Thinking about thinking about getting a dog(26 Posts)
I'm thinking about getting a dog, possibly in a couple of years' time and would appreciate your incite on the matter as have never owned a dog before and never grew up with one as a child so it's all completely new to me.
My circumstances are that I am a lone (female) parent and my children are currently 6 and 9. We live fairly rural and I would like a dog partly for a sense of protection when we go on country walks etc and also to be a part of the family.
I work from home so would be able to exercise at lunch time and also after work.
Any thoughts as to whether owning a dog would be feasible in my circumstances, and if so as to breed? I have a particular soft spot for German shepherds, spaniels and Labradors.
I've got a German shepherd, I love him like he's a child and couldn't imagine being without him, but I won't have another, I'm a single mum and work pt, can't go on holidays anymore, no1 to have the dog, day trips always cut short, no1 to check in on the dog, can't be in the car too long, can't be left home too long etc etc... like I say, I love my dog dearly, but I compare it to having a toddler forever.
I have never had a gsd but I do love them.
I don't like the show / pet type spaniels and Labradors myself, I think they're very ugly and so many show type spaniels I have met have been aggressive although that is a massive generalisation of a breed just based on my own experience.
I have three kids - 7, 2 and unborn and a working type border collie.
She is very lovely.
Very soft and gentle, not crazy.
I have GSD and also grew up with the breed. They are fantastic family dogs. Mine are very loyal, protective and gentle. They are also very easy to train and listen to my every word. They love going for walks and have got us out as a family most days. Mine are also very affectionate and they do deter anyone from coming up the driveway if that's important to you, but you will also get people crossing the road and giving you horrible looks for some reason
However they have lots of negative points, they shed lots. They cost a small fortune and they are sometimes too protective, I can't just have pop in visitors without planning first. They bark when people come near the house and need lots of excersise. They also hate being left alone for more than 3-4 hours so I have to make sure I am back before then otherwise they are crazy by the time I get back.
The personality is totally different to that of some of the other breeds such as the lab, the shepherds are much more aloof and tend to be one family dogs rather than want to interact with people outside of the family group.
In short, I adore mine but it is very tying and hard work. It's worth it for me and I wouldn't be without mine at all!
Be aware that both spaniels and Labradors are split into working type and show type, with working type having ten times the energy - this is especially true of spaniels
Many owners of working line dogs would disagree with you there wyldfyre.
My working line collie is considerably calmer than many of the pet/show and flyball/agility lines.
I have read threads on here before too where working line spaniel owners have stated their dogs are calm indoors, not crazy and don't need or get insane amounts of exercise.
I can't talk about collies sauce only ever had working labs and spaniels.
I'm not saying that they can't be calm, just that they have more energy. In my experience if they don't get enough exercise and mental stimulation they can become destructive
I don't doubt that but then again, I would argue that most dogs could become destructive when bored and some of the highest energy dogs I have met, like the cavachons, cockapoos etc have been those intended as pets.
I am heavily biased towards the working lines of nearly all breeds though to be fair.
I particularly dislike show/pet type spaniels.
Many are completely wired, hyperactive with no off switch and quite aggressive in my experience.
The working spaniels I have met in contrast, have been adorable.
But as I said earlier, that's only a very small subsection of a breed that I have personally met.
we all have different experiences though.
2 show spaniels. 1 working spaniel here. All got amazing temperaments and are lovely dogs. V. child safe and non aggressive. Whatever you go for go for a good breeder. If you don't have to wait I'd be suspicious. Worker obviously needs more brain training.
As a novice owner I'd advise against a GSD for a couple of reason, firstly while yes they are intelligent and easy to train, that intelligence means they can sometimes out think you and they're less biddable than gundog breeds, so less willing to please you for its own sake rather than what is in it for them.
The more important one though is, that they're overbred and under health tested...so you will really struggle to find a good GSD breeder, I know people who have owned them for years who have moved on to other breeds because they're just not happy with the breeders around.
We have a working line spaniel who doesn't need an "insane" amount of exercise. She is lovely and calm in the house but equally will walk as far as anyone is willing to take her. She religiously gets 2 walks a day, a 15 minute leg stretch first thing then a good 45 minutes running over the fields and as long as she has both of these she's quite happy to curl up on the sofa and snooze or just generally be with us. We do a couple of bits of training/games in the house most days as well.
I'm a SAHM so she's nearly always got someone at home with her but on the odd occasion we do need to leave her as long as she's had a good walk will be happily left at home on her own. I think the most important thing is for her to have company, as long as we're home she's happy.
So not all spaniels are crackers
I have a whippet x puppy and an almost 2 year old. I wanted a dog who could be super chilled in the home but also up for being out and about with the family. At the time I didn't realise how much whippets hate the rain. He's def a fair weather dog which suits me just fine to be honest. I was feeling very lonely and isolated before we got him and wanted a companion. He is wonderful company, especially in the evenings when my lo is asleep or when she naps in the day. He thinks he's a cat and tries to curl up on my lap, all very cute but his farts can clear a room! If you go onto Facebook specific breed groups you'll get a wealth of info about each of the three breeds you like.
I'll be honest with you springer spaniels aren't great family dogs unless you go shooting. They are gundogs and really need a job to do. They wouldn't protect you from anything, I'm laughing at the very idea of my aunts springer protecting her from so much as an ant. My lab could be protective sometimes but she was more for hiding behind me. My dad has a german shepherd and while he is protective I'm not sure I'd trust him living with very young kids. He is pretty soft but they play rough and he has hurt my dad and stepmum by accident before just with his massive paws and headbutting etc. I don't really think you should be looking to a dog to protect you tbh. The ones that will may not make the best family pet and family pets might not always defend you. Mine has but I wouldn't rely on her to do it consistently you know? A lab is probably your best choice imo, springers are nuts, not all but most and you will never be able to exercise one enough unless you go hunting or shooting. My uncle takes theirs shooting and even then he isn't ready to drop when they get back and that is after 6 to 8 hours of solid work. German Shepherds are lovely but ime have no idea of their own strength and your youngest is still pretty small.
Thank you for all your input (and cute puppy pictures!). I will take it all on board.
I acknowledge the dichotomy between a dog for 'protection' vs family pet. They seem rather diametrically opposed. When I say 'protection' I don't mean that we need a guard dog, but I would like to think that if we were attacked in a walk the dog would defend us (or at least put any would be attacker off).
I take note the various points re GSDs. It seems that a key factor is to ensure a good breeder and recognise that this would take some time. Another more specific question - would a GSD respond as well to a female owner as a make owner do you think?
Tbh, I think, unless your dealing with a primitive guardian breed or a working line shepherd, which arguably do not make good family pets unless you truly know what your doing, almost all dogs have had most, if not all guarding instinct bred out of them...
I think virtually all aggressive behaviour in domestic dogs is anxiety or jealousy or illness/injury.
And I think that when it comes from say a rottie or gsd, people naturally assume it's protectiveness.
But I'm not so sure.
A German shepherd could potentially look imposing but whether it would actually protect I don't know, I do know that nervousness is a big problem trait in the breed though and that often manifests as aggression.
" I would like to think that if we were attacked in a walk the dog would defend us (or at least put any would be attacker off)."
In all honesty, I have no idea whether any dog I've ever owned would have defended me in an emergency...my current one would see off an attacker, but that's because he has huge behavioural issues and isn't really an ideal family pet.
Putting off an attacker is different, you either want a large dog or a noisy one...
I really wouldn't want an overly protective dog as a family pet. What happens if a stranger raises their voice or your kids are play fighting?
Just to put it into context, when I say my dog would definitely see off an attacker without a doubt, and I have no idea whether all my previous ones would, in fact I suspect they'd have looked to me for behavioural cues.
This dog cannot meet strangers, cannot be around children, has to be muzzled in fact to go out and especially to go to the vets because as far as he's concerned they shouldn't be touching him, I can't kennel him or use any kind of dog walker or dog care, so he literally can't be left for longer than 4 hours.
There are exactly 11 people in the world he is safe to be around.
So while able to protect you from a potential attacker sounds desirable, it is a very double edged sword.
I'd happily have a dog that I didn't think would defend me but I could have around other people.
We have a Labrador and we bought her from Guide Dogs for the Blind as she failed her final tests (she jumped at a shot I think it was). She came to us ridiculously well trained because she had gone through all the training and failed at the last post and is beautifully natured. She was about £600 I seem to think-not bad for a fully trained (older) pup. We are complete Labrador converts.
She will also bark to let you know when someone is near us-she is soft as putty but nobody could break in without us knowing about it.
I think you need to re-evaluate your expectations from a dog. True protection dogs are trained to an exceptional standard and need a very experienced home. Bodge jobs in terms of protection training produce dogs that are dangerous towards their families as anyone else. Pet dogs may bark at a stranger but are unlikely to be of much use if someone intends you serious harm. Having said that why would you think you are likely to be attacked? Statistically the countryside is much safer than cities and generally low on opportunistic crime.
I've had GSDs all my life. They are extremely intelligent loyal dogs. However they do need a bit of work. All large breeds require more attentive training simply because what is an annoying fault in a smaller dog, e.g. jumping up, can be perceived as threatening behaviour in a larger dog, as well as practicalities, e.g. you may be able to drag along a poorly lead trained Yorkie but you will struggle with an equally poorly lead trained GSD. You ask about women handlers vs men handlers, there is no difference, why would you think there would be one? Just in case you have come across dominance/pack theories keep in mind that they are discredited and counter productive.
The breed does have health problems but there are good breeders out there working to minimise them. The trick is to find someone decent and expect a long waiting list (I am on a year plus waiting list for my next puppy). Also keep in mind that it is easy to underestimate how much exercise (physical and mental) a large dog requires. Walks cannot be brief walks round the block, the dog needs ideally off lead time in different locations for long periods of time. Equally dogs need training, playing with, companionship, etc and GSDs want very much to be part of the family.
A retired greyhound is worth considering for a first dog, I think. They are generally very calm, gentle, friendly, easy to have around the house, can cope with 2 short walks a day or plenty more, and if you get one via a greyhound rehoming place they'll offer you plenty of support as well. I also live alone with my kids, and I have a greyhound who is just wonderful.
Possible drawbacks (they are not an issue for me but can understandably be deal-breakers for some people) - they are often not safe with cats/other small furry animals, and they are difficult (and sometimes impossible) to train sufficiently to let them off-lead safely when you're walking them. Not because of aggression towards people or other dogs, , but because if they see a squirrel or a rabbit their recall training goes out of their heads completely and you won't catch up with them!
We have a working cocker spaniel. My children are probably the age yours will be when you are considering getting your dog. He's a brilliant member of our family and adored by all of us. As others have said, he does not need an insane amount of exercise. He gets 45 minutes - 1 hour a day off lead. He also has a lot of company as either DH or I are always home.
In terms of security/protection, my DH is away a lot and I like the idea of having a dog. He does bark if people come to the house etc. I also think he would try to protect us if anyone threatened us. But he's not big and I don't know how much protection he could offer in reality. He's more a deterrent than anything else. Also worth bearing in mind that some spaniels don't really bark at all.
I have a spaniel and a collie both from working lines, neither need excessive amounts of exercise but they do like mental stimulation, both like agility (we go to a fun agility club). The spaniel barks if someone approaches the house and I am pretty sure that if the collie thought I was being attacked she would bark like billy-o.
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