Dog Breed Biases: We All Have Them (Admit it!)

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Are there breeds you love and breeds you don’t get the appeal of? I think we all do – though I would be the first to admit that there are always exceptions to any rule. I love Border Collies – but I’ve met individual ones that aggravated me. And I am generally not a fan of German Shorthair Pointers (or Wirehaired Pointers, for that matter), but one of the sweetest, funniest GSPs is in my extended family and I adore her.

In my opinion, hunting dogs in general are some of the prettiest dogs there are. But if they come from a long line of hunters, I tend to find it annoying to walk with them. I enjoy walking with my dogs, interacting with them, racing and playing with them, and watching them scan and joyfully take in their environment. I do not enjoy feeling like I have to prevent the dog I am walking with from scanning the environment for small creatures that they might be able to kill. As such, I love hounds – but only the ones who aren’t into hunting!

I was raised around dogs who were bred to herd cattle – Kelpies and Australian Cattle Dogs and various mixes of these – but I tend not to enjoy the intensity, grit, and independence that these dogs are known for. However, I have lots of friends who enjoy them for those traits alone; some people prefer having somewhat aloof dogs who can take care of themselves without a lot of fuss.

I was an adult before I was introduced to the typically softer, more responsive Border Collie – still a herding breed, but one that tends to be more attuned to humans, more solicitous of our affection and approval than the tougher dogs bred to take the hard knocks of cattle herding. My BC Rupert, a “pet quality” pup who was practically given away (in contrast to his high-cost, sheep-herding prospect littermates), opened my heart forever to these sensitive and quirky dogs.

border collie
An ex-boyfriend bought Border Collie Rupert from a sheep rancher for $50; his littermates were for sale for $500 each, as they were sheep-herding prospects. When I verbally doubted whether such a determination could be made about the potential of four-month-old puppies, the rancher, exasperated, dropped Rupert and one of the $500 puppies into a pen that contained a ewe and her newborn lambs. Rupert tried frantically to escape the pen; the other puppy froze like a statue, transfixed by the sight of the sheep. “Oh!” I said. Being a herding failure made him a perfect pet for me. ©Nancy Kerns | Whole Dog Journal

But as much as I admire purpose-bred dogs, I don’t want one for myself. I’m afraid I’m always going to be a mutt lover. I love big mutts and I cannot lie! I get such a kick out of trying to guess what mixed-breed puppies will look like– how big they will be! – when they mature. And I love trying to identify what breed their personality traits and tendencies may be attributable to – if any! My two most muttliest mutts – the two dogs that show the most breeds in their mixed-breed DNA tests – don’t show any particular traits that align with any breeds at all!

Are there breeds you’d never own? Do you always get dogs of the same breed? Or do you select dogs without regard to their breed?

44 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting..I love all dogs. I’d admit I have mixed feelings about small neurotic nippy breeds, boxers and big drooly dogs. I got into Shiba Inu’s a long time ago and once they and other Spitz breeds set their hooks, its a habit that it is hard to break. I’ve been blessed to have had three of these characters in my life. They are a challenging breed and not for novices but building that relationship has so many rewards.

  2. I absolutely adore Golden Retrievers (and their mixes), and can’t imagine not having one of these gentle, loving dogs in my life. On the flip side, I’m more than a little leery of pitties, and would never have one…and yet, my neighbor had a pit mix that was one of the sweetest, funniest pups I’ve ever known. I also admit to a bias against aggression-prone breeds like Rottweilers and Dobermans (and yes, I know there are wonderful exceptions to my negative judgment!), simply because I prefer a breed or mix that is more amiable and affectionate. I want a big dog that isn’t opposed to covering me with dog-kisses!

    • I’m with you Joan. My best dog ever was a Yellow Lab/Golden Retriever. Smart, funny, sweet, affectionate, gentle, bidable. Everything I want in a dog. I now have another Lab/Golden and a Silver Lab. I would never own a pittie.

  3. I don’t have breed biases per se, but I’ve never gotten the appeal of little dogs. Chihuahuas in particular. Maybe becaue their personality is more like that of a cat…they can take you or leave you. Sometimes they love you like crazy, then it’s like…meh. Today you’re staff.
    Whereas big dogs are always, always “Mom! Omigod, Mom! You’ve been gone for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES! I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!!”
    Yes, there are exceptions…my baby sister found a little mop… I mean maltipoo running the streets. Just a big, matted mess. Took her to the vet, had her stripped (the mats were THAT BAD)…and named her Jayda. Have no idea how old Jayda was when she was rescued, but Jayda lived 16 long years with our family…and I adored her. She was a little dog in a herd of 12 other 50+ pounders, and she was second only to Beighmer, the queen.

    • I had no use for Chihuahua types until I came into possession of Tito, who was left by a niece to stay with us “for a few months, maybe” that turned into years. He was a big dog in a little guy’s body, but that didn’t mean he wanted you to pick him – just try it! Self-possessed, highly confident, a fetch fanatic . . . i miss him soooo much!

  4. I grew up with dogs….Beagles and such.
    My husband and I have been married almost 50 years and we have had 7 Shih Tzu dogs in that time….sometime 1 and sometimes 2 at a time.

    Our first was a rescue ….we fell in love with the breed. We now purchase from excellent , honest breeders. Shih Tzu dogs are just the right size for us.
    I think everyone has a favorite breed.
    ,

    • Our daughter had 2 Shih Tzu’s and we fell in love with the breed. So prior to my retirement, we got a male Shih Tzu puppy as out first dog since I was a teenager. We’re now approaching our mid 70’s and he has been perfect for our life style. Meanwhile our daughter’s 2 have passed and she has a cocker spaniel that has WAY TOO much energy for us, but she is very pretty.

  5. Golden Retrievers are my favorites…..I love their big fluffy coats and those loving eyes and happy soft toy carrying personality. But I also love Beagles and Shih Tzus and Great Danes and Chihuahuas….for me it is all about the connection and not the breed. I am still fostering and the group that I belong to pulls dogs from the county kill shelter so we take out as many as we can.

    It looks like your newest dog Boone has gone through a growth spurt…..or just in the foreground of the photo?

    • Both things are true! He’s gotten much taller than I expected him to, and is only about 10 months old now. But he also looks bigger than he is, being in the foreground. His “stay” is still a work in progress, so I haven’t yet managed to get him in a proper lineup with Woody and Otto for comparison.

  6. I have had lots of different dogs – I tend to select my dogs based on their personality and temperament for what it is that I want to do with them at whatever stage of my life I am in now. Size doesn’t always matter – but when I wanted a dog to kayak with – I did look for a smaller ‘kayak friendly’ dog. I didn’t always choose dogs based on temperament – but I do now, and if they have a ‘mask’, I’m always a sucker for that. (I have two cavaliers, a pomeranian-chihuahua, and a Border Collie/Newfoundland mix currently).

  7. Sporting group seems to max out my choices…many goldens for years, a perfect English cocker as I ‘downsized’ and now have had 3 rescue Am cockers… but adored two great danes and the clown Eng bull/beagle ‘mutt’ from neighbor’s accidental pups. Not sure I would ever choose a herding group or toy. But choices sometimes just happen :-).
    Can’t imagine life without a dog. Wish they lived forever…but then there are many friends I would never have known.

  8. There are certain dogs I have never been a fan of. First and foremost Chow Chow. Then Shepard’s and Husky’s. I have three mutts who are all very different but all lovable and sweet. They all listen well and are extremely people oriented and willing to please. Two I could pick out the most dominant breed but 1 I had no clue! Did a dna test when she was just 1 year old. Said mixed breed throughout the entire report. Then I did one again a few months ago (she is now 8) thinking there were many more submissions of dna. WOW! The love of my life is (in this order) Chow, Shepard and Husky with some pit! When I read up on them and saw the characteristics of each it explained so much of her personality and behaviors! But she is still my mutt and they will always be my favorite ‘Breed’!

  9. I’d never have a pure-bred dog with a deformity such as bulldog, pug, pekingese or Chinese Shar-Pei. I just wish breeders of pure-breds would breed for health and longevity. I will always go for the shelter dogs of mixed parentage. I have two: one that is a mix of seven breeds (pit, husky, cocker spaniel, bichon frise, basset hound and chow chow); he is active and healthy and the most affectionate dog I have ever had. The other is a chow chow/Staffie mix; she is a sweet and gentle dog and very independent; a little petting goes a long way with her.

  10. I have mutts now and LOVE them. Had Dobermans (my velcro dogs) and sighthounds also. Loved, loved, loved them. All our dogs except for my first dog were/are rescues. Would not buy a dog when so many are languishing in shelters, but that is a topic for another day! Adore pits and pit mixes and tons of other breeds. So many I wish I could have. I am however, NOT a fan of Goldens. Actually, dislike them quite a bit. Find them unattractive and really annoying lol. Would have to say I would be dog-less before owning one. And that is saying a lot since, I can’t imagine not having dogs! Also, do not like Yorkies, Westies, and a quite a few other small breeds. I feel kind of bad saying that since I consider myself to be a dog person. But, I don’t like all people I meet, so I guess it is like that with dogs also, at least for me.

  11. Whippets since 1977!! We moved to Alaska without a dog and life without a dog just doesn’t work! Went to the pound and saw what I believed to be the most beautiful dog I’d ever seen. He was on his side not really moving much. Unfortunately they had him in a kennel with a husky puppy who was jumping all over him. I took a quick look around and decided he was the one. When I went to pay the fee the woman said, “Why do you want that dog? He’s just going to die.” Took him home, gave him a bath (he bit me) and it was family love after that! I’ve had whippets ever since. Affectionate, some can be weird but a good weird, and definitely fast. Great to have a large yard, fenced, so they can enjoy their speed and play races!

    • Thanks for sharing! The “he bit me” comment has had me laughing for five minutes. Tito the Chihuahua used to bite us on a regular basis – which always made us jump and yelp, but NEVER hurt. He had exquisite bite-inhibition but was crystal clear in his communication: He brooked no bullshit about people petting him or picking him up without permission. The first week we had him, I kept thinking, “What a little a-hole!” but by the time we had him for a month, I was his biggest fan.

      • Your comment “what a little a**hole” is cracking me up bcuz I totally understand! We have 6 long coat chi’s & 5 of them are everything u would never believe a chi could be… calm, level, friendly, & outgoing. Any of the 5 could change anyones opinion of chi’s… then, we have 1 who’s literally everything u’ve ever heard abt a chi in a single 3.5 lb pkg! Lol. She even bites me when I annoy her! But she’s also the sweetest, most loving, clingiest, neediest, Velcro pup (she’s 6 yrs old) on the planet & I adore her w/ everything in me! She attached to me 24/7 & I wouldn’t change her for the world.

  12. My heart dog was Scooterpie Pinkpads, a Bull Terrier/ Basset mix. As she a pup she looked like she had a bull terrier head plopped on a basset body. But as she aged, when I would walk her in public, people would ask me if I had a giant corgi! She was a stray I rescued and the best dog ever!

  13. As a child I fell in love with Lady and the Tramp (my stuffed Lady still adorns my bed more than half a century later) and always loved — and love — Spaniels. I’ve had splendid “mutts” who were wonderful, but my Heart Dog was my English Cocker Spaniel who I had from 7 weeks to 16. Just my dream. I currently have an ECS-Springer cross who is a rescue and also a dear, dear lovable companion. Also shared my home with a Rottie (a love bear), a standard Poodle (the Happiest girl ever), and a rescue greyhound (a gentle giant). But I will always have an ECS.

    • We took in an abandoned long coated sable GSD. He was skinny, matted and filthy, about 2 years old (per the vet) and totally untrained. He was smart as a whip and the sweetest dog. Exactly eight years to the day after we took him in, he got out and was hit by a car. That was one of the saddest days of my life. RIP Nacho!

  14. All my life I’ve had dogs, mutts, am cockers, German shepherds, Dobermans, lab mixes, and three border collie mixes, also a Catahoula mix. Every one was loving and seriously affectionate. At this stage in my life after my current two have passed I am leaning toward a Border Collie. I would like a slightly lower key dog, more for companion who will be happy with obedience and agility. I like there size and ease of training, and their intelligence is phenomenal. Never been a fan of small yappy dogs, mostly because the few I have met were nasty little buggers. But I guess if circumstances warranted I could love any canine!

  15. I had to smile at your description of border collies and Australian cattle dogs. So right on! Our dog Henry is a cross between a border collie and a cattle dog (mom a cattle dog and dad a border collie). He is the perfect blend of both – not too much like one or the other but with double the smarts. Even though both his parents were working herders, he did not get the herding gene. He’s just the best dog. Am I biased??? Probably.

  16. I have had so many breeds as a child and thru my adult years. Each of them hold a special place in my heart. Some long hair, some short hair. Mostly mutts. All rescues. My newest baby is a Pit Bull (87.5% Staffy) who ‘told’ me he wanted to be a therapy dog. He had a tendency at 8 months old to lead me to wheelchairs, crutches, strollers and walkers. It’s as if he senses that person ‘needs’ him. He was right. He is a wonderful therapy dog. He absolutely loves people! And they love him. Even the people who are startled to learn he is a Pit Bull. Yep, I’ve had and loved many breeds, but I will only have Pitties from here on.

  17. I have Shelties. I love that they are super intelligent, responsive and energetic. I like that they are big enough to be DOGS but small enough for me to easily pick them up if I need to. They also bark a bit too much but you can’t have everything…
    I compete in Obedience and Rally and I also teach classes. I must admit that I’m happy to see other Shelties, Aussies and Border Collies in class and I DREAD seeing any kind of bulldog type. I absolutely can’t figure those dogs out. I like poodles, cringe at doodles and do not want to see a Cane Corso (is that the correct spelling? ). Pit Bull types are a mixed bag; I have known some good ones but have had some really sullen types in class. GSDs are generally easy to train as are the various Belgian Shepherd breeds. Terriers are, well, terriers.
    Huskies are beautiful but generally have WAY too much energy and too little focus for the people who get them…

    • Love your comment,”terriers are, well terriers!” We are terrier people, so I know what you mean! We’ve have had as many as six JRT’S at a time along with a Westie and an Irish Setter. The Jack’s taught the Irish to be a terrier. Over my lifetime I have had many breeds of dogs: GSD, GSD/collie, pit/lab, Springer spaniel, min schnauzer, JRT, Westie, Irish setter, boxer/whatever, and a Cavi/ Chihuahua/min pin/etc mix. I absolutely adore Irish setters! They are so goofy and outgoing. Our second one, Darby, lived thru all our grandchildren’s babyhoods, and she let them crawl all over her. Best family dog ever. But we tend to like the terriers best, especially Jack’s and Westies.

      Right now we have a Westie puppy (our second Westie), and the above mentioned Cavi-mix (a rescue.) While the Westie is very outgoing and loves everyone and every dog we meet, the Cavi-mix hates everyone but me and the Westie puppy. He even doesn’t like my husband, which is a different issue. I could find a place in my heart and house for any dog, well a Chihuahua would be a stretch…

  18. I am on my 4th set of German Shorthaired Pointers! LOVE the breed. Our last one we had with a weimaraner. Love BOTH breeds <3 I may have a vizla in my distant future, who knows. But they are all such loves, and I can't imagine life without these breeds!

  19. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments so much! We have had lab mixes that we’ve adored, but more recently I’ve discovered Cardigan Welsh Corgis, now have two of them. They have awesome personalities and are a good size — not too big, not too small. As Lucy said about her Shelties, I wish they barked less, but that’s what you often get in a herding breed. I’m also typically not a fan of smaller breeds, but there are definitely exceptions. The diversity of the dog word is amazing and a gift!

  20. I grew up with Springers. My ex had a mutt who looked like an all grey Beardie, and he was an awesome dog. Since then I’ve had primarily goldens, a couple of BC’s, a true mutt (all generations of Wisdom Panel showed mutt), with a gorgeous golden coat with black tips, black muzzle, and white stockings with gold ticking that we swore glowed in the dark, and the most zen personality. I currently have a mostly Aussie thing (around 90% but perfect tri-color markings) who’s undersized but too big for a mini. Of all the dogs I’ve lived with, only the Aussie is a breed I never want again. He’s as sweet as my BC’s, but far too neurotic and OCD, whereas my BC’s were just quirky. I think it’s pretty clear that I like my dogs with at least medium coat, and not too small. I don’t know what I’d pick if I ever have to move to a small dog, but it would have some coat! When I was teaching pet classes, I saw a lot of golden doodles (we leave near puppy mill country) and that’s one ‘breed’ I really don’t care for. They didn’t seem to have a brain!

  21. I’ve had several mixed breeds (Australian shepherd mix, terrier mix, GSD mixes) and purebred shepherds. We now have a black mouth cur that we love. As we’ve aged ( now in our 60’s) we take into consideration activity level and size. Having dealt with aged dogs, the realization of needing to assist them with getting in and out of the truck or car or just getting up to a standing position has made us realize we can’t easily lift a dog that weighs >50 lbs – we aren’t getting younger! Same thing with activity level. A high energy dog as we age would not be very happy with us. Our current dog is keeping us active enough!

  22. The one dog my family had while I was growing up was a dachshund. My parents just weren’t dog people. Long before I could have a dog of my own, I began an internal debate over what breed I would choose. I picked the Doberman and my current dog is my eighth representative of the breed. I love their look, attitude, athleticism, short coat, ability to settle down in the house but still always be ready to leap out the door— there’s not much I don’t love about the Doberman. Still, I would like to experience many other breeds. I lucked into getting two miniature poodles and found them just as wonderful as my Dobermans. Later, I found and rescued a standard poodle puppy and he was awesome. I’ve also been responsible for a Basenji and a cocker spaniel long enough to get to know those two dogs very well. All these dogs have been individuals, that’s the main thing I’ve learned. While I probably wouldn’t choose a Dalmatian or a Samoyed, husky or malamute, I wouldn’t be surprised to be wrong about any of them if an individual dog became part of my family. And I have to admit that I never learned to love that one Basenji, but his affections were engaged elsewhere from the beginning.

    • Kromi, I love your Doberman comments! My family’s first dog was a Beagle and she was wonderful for us kids–three sisters. We moved to an 80 acre farm in lower Michigan and a Shepherd/Collie mix joined us. Mom then went into Gordon Setters and horses and cows came into the fold. Along with barn cats. It was a delightful menagerie! My teen years were filled with dog shows where I had the opportunity to experience and explore dozens of dog breeds! It was fascinating and enlightening–I could a