Potential first-time dog owner

If you are wondering what is the right dog for you, this is the place to be. In this introductory forum we talk about topics such as breed vs. mix, size, age, grooming, breeders, shelters, rescues as well as requirements for exercise, space and care. No question is too silly here. This particular forum is for getting and giving helpful, nice advice. It is definitely not a forum for criticizing someone else's opinion, knowledge or advice. This forum is all about tail wagging and learning.

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Barked: Sun Apr 1, '12 8:46pm PST 
Hello! I am thinking about getting a dog and would love some advice about which breed might suit my lifestyle - any advice would be much appreciated.

I'd like a loving and loyal dog for companionship, but also a medium-to-large sized dog for protection, as my partner is often away working abroad and I'm worried about security on my own. The dog doesn't need to be aggressive, but perhaps look big enough or intimidating enough to scare potential intruders away!

We live in a good-sized house in a very big city, with a very small yard, but have several great parks nearby. I work from home and am willing to walk the dog 2-3 times a day.

I'd really like a very intelligent dog that I can train, train, train, and who will be very loyal. As a small woman though (I am 5'3" and 110lbs), I am concerned that a very large, muscular dog will be too big and heavy for me to control - any thoughts on this? I am hoping to train the dog so well she responds to my every command so I never have to try to drag her anywhere anyway, but I am not sure how realistic this is.

On top of all this we already have three cats (two of them elderly), so I need a dog that will get on well with them. We also plan to have kids in a few years time.

I have no idea what breed to go for. I love German Shepherds, but worry they might be too big and my mother keeps telling me they're too bitey! Any recommendations?

too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Mon Apr 2, '12 8:40am PST 
I do not recommend a GSD for a first dog. They are very slow to mature & their teen years will make you want to pull your hair out. They need daily, consistent, firm, positive training. Plus they need a job..or they will find their own..such as destroying your furniture, etc.
The size of a dog has little to do with their *protectiveness. The sound of a dog barking can discourage break ins.
More information could help smile
How do you feel about grooming?
Do you plan to do activities with your dog..agility, rally..or would you prefer a more home-companion?
When he is at home do you like a dog who lets you do your own thing, or do you like a more velcro dog...one who always wants to be with you..even in the bathroom? (My one gsd feels it is his life's mission to figure out how to actually live in my skinlaugh out loud
Will exercise be walks, jogs, off leash dog parks, long hikes, fetch?
Do you like a vocal breed, or one who rarely barks/woohoos/mutters?
Do you want a dog that is naturally more sociable, or tends to be more aloof?
Poodles come in different sizes & are very smart. Golden retreivers also come to mind..but more info would help.
Bruno CGC

Honorary Kelpie
Barked: Mon Apr 2, '12 6:31pm PST 
Squam, do you think think Guest could maybe find an adult rescue GSD instead of a puppy? I bet she could find one that is cat and kid-safe, and pretty mellow, if she looked around a bit. An honest GSD rescue group could probably help.

I was also thinking; a large, dark-colored dog with a deep bark is pretty intimidating to most people. You can find dogs like that at every shelter in America- a lot of people don't want them. frown So if you're not really picky about breed, I'd try hitting the shelters. Bring someone who really knows dogs (like a dog trainer or kennel operator) with you, kind of like bringing your mechanic when you go to buy a used car. A lot of the better shelters also now temperament-test their dogs and offer (or require) adoption counseling when you choose one, to make sure it's a good fit and you know what you're in for, so definitely take them up on the offer if it's available.


too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Mon Apr 2, '12 7:30pm PST 
Bruno..that is true..there are quite a gew gsds in rescue, so an adult might be an OK fit. The key is to find a rescue who really wants what is best for you Guest, as well as the dog. I'm just so protective of my heart-breed & hate to see folks get in over their heads with visions of Rin Tin Tin laugh out loud
Bruno also makes an excellent point about dogs from shelters. I would absolutely check there first. Make sure to get as much history as you can on any rescue or shelter dog. If they are in foster care you will get more info than if they are in an overcrowded shelter.
ETA: I am even smaller than you Guest & can handle my 2 gsds, plus a bullmastiff. The key is training & confidence...in yourself, your training, & your dog.smiledog walk

Edited by author Mon Apr 2, '12 7:32pm PST


Member Since
Barked: Mon Apr 2, '12 10:22pm PST 
Hello again! Thanks so much for your responses. My heart tells me to choose an adult rescue dog (my three cats are all adult rescues), but I am very nervous about this as I've never had a dog before. I thought I'd go for a puppy so I could train him or her well and we could learn together - plus I am very concerned about a dog that has not been brought up with the cats deciding to suddenly turn on them. To make myself feel better I reasoned that all future dogs could be older rescues, once I'd got the hang of looking after and training a dog. I really am quite worried about risking an older rescue dog with the cats right now. But it breaks my heart, the thought of all those older dogs in shelters. How easy are older dogs to train?

It sounds like a GSD might be a bit too much of a challenge for me, for a first dog. I've been doing my research and have realised I'm not too picky about the breed of my dog, looks-wise - it's all about the personality. A dog that can give a warning bark to let me know if someone is approaching the house would be enough, I don't actually want to set the dog on anyone! But generally, I need the dog to bark as little as possible as I have very close neighbours.

Ideally I'd like an affectionate dog but not one that is glued to my side, I'm already followed to the bathroom by the three cats! A dog that is happy to do his own thing or lie in a pool of sunlight and sleep while I work, and won't go crazy if I pop to the shops for half an hour without him, would be perfect. I'm happy to exercise the dog for a couple of hours a day (walking on and off leash, playing games and fetch, accompanying us on bike rides) but he would be more of a home companion than one I'd take to agility activities (although, are there classes for this? If they exist I would be interested in taking him along!) I think a sociable dog rather than an aloof dog would be nice, although if all the other criteria are met I don't really mind either way. I'm happy to spend any amount of time on grooming, whatever s/he needs.

I had started thinking about Golden Retrievers... also Flat-Coated Retrievers, and friends suggested Portuguese Water Dogs and a breed called Berger Picard. When I sleep at night at the moment all I see are dancing dogs!

too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Mon Apr 2, '12 10:59pm PST 
There are many adult dogs in rescues who are fostered with loving families. You can certainly find an adult who is good with catssmile Plus the other traits you are looking for. And yes, you can absolutely train adult dogs. Have you checked out the Adoptions section on Dogster? Or the Adoptions & Rescue Forum?
There are several Dogster Goldens who can give you more info, & a couple of Flatties also. Hopefully they will post for you.smile
cheer for doing research
MT TOP's- Secret- Agent,- C.G.C.

R.I.P. Kahaus
Barked: Mon Apr 2, '12 11:31pm PST 
As someone who grew up with Bernese Mountain Dogs, I might be a little biased, but I think they are definitely worth a look in your case.

Berners are a large, generally mellow breed. They are trainable, low-prey drive (read: they don't typically chase cats), fluffy balls of mush who love nothing more than to be by your side (or *in* your side as they do their characteristic leg lean laugh out loud ) all day long. They are snuggly butterballs around their family members, but naturally more reserved with strangers, though if you're cool with someone the dog typically won't mind them.

If you want a dog that looks (but doesn't act) a bit big & scary, who is always game for a long walk, but won't eat your house if he's not bushed, and you don't mind grooming, Berners are awesome. Males tend to be calmer and less drivey than females, though it depends on the individual dog. My roommate's cats were TERRIFIED of Kahaus, but they could dart out in front of him and all he would do is watch them run in fear while he yawned at my feet. laugh out loud

Check out http://www.bmdca.org/rescue/ for more information on rescuing adult Berners, if you're interested!

Member Since
Barked: Tue Apr 3, '12 10:59am PST 
I think I will go and have a look around a few animal shelters. I'll need to ask A LOT of questions to make sure I get the right dog though. Maybe there will only be a handful of dogs that will suit all our requirements, but I'm hopeful we could find a dog for us there. It will be so hard as I know I'll want to take them all home!

These Bernese Mountain Dogs look amazing! Question though: do you think it's better that I get a smaller dog, one I can lift? Because I wondered in case of emergency and I have to rush my dog to the vet, how would I lift him into the car?
Samoa SunnyBear Bell

Happy Boy!
Barked: Tue Apr 3, '12 11:15am PST 
Bravo to guest for thinking of a shelter. I can vouch that an absolutely wonderful dog can be found there!

Guest, the shelter staff can help a lot in judging temperament. When I went to adopt it was actually hard to decide which to choose!

In the end I have three shelter / rescue dogs, but my first adopted boy is completely golden! I hope you have the good luck to find one like him.

(oh, the vet initially thought I was a Bernese Mountain Dog, but probably I am Aussie/Golden.)

Edited by author Tue Apr 3, '12 11:17am PST

Maci & Harley & Jigar

Golden butts
Barked: Tue Apr 3, '12 11:21am PST 
That is a good question! I have had big dogs my whole life and never thought of that. I am not a small person though so I could roll, tug and lift enough...also I have no problems grabbing the first person on the street.

I would suggest an older golden for a first time owner especially someone planning on a family. I have had tons of 2-3 year old goldens (the time period when you want to tear your hair out every day) enter rescue because the family got the puppy and a few years later has a baby. It just is bad timing. They are easy to train, easy to tire out with mental exercise and are really puppy like until 12 years of age. Most are velcro dogs though so you would have another visitor in the bathroom.
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