Monday, March 24, 2014

What I Look For In A Dog

First and foremost, I think those of you who stick with my dog musing will realize, I like dogs. Period.  All of them. The dogs pictured above are my pack. It's my daughter's fault there are six of them, by May we should be back to four, but for the moment, this is the gang. They are the barking, pooping, shedding testament that I am neither a breed snob or a rabid rescuer.

Most of my dogs have simply shown up. When there is a great big hole in my life only a dog can fill, one appears. I have learned to quit making deposits on the breed I've decided to own, because a stray, the polar opposite of the dog I researched, agonized over and saved up for, will show up within 24 hours after my deposit becomes non-refundable.

I am not a sucker for every dog who floats by, no matter what my dad, sibs, kid or husband tells you. I help them all, they don't all stay. Almost every one of my friends has been graced with at least one of my strays, to the point where if they hear me say, "I found this dog," they start screaming, plug their ears and run home.

Now that we're clear on things, I'll tell you the dogs I look for.

They are not breeds, although I have no problem if I end up with a specific breed, they are types.

There is a certain shape I am drawn to, a physical balance I like and specific man-made features I avoid. There are conformation faults I watch for. None of these (always remember Snocone) are deal breakers, but I make informed, conscious decisions when I say, "Oh well, welcome."

I like pretty, fluffy dogs.

I like terriers and herding dogs.

These are not must haves, but they are where I lean.

This is the SHAPE of dog I look for.

I was going to go to photoshop and make silhouettes out of them, in order to avoid weird arguments, but I figured, shoot, we're all grown-ups here. So I'm taking a huge chance at misinterpretation and showing examples of the dog shape I  look for.

First off, I completely throw away the breed descriptions offered by shelters or owners. I ask after I've chosen.

There are specifics I avoid, for health reasons.

tightly coiled tails can cause all kinds of health issues
Dogs that sit funny. I look for a correct, comfortable sitting position, like on the terrier. The  spaniel's soft, floppy sit warns me there could be hip problems on the way. 

crooked legs of any kind warn me of future vet bills
Smashed in faces. If it snores, wheezes and gasps, I don't want one.
Any dog that can fit a six-year-old child's head in it's mouth is more than I want to handle.
long backed dogs
Extreme sizes - shortened life spans make me sad

Stupid crosses. 

Now I have a list of dogs who visually appeal to me. They are clean limbed, nicely proportioned dogs. Next, I evaluate who the dog is.

I look for polite, friendly dogs. I don't mind wariness or reserve, but I want the dog to be eager to get to know me without knocking me around. I avoid too much shyness or aggression.

This free video series from 3 Lost Dogs gives the easiest to understand insight to quickly evaluating a shelter dog that I've ever seen. Here's the link to the first video, I strongly suggest watching all three and reading the article they came from.

Now I've got a much smaller list and I've done everything in my power to keep my impulses at bay. Until now, this is where I would let emotion take over and choose my favorite.

Now however, I have played with temperament evaluations and become a fan.

I'm sure there are others, but these have worked for me. These evaluations hold pretty much true, no matter what the breed.

The Volhard puppy test

and the B.A.R.C. test for teen and adult dogs.

I did a quick internet cruise through the Colorado Shelter Dog list and then added a few Petfinder faves. If I was dog hunting, here is a smattering of the dogs I would evaluate.

If I was BUYING a dog...which I would do if I had a reason. Even if the reason is only I really want one...
It would be one of these:


Anonymous said...

Ahh, one day my 6 month old ridgie will finish growing at 10 different rates and look like the one in the photo. He's at the stage where parts of him look great and parts of him look weird - and the good/weird parts change from week to week!

You have some nice looking dogs in your local shelter - here they're mostly bully mixes, which is unfortunate if you're not a fan of that type of dog, or huntaway crosses. Huntaways are a NZ developed sheep dog that "hunt the sheep away from them, using their loud, deep bark" - not a dog for in urban areas - even the ones that don't want to work sheep have too much work drive for most urban people.

Anonymous said...

Neat, the overall balance of the type of dog you like and your description of the kind of temperament you look for could also be used to describe the using horses you like.
As always, I look forward to reading your posts. Thanks for writing.

MichelleL said...

Agree with you on all sorts of levels here. Thanks for the links more information is always good.

I miss my girl(AussieX)and will not get another dog any time soon, just do not have the time to give to one right now.

Happy to meet a dog who is happy to meet me in the mean time to get my canine fix.

zebradreams07 said...


Is not a dog. Just sayin'.

mugwump said...

You're right zebradreams, it's a goat! Still wouldn't want those legs...

IndyApp said...

Oh Good, it is a goat. I was wondering if I was losing it.

mugwump said...

Sorry Indyapp- I think I'm just hilarious sometimes.

sulphurfire said...

All I have are catahoula and heeler mixes, I love them dearly. Their personality and antics crack me up, they listen well, learn quickly. But the breed that intrigues me is the Irish wolfhound.

MalteseLizzieMcGee said...

Thanks for the link to that video, it was really interesting (I'm studying animal behaviour at the moment, so I love this kind of thing). One thing I didn't quite understand was 'calming signals': is it the dog trying to calm itself, or trying to calm another person or dog?

Anonymous said...

Bottom row evaluations, second from left. Mmmm. This dog may have Papillon somewhere, the way to tell a long haired chihuahua, pomeranian and papillon apart is the ears. Poms will have smaller "bear" ears, chis longer "tulip" ears, paps have a distinctive butterfly design of the ear.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Holy cow - that jrt on the rock is almost the twin of my girl Q!

I also have the soft spot for terriers - though the smartness + the speediness can be challenging. ;D

No shelter visits for me, or I'd have as many dogs as you do lol. Nice selection at your local.

mugwump said...

Anon - that little dog was identified as a Pomeranian...which is why, for shelter dogs, I look at the dog first. That one,the little starved Chi and the 12-year-old Maltese come under my "Why not, I have room," clause. See? I do let sentimentality in, to a point. I would still evaluate temperament and build, but there's a lot of flex room for me with dogs like this.

Anonymous said...

Pom and Pap mixes are hard to tell apart unless you have experience with paps. I would have to touch the coat of a cross to tell the difference, I was just impressed that you were looking a a possible cross with my breed! Love the dog issues discussed here.

Becky said...

I want that tricolor hound thing.

Helen said...

Thanks for this post Mugs. I've been managing my kelpie-rottweiler cross's joint-and-soft-tissue issues for some years now and now, at 13 years, I feel I'm losing the battle. Who knows exactly what genetics are mixed up in her and how she was treated when young - we got her at one year old and she showed signs then of having been abused. She's been the most awesome, wonderful dog and very pretty too, as well as very smart. As long as she's happy and able to potter slowly about, we will just love her and wait for her to tell us when it's too much. :(
She is the ideal type of dog for me - shorthair kelpie cross and brainy smart. But we didn't escape the curse of the bad joints (and possible beatings or inappropriate exercise when young, I'll never know.)

Peanut said...

I'm a sucker for big dogs with teddy bear personalities, and I terribly miss my Mastiff mix. It sounds like I made a lot of mistakes that affected his soundness later.

I love the bottom left shelter dog.

NotAFollower said...

I've said it possibly too often: functional body type and sound mind is a big part of why I'm so fond of Weims.

Even my "his breeder should be shot!" rescue Weim (11+ years together and going strong), with his train-wreck conformation and lack of brain, is healthier and sounder than a number of award-winning purebreds of other breeds that have been sliding away from 'functional' for the sake of winning show ribbons.

I'm fond enough of Weims that I stay current on which local kennels are producing sound dogs, so that when he's gone I'll be able to find my right dog - be it a pup, or an adult that didn't fit in its first home.

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