Karen B. London
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Different Than Your Other Dogs
Adopting dogs that are unlike what we’re used to

“We’ve always had little lap dogs, but this one is probably part mastiff and part Great Dane. I never thought I’d have a dog bigger than I am!” My neighbor was so enthusiastic about their new dog Thor that she came over specifically to introduce him to me. He is delightful, and the family is so happy. Part of the fun is that this dog is so completely different than every other dog they have ever had. In fact, this dog’s head is about the size of their other dogs.

I’ve met many people who have always had big dogs and then at some point adopted a small one. The reverse situation of my neighbor—a departure from little dogs to acquire a large one—is a little less common, but still not unusual. And many people adopt dogs that are completely different from all their other dogs in ways that go beyond size.

A friend of mine grew up with terriers and continued with them into adulthood. Then, she had a dream about a doing herding trials with a dog. She adopted a Border Collie not long after. I’m not advocating acting on every dog-related dream to guide important life decisions, but in this case, it worked out beautifully. She now has a variety of terriers and herders in her house and it’s a happy home.

Perhaps one of the biggest transitions is to go from quiet dogs who occasionally let out a single half-hearted “woof” to a dog who is a champion barker.  If your dogs have previously been of the former variety it can be a shock when you welcome a dog with the vocalization tendencies of breeds like the American Eskimo or the Great Pyrenees. As with so many variations among dogs, personal preferences are all over the place. Some people love to have a dog who alerts then to everything, while other people prefer more peace and quiet.

The energy level of different dogs is another area where transitions can be a shock. If you’ve always had high-energy dogs and now you find yourself living with a couch potato, you may struggle to adjust. However, that is unlikely to be anywhere near as big an issue as the one facing people who have always had dogs who are content to lie around much of the day and now have one who wants to run 20 miles before breakfast.

If your dogs have usually been of the wash-and-go type, with the washing happening no more than a couple of times a year, a dog with high grooming demands will be a big change. Many years ago I met a family who had only had short-haired dogs until they adopted a Bearded Collie who they paid to have groomed about once a month. It can be hard to transition from a no-brushing-required dog to a send-your-groomer-to-Europe dog, but it’s nice that you can hire a professional if you know in your heart that you’re not up to the constant care needed.

Have you ever adopted a dog who was completely different than your usual canine companions?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo by Austin Kirk/Flickr

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Submitted by Janet | June 4 2014 |

After 50 years of dogs from 60 to 90 pounds in weight, we decided to foster a little dog in dire need, with no intention of keeping her. Cedar is a white Cockapoo -- as unlike our other dogs as possible. BUT she moved right in, made herself to home, loved our other big dog and our cat, sat on the couch and slept in the bed, and a year later is still amazing us with how different she is. She is very much a "lady" who would prefer to stay inside than out, cannot bear cold weather or rain, and yet goes out to roll in rabbit poop just like the big guys. We fed her much too much at first -- her tiny little appropriate serving seems to be not enough for a cat, let alone a dog. And -- we have had to learn to groom and clip her ourselves. So Cedar always looks a bit lopsided and raggedy, but we do prefer her looking like that! She has turned out to be a delightful surprise!

Submitted by Abby | June 6 2014 |

I grew up w tricolor collies but when my kids were big enough I knew we wanted a medium sized rescue. When we saw Eva's pic on the shelter website we k ew she was ours, 20 lbs at 9 months old with long black fur and the tan and black face of a tri. When we first met bed I knew right away this was no collie. Zbe was hyper and loud even for a puppy, but it was too late we were already in love. Many hours of trai ing later she will only 'come' for a treat and if she is feeling obedient. At 4 years old she is just starting to show signs of tiring at the dog park. Going from calm quiet and obedient to hyper loud and independent certainly is hard. But of course we wouldn't have it any other way. Plus she is too funny. The little yip and tilt of the head that say 'Ply with me now!' Trying to dig my bed as if to bury something. Growling at the swingset. She cracks us up every day!

Submitted by Wendy | June 13 2014 |

I have had Brittany's my entire life. They are my FAVORITE breed. But when our girl passed away a couple of years ago, I told my husband that the next dog was his choice. Two weeks ago we adopted a lovely Lab mix from the Humane Society. SHE IS SO CALM!!! I thought all puppies were wild and crazy and wanted to go go go like a Brittany. Emma is wonderful, loving, smart and adorable, but she is most definitely NOT my Trixie Dawg. The change is quite nice and quite refreshing. And hopefully her calm demeanor will help when we get our next dog... another Brittany. =)

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