that idea. (I've read they can have housebreaking issues, so I know to be careful about finding out as much as we can from whoever sells us the dog.) But I wanted to check and see what other breeds we might be overlooking.

Some relevant background info:

  • We are a family of five (me, my wife, 3 kids ranging from toddler to late elementary school)
  • No other pets except a fish
  • Oldest kid has allergies
  • All three kids are very gentle around dogs, even a bit timid
  • My wife has little-to-no experience with dogs
  • I've never personally owned a dog but have taken care of friends'/neighbors' dogs since I was a teenager, and I even worked with dog trainers in Hollywood! (long story, I won't get into it...point is, I "sorta" have a lot of dog experience)
  • We live in the Midwest USA: hot summers, coldish winters, though not as cold as they used to be
  • We live in the "deep suburbs" :p Very dog friendly area with doggie park nearby
  • We have a split-level house (stairs but short staircases)
  • We have a big yard that's partially fenced in on 2 sides; I'm willing to finish fencing it in but it probably won't happen right away
  • We are very active, always going out to parks and stuff, my wife jogs every day, but we're pretty quiet inside: no video games, not a lot of TV, some music and stuff
  • I work from home full-time and have a very relaxed schedule

I'd prefer not to get a dog with a beard (Schnauzer/Scotty/etc.) or one of those floppy long-haired poodle-looking ones. Nothing against them, I truly love all dogs, those are just not what I want as a prospective owner. I'd love a pit (I've never met one that wasn't the biggest sweetheart) but my wife is nervous about them so that's off the table unfortunately. My dream dog has always been a husky, but right now the kid's allergies are a dealbreaker plus I don't feel like spending hours a day vacuuming.

I know that was a lot to read, sorry. What other breeds or mixes should we look at?
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@Ibie, you mention holding the dog...I understand getting dogs used to it so if you need to pick them up you can do so without a struggle (struggles are both annoying and a potential source of injury for either dog or human), but this seems like as decent a place to ask as any: in general, isn't it bad to pick up dogs? Aren't dogs that get picked up a lot typically worse behaved?

I hope I'm not stepping onto a minefield asking this, but I'm asking because I planned to instruct my kids to basically never pick up the dog unless either A) they are quickly getting it away from imminent harm, or B) they are lifting it onto a surface where it needs to be for a good reason, like loading into the SUV or getting up on the vet's exam table.

Neighbors of mine just got a puppy, and I see one of their kids carrying it everywhere and I think "uh oh". Are my worries misplaced?
I don't know if it's bad--I've never known a dog to have behavioral problems from being picked up, so someone else will have to contribute on that question. All of the small dogs I know and have known get picked up at least occasionally, if not frequently. In the case of our Italian Greyhound, she loved being held, whether it was standing up or on a lap. And when she got older, on long walks sometimes she'd like to be carried for a while (also held in one's jacket for warmth!).

But, teaching your kids not to pick up the dog unless absolutely necessary seems like a perfectly sound plan, too.
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I think the picking up a dog thing may have come from the fact that a lot of small dogs get picked up just for our convenience - the dog is in the way, so pick it up and move it. And quite often, the poor dog will (a) have no say in the matter and (b) object because he was perfectly happy doing whatever he was doing. So in that respect, its not a good thing - after all, if you were sitting reading a good book, in a comfy chair, how would you feel if the same happened to you?

That said, I agree a dog should get accustomed to being picked up because there are times, like you describe, when it's necessary or useful. So, treat it like any other training exercise. Make it fun and rewarding then use it when you need to. But if you just need to move your dog from where he is, lure him or teach something like nose targeting. That's where he bops his nose to your hand - its a great game and very useful for moving dogs from where they are to where your hand is.
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It really depends on why you are picking the dog up and how he feels about it. Scooping up the dog simply because he's in the way? No. The dog has legs and is perfectly capable of using those legs to move himself elsewhere upon request. Teach him what to do when you ask him to move. Scooping up the dog to cuddle him? Maybe. Learn to invite the dog into your space and ask him to indicate willingness to be cuddled. If the dog wants to be cuddled he will move in closer. If he doesn't want to be cuddled he won't approach with happy eagerness. Leave him be. Scooping up the dog to move him into or out of the SUV? Yes. It's not reasonable to ask a tiny dog to get himself into the back seat of a Chevy behemoth. However, this situation also requires some training. The dog should be taught to expect to position himself and be ready to be lifted; he shouldn't be startled by suddenly finding himself airborne.
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When we bring a dog into our lives we are tasked with helping them learn a new language, new skills and how they fit into the human world. We also need to spend some time learning to understand them, who they are and how they 'speak' (communicate) to us and their own kind and to help our children to understand and 'listen' to them as well.

I highly recommend the book: On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas - it offers a basic description of dog body language, (there is so much more to canine communication) their primary 'language' in the dog world.

How To Read Your Dog's Body Language | Modern Dog magazine

Guide to Stress Signals in Dogs - Whole Dog Journal (
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Thanks @CachetheBC, I'll check out that book!
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