The Most Popular Dog Breeds

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Sam Basso
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What are the most popular dog breeds in America? What is the right dog for you? What are the “pro’s” of owning these breeds and what are the “con’s”? Just because a dog is popular doesn’t mean it is the right dog for you. Here are my opinions of each of these breeds as they stand right now:

Labrador Retrievers are medium sized, and were originally created for water bird retrieving. They are famously known for being friendly, good with everyone, good with other animals, and as highly trainable family companion dogs. Their short coat is easy to manage and pretty much stays clean on its own. They also are good watchdogs, and will alert the family if there is an intruder. If someone doesn’t know what type of dog to get, I always recommend getting a Lab. The biggest downsides of getting a Lab are: getting one with poor health or temperament; owning one and not training it; owning it and not giving it sufficient time, exercise and attention. As with all dogs, it is important to do a good job of shopping for a dog. If you don’t know how, then hire a dog trainer to help you find a good breeder, and help in the selection of the puppy. It is also important to train Labs, otherwise they are too playful and will start doing things that look like misbehaviors… but they really aren’t. These dogs need a good personal relationship with everyone in the home, and that includes good training, proper leadership, quality and quantity time, and all the rest that a dog needs in order to be fun to live with. It is also torture for this breed to be left outside as a yard dog. This is one of the most sociable of breeds, and it goes against their nature to be left alone. The more you leave them alone, the more destructive and troublesome they will be. It’s your fault if you get such a great dog and the wreck it by neglect, rough training, and poor management.

German Shepherd Dogs. According to the AKC (American Kennel Club), here is what the dog is supposed to be like: “The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any of the above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized as very serious faults and any dog exhibiting pronounced indications of these must be excused from the ring. It must be possible for the judge to observe the teeth and to determine that both testicles are descended. Any dog that attempts to bite the judge must be disqualified. The ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary purpose”

Unfortunately, all too many German Shepherd Dogs (GSD’s) do NOT fit this description. I see so many poorly bred GSD’s that I caution all buyers about getting one. There are major temperament and health problems in this breed because of years of poor breeding. If you get a good one, it will be the best dog you ever owned. If you get a poorly bred one, with weak temperament and/or bad health, you’ll spend thousands of dollars on training and medical costs, and regret you ever got one. This is one breed where you MUST hire an expert to help you find a good one. There is so much dishonesty out there with the breeders that you have to verify EVERYTHING. I’ve seen way too much inappropriate shyness, and hyper defensive aggression to innocent people. I’ve seen way too many GSD’s with health problems, costing thousands of dollars. I know of a GSD, owned by a past student, that racked up $10,000 in vet bills just during the first year. You don’t want that kind of dog.

Yorkshire Terriers are toy terriers, meaning they are miniaturized terriers that were designed to be companion dogs, not working terriers. Thus, they are more sociable and trainable than typical terriers, but they aren’t suitable to fight vermin like their true terrier cousins. They are pretty little dogs, and many owners delight in their attractive appearance. They also make terrific watch dogs. I always appreciate when my dogs have let me know that some stranger was on or near my property, especially in the middle of the night. I’ve met and worked with many Yorkies. I’ve met some that would steal your heart: loving, fun, alert, smart, funny, playful, friendly, and just all around great dogs. I’ve also met a lot of pet store varieties, that were poorly bred, and didn’t live up to what this breed is supposed to be. With the poorly bred ones, you get yappy dogs, hard to house train, fearful / aggressive with other animals and people, and defiant to training. If there is any one thing I’d like to get across with this article, is the importance of getting a dog from a good hobby breeder, from someone committed to the breed, who isn’t in it for making money over producing quality dogs, from someone who cares to produce the best dogs with the best temperament and health, someone who is therefore heavily involved in their breed. A well bred, trained, supervised and loved Yorkie is a great dog.

Beagles. I have a sweet spot for Beagles. They are small, loving, gentle scent hounds. They are good watch dogs. They have a great, easy to care for coat. And those soft ears invite a rub. They make great family pets. Unfortunately, this is another one of those breeds that have been damaged by puppy mills and backyard breeders. People will say that this breed is untrainable in obedience, but that is because they are dealing with poorly bred ones. Think about it. This was a rabbit hunting dog, sent out in groups of other Beagles, off leash, in the open country, to locate rabbits and chase them so hunters could shoot or snare them. Hunters don’t put up with dogs that won’t obey in the field. These dogs were to bring home meat for the kitchen table. Dogs that couldn’t do that, that ran away, would be a survival risk for the family. So, with proper and thorough training, a well bred Beagle can be obedient. One other thing to consider with Beagles is that they don’t take well to abuse, by adults or children, and they will bite to defend themselves. All scent hounds try to stay on this side of being hurt in an encounter with a mammal they are hunting, but have all been bred to use aggression as a last resort to protect themselves if the cornered mammal would turn and attack. So, even though this breed was created to hunt rabbits, they still are scent hounds and have this trait. Another concern with Beagles are health problems, which can cost you thousands of dollars if you get one with poor genetics. So, it is extremely important to search for a well bred Beagle, looking for a breeder that actually breeds what the dog is truly supposed to be. If I was going to get a Beagle, I’d spend a considerable time looking for the right breeder.

Golden Retrievers are medium sized, and were originally meant for retrieving water birds, and for retrieving some upland game birds. If I was to describe a Golden Retriever, I would say it is kind of a mix between a Labrador Retriever and a spaniel. They combine many of the great traits of the Labrador, being friendly, trainable, good, loving family dogs. They combine many of the great traits of the spaniels, being friendly, soft coated, and with a soft temperament. They make good watch dogs, and there have been some stories of these dogs protecting their families from criminals (but if you really need a protection dog, this is not that breed). On the downside, I have found most pet store, and back yard bred Goldens, and even many show dog bred dogs, to be defiant to obeying commands. That is a direct result of buying a dog from a breeder that breeds for looks instead of temperament. Goldens can also be very aggressive if challenged to a fight by a human or another dog. Spaniels are interesting breeds. They are all pretty soft dogs, but if they are harassed or hurt by another person or dog, then watch out! They will stand up for themselves. I have met a number of Goldens that have severely bitten family members that were abusing them. I have met a number of Goldens that would fight other dogs that came at them. I know of one Golden, a 110 lb male (way too big for the breed standard, but some are bigger than the normal 65 lbs or so), that was attacked by the neighbor’s German Shepherd Dog on a walk. The Golden grabbed that German Shepherd Dog by the ribs, and smashed it up and down, over and over again, onto the ground. Many of the breed also are plagued by many health problems. Getting a well bred dog eliminates most of the problems you’ll have with this breed, so long as after you get the dog, you properly raise the dog. If you want a great family dog, this is a dog that should be on your list.

Bulldogs are extremely fun, active, playful companion dogs. They are super smart and loving. On the downside, they are a medical nightmare, and I have serious problems with the breeders who perpetuate the breeding of any animal that is going to be doomed with a lifetime of medical problems. Not one Bulldog has a normal skeleton. Tumors and cancers are common. So are severe allergies. I have trained a number of Bulldogs, and it is a shame that such a fun dog has such terrible health issues. I have also seen many Bulldogs that were allowed to become bratty bullies because of a lack of training. A Bulldog is a great big bowling ball of muscle, and they can knock someone down hard. They don’t do it because they are mean, they do it because they are allowed to get out of control. I’ve also seen Bulldogs that were abused by dog trainers who tried to bully these dogs into submission. The dogs got injured, the owners got upset, and the dogs continued to be out of control. That’s not the way to train them. If you have a Bulldog, GET PET INSURANCE to help cover the medical costs that you WILL have. Many policies are going not going to pay for everything a Bulldog gets because these companies know what they are getting into. And then train the dog. Seriously, do I need to tell you that? Train the dog, and it will be a great dog. If you haven’t yet gotten a Bulldog, consider getting the Olde English Bulldogge instead, if you can find a good breeder. It is a recreation of the breed, for the purpose of eliminating many of the health problems. I’ve worked with this other breed, they have all the same good traits of the Bulldog, with fewer of the health problems.

Boxers are fun, active, very playful, very affectionate, great family dogs. I like Boxers a LOT. I’ve trained many of them. They also have a great coat, so they are easy to care for. On the other hand, an untrained Boxer is miserable to live with. Untrained Boxers don’t listen, won’t obey anything, get into trouble, jump up on kids and everyone else, won’t walk nicely on a leash, and will make you regret you ever got one. They have many of the typical big dog health issues, such as hip dysplasia. It is also very hard to find a quality breeder, someone who has dogs that are not only pretty, but have obedience titles proving their trainability. Please, don’t buy one at a pet store!!! You are just asking for problems. Start with the AKC breed club and work from there. There are also working Boxer clubs, breeding a more true German style Boxer. It would be worth talking to them.

Dachshunds are one of my favorite small breeds. They are affectionate, funny, smart, full of character, trainable, great watchdogs, and good companions. On the other hand, I have met way too many that were not well bred, trained, socialized or treated kindly… all of which wrecks the dog. They also are prone to having back injuries, so you can’t let them jump up and off furniture, and it is probably not a good idea to have one in a home with a lot of stairs. Dachshunds, especially in groups, can be very aggressive towards intruding dogs, including a new puppy. And if you don’t like barking, and you want a dog that won’t be upset when strangers come knocking, then don’t get a Dachshund. I don’t want to have to keep repeating myself here, but: don’t buy one from a pet store (puppy mill) or backyard breeder. Get a good one, train it, and it is going to be one of the best dogs you’ve ever owned.

Poodles are GREAT dogs. They are known for being very intelligent and highly trainable. They are natural hunters: they were created to be water retrieving bird dogs, but they are also interested in watching and chasing rabbits. They make great watchdogs. They are active, inquisitive, and will demand to be a part of everything you do. They are sensitive, and don’t do well with heavy handed trainers or owners, and patience is the key to getting good results. The Toy versions are companions. The Miniatures are also companions. The Standards, especially the larger ones, are not only companion dogs, but amazing working dogs and are not as fragile or feminine as their appearance might suggest. There are old stories of Standard Poodles being “mean” dogs. What most people don’t realize is that 100 years ago, the larger Poodles were used as police dogs. You will be quite surprised at how “manly” the Standards are. They are big dogs with big dog temperament. Some are once again being used as waterfowl retrieving dogs, and you can see them appearing in field trials. I think the biggest downsides of Poodles are when people get them from pet stores or backyard breeders. You get what you pay for in terms of health and temperament. I have had to house train a lot of Toy and Miniature Poodles because the owners didn’t get on it right away, and many of these dogs are hand shy because their owners have spanked them. Poodles, regardless of the size, are going to be harder to house train than, say, a Labrador Retriever. You really need a good program to get this under control. It is also important to properly care for them. I’ve seen lots of Toys and Miniatures with gum disease, from being fed soft foods and treats. Even the Standards can have gum problems, so feeding dry kibble, brushing, and annual teeth cleaning is a must for all Poodles, regardless of their size. There are a few health problems, but that can be minimized by going with a good breeder. You are either going to love or hate the coat. I personally like the feel of the coat. It is “bouncy” and curly to prevent skin injuries. Yet, it is going to cost you to have the dog groomed once every 4 to 6 weeks, so you need to factor that into your budget. For me, I would pick a Standard poodle, preferably from one of the breeders that are bringing back the hunting Poodle. They are robust, physically and mentally tough, agile, fast, willing, athletic, intelligent, highly trainable and affectionate dogs, quite capable of learning and doing any challenge I put in front of them. Don’t be fooled by their looks, to me, they are a “man’s dog”, not just a pretty thing.

Shih Tzu, according to the AKC: “As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is that of a companion and house pet, it is essential that its temperament be outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly and trusting towards all.” This is the kind of dog you are looking for when shopping for this breed. I have met many defiant, overly independent, defensively aggressive Shih Tzu. In those cases, some of that was because of pet store or backyard breeding, and some was because the dogs were either allowed to become bratty, or they were teased or roughly treated by their owners. And, for some strange reason I haven’t been able to figure out, teenage boys and men are more likely to roughly treat these dogs and turn them into biters. A Shih Tzu is a great companion dog.

Rottweilers are man working protection dogs. They were created to do police work, then to go home and live with their families. They are calm in the home, obedient, affectionate, highly trainable, very protective, playful, confident, intelligent, athletic, very powerful working dogs that need something to do. Rottweilers, as adults, should also be expected to be aloof to strangers. I considered getting a Rottweiler in 1986. I remember interviewing a breeder with German working line Rottweilers. She brought in her male dog. He sat there, and let me pet him, but he didn’t really care to get to know me. Back then, I didn’t know much about dogs, and so I interpreted this as a dog that would be that way to me. I was wrong. Aloof dogs come to see who you are, they’ll check you out, and then leave you alone. If the dog is watchful, then the dog will have its eye on you the entire time you are there as a guest, even if it looks as though the dog is sleeping or just laying around. Rottweilers can also be aggressive towards other dogs. The AKC states: “An aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted.” Any dog that is expected to be socially aggressive, to protect the family in case of threat, will also have a tendency to be that way towards their own kind. That’s the trade off whenever you own a protection breed. Rottweilers have a great coat, easy to care for, and they have many of the typical big breed health risk problems, such as hip dysplasia. I love Rottweilers… on paper. Most Rotts that you see are not well bred. Even the ones I’ve seen in competition trials (Schutzhund), haven’t been all that great. There is a huge difference between different sources for these dogs: a pet store /back yard bred dog should be avoided – don’t buy it; show dogs – might be good, might be fearful or defiant, it runs the gamut, including the German show lines; working sport bred – Schutzhund bred ones are often not great dogs, but some are; police bred – hard to find, and these are NOT pet dogs, they are too much dog for anyone who isn’t strong enough or experienced enough with owning such dogs, and too much dog for a woman (sorry if that isn’t politically correct, but that’s the truth). I think the best companion dogs will come from the working sport bred lines, but then you have to do a LOT of homework to know what you are looking at, and to cut through the bull that people will tell you. A Rottweiler may be in my future. I love the breed, but you have to do your homework to find a great one.

Miniature Schnauzers are great dogs: super affectionate, trainable, fun, active, athletic, watchful, intelligent, companion dogs. I’ve trained many Mini Schnauzers and have loved every one of them. The downsides are potential health problems, including sensitivity to vaccinations (meaning the dog won’t be right in the head again, becoming very unpredictably aggressive if they have a reaction). Plus, they need monthly grooming, which should factor into your budget (I’d recommend getting the grooming tools and learning to do it yourself). This breed has been hurt a lot by bad breeders. Even some of the show dog breeders, the ones that are supposed to be stewards of the breed, have wrecked many a Mini over the decades. Do a lot of research, verify everything, and if you find a great breeder, get a Mini.

Chihuahuas are affectionate Toy companion dogs. According to the AKC, they are: “Alert, projecting the ‘terrier-like’ attitudes of self importance, confidence, self-reliance.” I see a lot of timid, untrained, spoiled, fat, biting, Chihuahuas. Some of this is because, mostly women, see these poor creatures in the windows of pet stores (puppy mill bred dogs) and they rescue them. Some become this way because they are not treated as a dog, but as a furry little human baby. I’ve seen a lot of Chihuahua’s become bullies to the other family dogs, too. They are also very vulnerable to being injured, either by picking a fight with a dog ten times their size, or by rough treatment. A good Chihuahua is a very good dog, just as sweet as you can imagine. A poorly bred, babied and spoiled Chihuahua is hated by everyone except their owners. It is up to you to not buy dogs from puppy mills or backyard breeders. And it is up to you to then make your dog into a great dog.

Doberman Pinschers are playful, fun, calm, inquisitive, visually oriented, sensitive, athletic working dogs that need lots of exercise, companionship, and something to do. A well bred, properly trained and managed Doberman will be the best dog you ever owned. A poorly bred, untrained, mismanaged Doberman will be miserable. It is extremely difficult to find a well bred Doberman. And it is extremely difficult to own a Doberman if you don’t train and manage them properly. I’ve seen way too many Dobermans that have been put into impossible situations which made them neurotic. These dogs need to be with someone, need to be actively engaged daily, trained, supervised, and exercised. If you neglect their emotional needs, they develop all kinds of neurotic behaviors: flank sucking, defiance of manners and commands, digging, potty problems, barking problems, destructiveness, mischievous behaviors, fears and phobias, worries, jumping, and… well, you name it. Poorly bred Dobermans will have fear problems, of people, other animals, and in a variety of situations. Dobermans have potential health problems, and one of the worst is cardiomyopathy (a fatal enlarging of the heart). This is another breed where you need to hire a professional trainer to help you locate a good one, and to trust them if they say that the dog isn’t right for you. And if the pup you get isn’t right, then return it for another right away. Never get one from a pet store or backyard breeder. Show dog breeders might have a good dog, but I want to see obedience titles throughout the lines. Working / Sport lines are OK, but I’ve seen skeletal problems and confidence problems. And it is almost impossible to find a police bred Doberman. These dogs take patient training, and an owner that is able to be a dog’s leader. You have to command these dogs, and if you aren’t the type to be able to give a dog a command (without anger, but with authority), and to consistently require good manners, then this isn’t the right breed for you.

Pomeranians are cool Toy dogs. I have found them to be gentle, lively, sweet companions. If you get a good one, I really can’t find much fault in the breed. Just make sure you stay away from pet stores and backyard breeders, and find a reputable old time breeder that is very active with the breed. Then get on the house training right away, and finish basic obedience before the dog is 6 months old, and you’ll be set.

German Shorthaired Pointers are tireless, determined, eager to learn, and well behaved upland game bird pointers and retrievers. For most people, they’d be considered a big dog. They have an excellent nose and are motivated to explore. They have a mild temperament, and should be expected to be either friendly or aloof to strangers. They are good watch dogs. They have a great coat. I have liked all the GSP’s I have trained. They took a bit of work at first, but as they mature, the training sticks and the dog becomes very reliable. This is a breed that can be trained to obey at great distances, if you take them all the way through Advanced Obedience. With a bit of research and networking, you can get a really great GSP. They make a fine family dog, and I might get one for myself some day. This is a great breed for someone that wants a dog as a jogging companion. Or for people that like to hike. I think it is a mistake to get one, however, and not work the dog. It is important to give these dogs plenty of companionship, physical exercise and regular chances to exercise their minds. GSP’s make great family dogs, but you won’t like them if you don’t train them properly. They also won’t take to being bullied by an abusive owner.

Great Danes are big and lovable, strong, friendly GIANT companion dogs. They make great family dogs. Downsides are the cost of ownership: everything costs more. They are slow to mature, and you have to let them be puppies for longer than other breeds, even though they are getting huge along the way. They can be very aggressive with other dogs, especially the males, if not socialized, or if allowed to fight. There are some lines that are very unstable, fearful and dangerously aggressive towards people and other animals. And many don’t live very long, since they are giants. You need to be very selective in choosing an old time, reputable breeder. Check references and verify everything. Get a good one, and you’ll say it was the best dog you ever owned. Get a poorly bred one, and you’ll pay in terms of money and heartache. Avoid getting a shy puppy. They MUST complete Basic Obedience to be managed properly.

Siberian Huskies are super friendly, playful, affectionate, athletic companion dogs. If left untrained, they become bratty and miserable to live with. Properly socialized, trained, loved, exercised and managed, they are great dogs. I haven’t met one that I didn’t like, though I’ve met a lot that were very bratty because the owners waited too long to begin the training. We got all that sorted out, but it gets to the point of being awful if you neglect to live with these dogs properly. Fearful ones are a serious problem, so it is important to only get a friendly, confident one for your home. They also aren’t going to take abuse or teasing, and will nip or bite if provoked.

Shetland Sheepdogs are miniature Collies. But different. Instead of being working herding dogs, they are downsized companion dogs. The American Kennel Club says: “he is alert, intensely loyal and highly trainable and is known as a devoted, docile dog with a keen sense of intelligence and understanding. Agile and sturdy, the Sheltie is one of the most successful obedience breeds, but also excels in agility, herding and conformation.” Of all the Shelties I have trained, I have yet to work with one that fit this description. Buyers aren’t buying those types of dogs, and most breeders aren’t breeding those types of dogs… and that is a shame. A Collie is one of the greatest dog breeds ever created. But, many of the Shelties I’ve seen have been defiant in the training, overly sensitive, timid, troublesome, overly noisy, and not all that sturdy. So, if you have a dog like this, then it is extremely important to work with a trainer to work around these traits. And if you haven’t yet gotten one, to do a LOT of homework to find a dog that fits what this breed is supposed to be. One big health problem is the potential for blindness. This breed should be on the top of your list of potential companions, but you might not be able to find one that actually is what it is supposed to be. I like Shelties, but I am concerned for the breed’s health and long term future.

Boston Terriers are great dogs, fun, funny, intelligent, active, super affectionate, trainable, companion dogs. I have never had a problem training this breed, and they are just great. As always, go for the reputable breeder, and then get into training from the very start. House training needs special attention from the very first day. This dog can also be blinded because of it’s protruding eyes, so if you have a cat or kids that won’t watch themselves around the dog, then maybe now isn’t the right time to get one.

French Bulldogs are affectionate, even tempered, playful, not overly energetic, companion dogs. This is a great breed. I do have philosophical issues with the breeding of this dog, however, since all of them have to be delivered artificially (by Cesarean section). I’m not at all comfortable with breeding dogs that take extraordinary means to perpetuate the breed. Many of the “head” breeds, with big skulls, have to be delivered artificially. That doesn’t mean this won’t be a great dog for you, but I’m still conflicted about all of this. Never buy one from a pet store or backyard breeder. This is an expensive dog, so if you are going to spend that much money, go with a great breeder. And be sure you are dealing with someone that doesn’t abusively breed their females, year after year.

Maltese are a fun, affectionate, playful, gentle small companion dog. I’ve trained a ton of them, and have liked them all. They can be mischievous if not properly trained, or allowed to become that way. The biggest problems you are going to have are if you got one from a pet store or backyard breeder, because, among other equally serious problems, many will be very hard to house train. I’ve met many Maltese that were made into biters because their owners spanked them for pottying in the home, or because they were mouthy as puppies. Raise them right, and this will turn into your best pal. Mistreat them, and they become miserable to live with, and it will be all your fault.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are Toy spaniels, that means, they are small companion dogs. The Cavaliers have a very interesting history, so it is worth reading about their creation as a breed. They are happy, friendly, active dogs, and I’ve never met an aggressive one. Most of the ones I’ve met have been somewhat sensitive, and also defiant. So, patient, step-by-step training of the dog and owners is necessary so as to get the best out of them. Just because they are cute and lovable doesn’t mean they are going to automatically obey you. That is something you have to earn with every dog, including a Cavalier.

Pugs are one of my favorite breeds. They are fun loving, funny, active, bold, curious, interactive, friendly companion dogs. Many snore. They are also typically harder to house train if you let it get out of control, and are defiant in the beginning of obedience training. This is definitely a breed that can have health issues, so you need to shop for the best. They don’t tolerate heat well at all. Get a Pug, raise it right, and you’ll be glad you got one. This is also one of the “head” breeds, like the French Bulldog that require artificial delivery.

Cocker Spaniels are great dogs, but it is hard to find a great one. This breed has suffered for decades because of its popularity. Every pet store sells them. Puppy mills are full of them. So, a poorly bred one will come with a host of undesirable temperament and health problems. I’ve seen hyperaggression, allergies, fear biting, horrible house training problems, and so forth. A good Cocker is a happy, obedient, faithful, friendly, willing, trainable, athletic, bold companion. They are good watch dogs, too. All of that is what you should be looking for. If I was to get one, I’d be talking to those select few breeders that are working to breed what these dogs were originally for: upland game bird retrieving. So, look in the hunting magazines and start there. If you already have a Cocker, then you need to have that dog in training. If you abuse a Cocker, then you deserve the bites you are going to get. This dog requires a light hand, a happy attitude, and good dog training methods.

Australian Shepherds are great dogs, and I’ve trained a lot of them. This is a great family companion dog: obedient, intelligent, athletic, agile, willing, highly trainable, friendly, and a great watch dog. Unfortunately, their popularity has resulted in dogs that are less than ideal. I’ve seen fear biting, dogs that weren’t good with kids, hyper aggression in some lines, and defiance in the training. Once again, it comes down to who bred the dog. And whether you train the dog. A good one is going to be one of the best family dogs you can find.

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are friendly, capable, intelligent, willing, highly trainable, even tempered companion dogs. I really like this breed. Assuming you get a good one from a good breeder, the biggest problems arise when these dogs are put in situations that trigger and frustrate their herding instincts. Dogs like this will herd other animals: at the park, in the home, at the ranch. Dogs with strong herding instincts will try to herd the other dogs in the home, and get more and more pushy about it. This can result in dog fights in the home if you mix the wrong dogs together. Having two, intact male Corgis in the home can result in fights as they try to “one up” one another, each trying to herd the other. This is a very smart and capable working dog, and it needs to vent that regularly. These dogs will do best if you take them all the way through Advanced Obedience, then do Agility or Herding so they can release their inner herding urges.

Mastiffs are the true giants of the dog world. Males can easily top 200 lbs. And they make terrific companions. They are calm, great watchdogs, good with kids, intelligent, watchful of kids, more athletic than you might think, incredibly strong, friendly, courageous companion dogs. On the other hand, there are a LOT of backyard breeders out there, that charge as much as a good breeder would, for dogs with serious health and temperament problems. A fear biting Mastiff often has to be put to death, for example. Fearfulness is the worst trait you can have in a Mastiff, and is completely the opposite of what this breed is supposed to be. When it comes to training, they are willful and defiant, so patient training is necessary, and it is important to keep them motivated to work. Mastiffs can be crushed by overly harsh owners, and cowed by physical abuse. A domineering person that did well with Dobermans would wreck a Mastiff. There are good breeders, and it is best to work through the breed clubs to find one.

English Springer Spaniels are excellent waterfowl retrievers, bold, energetic, hardy, eager, affectionate, devoted and highly trainable companion dogs. That is, of course, if you get one from hunting lines. If you get one from any other source, then you may or many not get a dog with all of these fine traits. Most of the English Springers I’ve worked with have been good dogs, but they’ve been mismanaged by their owners. This is NOT a dog for people that expect their dog to be a walking carpet, just to be fed and petted. A boring life like that loads these dogs up and results in many misbehaviors. And then, the owners typically get harsher and harsher with these dogs. And being Spaniels, they will get aggressive if the handling becomes abusive. This is a great breed IF you are willing to let this dog be a Spaniel. This dog needs complete training from beginning to end, then after you’ve done that, enroll the dog in Agility classes, or take the dog hunting regularly. Do something. Keep this dog working outside the home so the dog is good inside the home. This is NOT a dog to be left in the back yard, either. They aren’t going to be happy, and they will become miserable and destructive. It is unkind to own this breed and then neglect it’s emotional needs. It should also be mentioned that this breed also has health problems, so choose your breeder wisely.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.