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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

My wife and I are first time dog-owners (rather potential dog owners since we don't own a dog yet).

We are looking to adopt from our local humane society and we recently came across a Leonberger/Chow Chow mix puppy (10 weeks old) and wanted to find out more about that breed and whether it would be a good fit for us.

1. How big do these dogs get? This is important for us since we don't have a big house with a yard.
2. Are these high energy dogs that require a lot of outdoor activity? This isn't necessarily a problem because we love going for walks/runs, but something that would be good to know. :)
3. Do these dogs shed a lot?
4. How aggressive/docile is this mix?

Any inputs/experiences with these mix would greatly help us make a decision.

Thanks a lot!

Avi
 

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Leonbergers are very rare in the US. If you want a better idea of breed traits, ask the shelter if they're guessing based on looks or if they have knowledge of the parents' breeds. A lot of puppies look like Leonberger pups :D.

If the pup is truly part Leonberger, I would expect him/her to get pretty big. The giant breeds are usually fairly laid-back, but they still take up a lot of room, and puppies of all breeds are active. If space is an issue I wouldn't really recommend a giant breed mix.

Yes, big hairy dogs shed a lot. A LOT. Be prepared.

As for the temperament, this depends on the actual breed mix and the individual dog. Chows are known to be very loyal to one person, maybe their family, but not so great with strangers, because they were bred to be guard dogs. Leonbergers are known to be generally friendly. So who knows how a mix might turn out. Adopting a puppy with an unknown background requires some risk tolerance. If you want to have a better idea of a dog's personality, it might be better to adopt an adult dog so you know what you're getting. For the first time anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks a lot for the valuable info!

We are open to adopting dogs that are 1 yr (or thereabouts). In fact we did find a Border Collie Mix open for adoption, which is listed as 1 yr old.

But do we need to worry about the dog bonding with us? After all, it hasn't grown up with us.
 

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Thanks a lot for the valuable info!

We are open to adopting dogs that are 1 yr (or thereabouts). In fact we did find a Border Collie Mix open for adoption, which is listed as 1 yr old.

But do we need to worry about the dog bonding with us? After all, it hasn't grown up with us.
Adult dogs can bond very well with new caring owners.

I adopted Chester at aged 1.5-2 years after he had been in the humane society for a month after leaving an apparently caring home (reason for surrender was no affordable housing) and he is something of an independent hound dog but still totally connected to me.

I adopted Eva at around 1 to 1.5 years old and she is the classic cuddly pit bull. She was a stray and then into a shelter, then to another home that wasn't all that great, and then to me.

I know DOZENS of people directly who have adopted adult dogs and bonded tightly with them.

One issue of adopting a puppy from a shelter is the major unknown. A dog over 2 years of age is likely going to express most of his or her personality traits but a 10, 12 week old puppy doesn't yet have those traits. The breed guesses you mention seem very much a guess because both breeds are fairly uncommon; unless the mama dog was/is in the shelter too.

My only experience with Chow Chows hasn't been great, a very bitey dog. But that is one dog, not a breed. They aren't often recommended for first time owners though and I agree with that.
 

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I actually find it faster and easier, generally speaking, to bond with an adult dog than with a puppy. Puppies are pretty indiscriminate in their attention, then as juveniles they can be insufferable, then as young adults they can be manic. With pups it can be quite a while before you get a nice affectionate dog as opposed to a fluffy alligator.
 

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The older my dog has been the faster we bonded. I was uncertain with the younger ones but 5 year old Ginger was MINE and I couldn't wait for Monday to come so she could come home with me. She felt the same way and was not happy we left her at the shelter that day. The others were 8-24 months adolescent to young adult and took more time partly because they were nervous wrecks at first. Older dogs know when they are on to a good thing.

I'm not a fan of chows either. There were a pair of them down the street that would just stare at us passing by. No waggy tail. No barking. Stare. Gave us chills that did. That's two dogs, lots of people love the breed but they tend to be standoffish and a challenge to train if your first dog. The fur is extreme and you would need to do a lot of training to allow for long grooming sessions.
 

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Leonbergers are by all accounts (my wife grew up with them and my MiL did some showing with them, but that was before I knew them) lovely dogs, very good with people, generally laid back (although all puppies can be hellions). They're used frequently in water rescue over here. But they are BIG dogs. Chows I have no first- or second-hand experience with, but everything I've read suggests that they're on the opposite end of the spectrum than Leos in a lot of ways (reserved, wary with strangers), so if the pup is genuinely a cross between the two you could wind up with a combination of traits anywhere on a huge spectrum. But unless the shelter knows the puppy's parents for sure, I'd bet you're not looking at a Leo cross. Mixed breed puppies are notoriously hard to judge the parentage of, and shelters do the best they can by looks/personality, but it's just not that likely a rare breed is going around carelessly producing mixed pups that wind up in shelters. It's possible, just not super likely.

Adolescent/young adult dogs are a great way to go, imo! There's a lot of myths like "adult shelter dogs have baggage" or "only a puppy can bond with you" or "with a puppy you can raise it right to be sure it's a perfect dog" but the fact is that a lot of behavior and temperament is genetic, and even things like coat type can change as a pup matures, and you can't know the adult size. This can be a really fun aspect of a rescue mixed breed, if you're open to surprises! But a 1+ year old dog has grown into a lot of these traits, so you actually can know a lot more about the adult dog you'll wind up with than you possibly can a puppy. Everyone else has answered the bonding question, so I'll just say I agree, it's really a non-issue and even dogs adopted in their senior years typically bond very well with their new families!
 

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Puppies of any breed can be overwhelming and I second what everyone has said about the adult dog route. I work in a shelter, so I can say firsthand that we have so many adopters who find best friends in the adult dogs here. Also, it is very common for dogs to be surrendered due to lifestyle issues such as moving, human health issues, housing issues, etc. Which is to say, it should not be hard at all to find a dog that is not surrendered for behavior issues, is already house trained, and already has wonderful experiences living in a home with people.

That said, I don't think the puppy route is necessarily a bad one. Just be prepared for what will feel like a second full time/part time job for at least the first year, a bit more of a gamble on genetics, and accepting whatever personality the puppy grows into. I'll answer your specific questions below in bold:

Hello,

My wife and I are first time dog-owners (rather potential dog owners since we don't own a dog yet).

We are looking to adopt from our local humane society and we recently came across a Leonberger/Chow Chow mix puppy (10 weeks old) and wanted to find out more about that breed and whether it would be a good fit for us.

Unless one or both of the parents were verified (and even then, it can be a guess), Leonberger/Chow might be a wild guess. Shelter staff often take their best guess and may also choose appealing breeds to get the public's attention. They don't do this to lie, but really no one can tell what a dog is unless it is an obvious purebred. This is true especially for a 'fluffy puppy'. There are so many fluffy breeds and their temperaments vary DRASTICALLY. You can have a sweet, amicable, tolerant, cuddly Newfoundland on one end.... And an extremely guarded, wary, aloof, and people/dog aggressive Caucasian on the other.

1. How big do these dogs get? This is important for us since we don't have a big house with a yard.
Chows are solid medium dogs, and Leonbergers are giant dogs. So you'll probably end up with a pretty large animal if the breed guesses hold true. That said, I don't think size of a living space and having a yard necessarily dictates the size of a dog you get. If you are committed to taking the dog out every day, you have no limitations.

2. Are these high energy dogs that require a lot of outdoor activity? This isn't necessarily a problem because we love going for walks/runs, but something that would be good to know. :)
Generally, no. But puppies and adolescents require a LOT.

3. Do these dogs shed a lot?
Yes.

4. How aggressive/docile is this mix?
I would not categorize any breed as inherently aggressive or docile... But Leonbergers tend to be more social, which reduce the likelihood of aggression or fear issues developing. Chows are the total opposite, very independent and aloof. They aren't inherently 'aggressive' but because of their nature, if they are not properly socialized or trained the chances of aggression due to fear or protectiveness are higher. It's not surprising that people have more bite incidences with chows and less so with leos. I know some people with negative chow experiences too. I've also met some absolutely lovely chows (purebred, from what I could see) that came through our shelter.

Any inputs/experiences with these mix would greatly help us make a decision.
Some general advice.... Think about the lifestyle you lead and how a dog might fit into it. For example, if you both have full time jobs and are looking for a smoother transition in adding a dog, getting an adult dog with known history or getting a dog through a foster situation might be better. If you frequently have gatherings or like to hang out at the park with friends, consider that a chow mix might not be thrilled by the presence of strangers, other dogs, or petting. Doesn't mean the dog will be aggressive. But anytime you push a dog to 'become' something its not, or repeatedly put the dog in uncomfortable situations, you increase the CHANCES of aggressive behavior. Whereas if you get an inherently social and friendly dog, it will thrive in those same conditions

Thanks a lot!

Avi
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you so much Chanyx: you have highlighted some keys issues.

We are both working professionals and trying to get pregnant at the same time. So I think all of you are right: we might be better off with a slightly older dog, especially one that is already house trained.

We are going to rule out the Leon/Chow mix for now.

We are going to see a 1 yr old Border Collie mix tomorrow and he looks absolutely adorable. He is one of the Yulin dogs (such a sad story!) recently rescued, so holds that much more importance for us.

Thanks so much for all the fantastic advice!

Avi
 

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Thank you so much Chanyx: you have highlighted some keys issues.

We are both working professionals and trying to get pregnant at the same time. So I think all of you are right: we might be better off with a slightly older dog, especially one that is already house trained.

We are going to rule out the Leon/Chow mix for now.

We are going to see a 1 yr old Border Collie mix tomorrow and he looks absolutely adorable. He is one of the Yulin dogs (such a sad story!) recently rescued, so holds that much more importance for us.


Thanks so much for all the fantastic advice!

Avi
Don't let a sad story/ sad background influence you into selecting a dog that isn't a good match. I mean, this dog might be a good match but might not be. You'll have a dog for years and the dog's history will fade into the background so it is the every day life that has to be a match.

Border Collies are typically high energy dogs that can be sharp, drivey and sometimes neurotic. They are herders and some have the tendency to nip and herd other dogs and children. A 1 year old BC still has about 2 more years of "growing a brain" and maturing to do. A typical 1 year old Border Collie would not be what I would suggest for a first-time owner who has the potential to have a newborn in the house within the next year or two.

At 1 year old, you can tell a lot more about a dog's personality than you can in a 2-3 month old puppy but you have to keep in mind that the dog isn't mature yet and his personality is still solidifying.
 

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I agree with your decision to take the Chow/Leon mix out of consideration. No dog should be adopted/purchased lightly, but being a giant breed owner, I can tell you that giant breeds take a large amount of preparation and financial support to own responsibly. Unless you are specifically targeting giant breeds (which it doesn't seem like you are), I'd recommend avoiding them.

Don't let a sad story/ sad background influence you into selecting a dog that isn't a good match. I mean, this dog might be a good match but might not be. You'll have a dog for years and the dog's history will fade into the background so it is the every day life that has to be a match.

Border Collies are typically high energy dogs that can be sharp, drivey and sometimes neurotic. They are herders and some have the tendency to nip and herd other dogs and children. A 1 year old BC still has about 2 more years of "growing a brain" and maturing to do. A typical 1 year old Border Collie would not be what I would suggest for a first-time owner who has the potential to have a newborn in the house within the next year or two.

At 1 year old, you can tell a lot more about a dog's personality than you can in a 2-3 month old puppy but you have to keep in mind that the dog isn't mature yet and his personality is still solidifying.
I also agree with this. A BC is not a breed I'd recommend for a first time owner who may have an infant crawling around soon. BCs are dogs that really need jobs - not just physical exercise, but mental stimulation. They can also be neurotic and difficult to handle for even experienced owners. Overall, definitely not a breed I'd recommend for your situation.

Keep in mind that you'll likely have to physical and mentally stimulate *any* adolescent dog for 30-45 minutes a day. I own two adolescents that are a moderately energetic breed, and I spend at least 90 minutes a day interacting with them, which includes exercise, training and play. It sounds like you may not have time for that commitment, so I'd recommend looking at adult dogs. 'Adult' means 3+ years of age, which is when most dogs have really matured and started to settle down. You won't have any issues bonding with an adult as opposed to a puppy - in fact, puppies are hard to bond with because they're basically tiny terrors who will pee everywhere and eat your things when you're not looking.
 

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If the dog is from China, I really doubt it has any Border Collie background to speak of. Probably a black-and-white street mutt. I know shelters feel like they have to pick a breed mix to label the dog but I wish they were more willing to say "some kinda mix, we dunno what" instead :/.
 

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We are going to see a 1 yr old Border Collie mix tomorrow and he looks absolutely adorable. He is one of the Yulin dogs (such a sad story!) recently rescued, so holds that much more importance for us.
I would recommend not getting this dog. Granted, the dog can be absolutely lovely and fine. But I'm going to chime in again with sheltering experience... We've taken dogs from severe cases before such as hoarding. Yes, some are normal and healthy. But the percentage of dogs that have a serious, often irreversible, medical or behavioral issue are so much higher. I've worked with some of the folks who fostered or adopted from a recent mill or hoarding case. Lifetime fear and house training issues. Puppy mill dogs are treated like garbage. I can only imagine how meat dogs are treated. The ONLY potential silver lining I can think of here is I would speculate that dogs bred for meat would also be bred for less reactivity and aggression (no one wants to raise food animals who will fight for their lives). But I should call it a silver speck, because I would also guess that such dogs are not raised for social behavior with people or living with people either.

Again, the people who help these dogs can be large hearted and wonderful. And at the core, dogs are dogs. Yes, there are so many stories of mill dogs, meat dogs, rez dogs, whatever... Becoming wonderful family companions. The chances of there being issues are much higher.

My greatest recommendation would be to look for a young adult dog in a shelter, rescue, or foster situation who has a known history. I think getting an older puppy/young adult, like a one year old, might even be a good idea with the right fit. They can still be a lot of work (hopefully minus the housetraining and bulk of the nipping/chewing) but if you're trying to conceive now it will at least give you a few months to develop a relationship and a routine with the dog and help it mature a little.

I hope you don't get discourage by all of our posts. I think you will give a wonderful home to an awesome dog. We're all just trying to help you make a decision that won't leave you with a huge project or a problem to fix.
 

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The dog I bonded with the most (and also the fastest) was my papillon, Crystal, and I got her when she was just over a year old. She was held back for showing and breeding, but she got too tall to show. Getting an adult dog from a breeder is a great way to go, because the dogs usually have some training and have been well socialized. Rescues are great, too, of course, and are usually what I recommend to someone whose heart isn't set on a specific breed. You might want to narrow down your choices to some breeds/mixes that are generally more tolerant of kids and that fit your desired energy level, though.
 

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I agree with Cran. I would absolutely take in a retired dog from a responsible, reputable breeder. I've seen some that are champions in their own right, but are ready to just relax and be somebody's life and soak up the love. With smaller breed dogs, you could have another ten years with them easy. I would want one that had lived in the house, however, and not in a kennel, so they know house etiquette.
 

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Have you looked into retired racing hounds? My friend had one and it was such a calm dog, which you probably wouldn't think with the word "racing".

Eta: I also agree with Crantastic's advice on a retired breeding dog from a responsible breeder.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Thanks so much once again. All your posts have been a great learning experience for me and only highlights how little we knew before heading into the adoption process.

A couple of questions:

1. We have effectively ruled out both the dogs we were initially interested in. The other breeds I see at our local shelter are a Shiba Inu cross, a Terrier cross, A shepherd/lab mix.....but you have raised some important points about the questionable nature of the mixes reported by the Humane society. That is indeed a concern for us given our situation.

What breed would you recommend for first time dog owners like us? We really loved Golden Retrievers, but are open to any mid size dogs. We are not fans of small dogs like Chihuahua's or very large dogs.

2. I really like the idea of retired breeding dog: are they part of the adoption process as well? Where would I find such dogs?

Thanks so much!

Avi
 

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How much grooming would you be comfortable with? Would you prefer a dog you can just brush at home, or one you'd also need to take to a groomer?

How much exercise can you give a dog each day? How much time can you devote to training? (Dogs tend to do better with a few short sessions throughout the day instead of one long one, so don't worry about having to set aside large chunks of time.)

Once you've narrowed it down to some breeds you like (we can help!), go to their national breed club pages and find the breeder list. (Goldens are a little different; you need to narrow it down to a club.) Most breeders have an application, and most of those allow you to specify that you'd prefer a retired adult or young adult over a puppy. If the breeders don't have an application, they'll have a contact email address or phone number. Express your interest in the breed (maybe with a short explanation of why you like that breed) and your desire to learn more. Mention that you're interested in an adult. Breeders love to find great homes for the adults they can't keep (and often charge less for them... even though in my mind they're often worth more with all that socialization and training and usually spay/neuter as well).
 

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Honestly, over the years I've chosen most of my dogs by just going to a shelter or rescue and picking the most affable one there that meets my coat/size requirements, and it's always worked out. (One of said dogs is sleeping on my feet as we speak...I think I've had her for about fourteen years now?) IMO a dog that is pleasant and happy (without being shut down) even in a chaotic environment like that is generally, barring some real outlier of a fluke, a dog that can be readily shaped into a nice pet. It's a harsh thing to say, but I wouldn't adopt a dog that seems at all shy, sad, nervous, reticent, etc., unless I had the time, energy and experience to devote to a potential "project" animal - many of them do open up and become sweeties once they settle in at a home, but others have more deep-seated issues or genetic predispositions for problematic temperaments. And hey, "easy" shelter/rescue/foster dogs need homes just as much as the dogs with sad stories or sad eyes do!

For someone inexperienced with dogs and reading dog behavior, it's a great idea to get a dog that's been fostered, is retired from a non-sketchy breeder, or something similarly domestic and personal, so you can be informed about the dog's predilections. Alternatively, if you're considering dogs straight out of a "gen pop" shelter situation, you might consider hiring a reputable positive trainer to come along with you to check out the animals and advise you - sure, there's a price tag on that, but it could save a lot of money and stress in the long run.
 
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