Different Than Your Other Dogs

Adopting dogs that are unlike what we’re used to
By Karen B. London PhD, June 2014

“We’ve always had little lap dogs, but this one is probably part mastiff and part Great Dane. I never thought I’d have a dog bigger than I am!” My neighbor was so enthusiastic about their new dog Thor that she came over specifically to introduce him to me. He is delightful, and the family is so happy. Part of the fun is that this dog is so completely different than every other dog they have ever had. In fact, this dog’s head is about the size of their other dogs.

I’ve met many people who have always had big dogs and then at some point adopted a small one. The reverse situation of my neighbor—a departure from little dogs to acquire a large one—is a little less common, but still not unusual. And many people adopt dogs that are completely different from all their other dogs in ways that go beyond size.

A friend of mine grew up with terriers and continued with them into adulthood. Then, she had a dream about a doing herding trials with a dog. She adopted a Border Collie not long after. I’m not advocating acting on every dog-related dream to guide important life decisions, but in this case, it worked out beautifully. She now has a variety of terriers and herders in her house and it’s a happy home.

Perhaps one of the biggest transitions is to go from quiet dogs who occasionally let out a single half-hearted “woof” to a dog who is a champion barker.  If your dogs have previously been of the former variety it can be a shock when you welcome a dog with the vocalization tendencies of breeds like the American Eskimo or the Great Pyrenees. As with so many variations among dogs, personal preferences are all over the place. Some people love to have a dog who alerts then to everything, while other people prefer more peace and quiet.

The energy level of different dogs is another area where transitions can be a shock. If you’ve always had high-energy dogs and now you find yourself living with a couch potato, you may struggle to adjust. However, that is unlikely to be anywhere near as big an issue as the one facing people who have always had dogs who are content to lie around much of the day and now have one who wants to run 20 miles before breakfast.

If your dogs have usually been of the wash-and-go type, with the washing happening no more than a couple of times a year, a dog with high grooming demands will be a big change. Many years ago I met a family who had only had short-haired dogs until they adopted a Bearded Collie who they paid to have groomed about once a month. It can be hard to transition from a no-brushing-required dog to a send-your-groomer-to-Europe dog, but it’s nice that you can hire a professional if you know in your heart that you’re not up to the constant care needed.

Have you ever adopted a dog who was completely different than your usual canine companions?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

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