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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
Sorry this is so long, but I am interested in becoming a first time dog owner and wondered if anyone has suggestions for dogs that I can begin researching. A few things to know about our family: I have two children ages 4 1/2 and 6 1/2. They are very calm (for that age) and very good with animals. I also have a cat who is 3 years old. He's a mellow, easy going cat who has honestly never hissed in the 3 years we've had him! Previous to owning him, I also had 2 cats that lived for 16 years (one was diabetic for 6 years and I gave her insulin shots twice a day). I am a professor, so my hours are flexible, though my dog would be left alone for some period of time throughout the day. I have the flexibility of coming home (I work 8 minutes from my home) and am ready to do what it takes to train our dog. We live in a house in a city neighborhood with a decent sized lot and a wooded park 2 blocks away. Many dogs live in our neighborhood. I have thought long and hard about owning a dog and believe that I am now ready, though not in any rush to run out and buy a puppy.
I am looking for a dog that is good with kids and cats when trained properly, somewhat easy to train, and somewhat mellow (especially when indoors). We also would prefer a small to medium sized dog. The research I've done so far has been on the standard poodle (not so small, but seems a good fit so far), bichon frise, cavachon (??), and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We've also considered adopting from local shelters, but haven't seen any dogs that can go into a family with younger children yet. Any other suggestions of dogs or thoughts about these dogs would be greatly appreciated, as this is a very important decision for us. Thank you!!
 

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Yay for wanting to become a dog owner! You'll love it!!

I don't have too much experience with small dogs, but my aunt raises Bichons and they can be a bit stubborn to train. Especially housetrain. I'm not sure all are like that, but all of hers have taken a year or more to housetrain. They are good dogs though, pretty calm and hers are good with kids.

I wouldn't get anything too small because a lot of the tiny dogs are nervous around kids because they are so small.

Some medium size dogs that are good are Golden Retrievers or Labs. They are both pretty easy to train and are great family dogs. Goldens require more grooming than Labs.

I know you don't really want a giant dog, but Great Danes are wornderful. They are super laid back and calm, don't require too much exercise or grooming, mine have been easy to train and they make good family dogs. Their size is misleading. People don't think they make good family dogs, but if you get a puppy and raise it with your family, they are great with kids.

You could also adopt from a shelter or rescue. They know the dogs personality and can match you with who they think will be best for your family. A lot of them come house trained as well.
 

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Yay!

For first timers, especially when you have so much for the dog to fit into (kids, cats, etc.), I recommend an adult rescue. Puppies are cute, but they are a lot of work. Housetraining takes months, bite inhibition training takes a while, then there's teething, the short attention span, the list goes on.

Go to petfinder.com and type in your zip code. Then contact the rescues and shelters in your area, and tell them what you told us. A shelter or rescue that fosters their dogs can tell you what dogs would be right for you and your family.

Note: People say the only way to get a dog to be okay with cats/kids is to raise them with the cats/kids from a puppy. This is not true. A dog's temperament isn't set until adulthood, usually around 2-3 years. Just as with humans, temperament as an adult can be vastly different from temperament as a puppy, and temperament in a dog is largely genetic. You're better off getting an adult whose temperament is already set so you don't have to worry about what might pop up in 2 years.

Good luck!
 

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Bichons have AMAZING temperament like mine, Butters, but SUPER hard to housetrain. I am an experienced dog owner, and she is one years old and still has accidents :( But I love her to death, and she brightens up every day for me :)
 

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Bichons have AMAZING temperament like mine, Butters, but SUPER hard to housetrain. I am an experienced dog owner, and she is one years old and still has accidents :( But I love her to death, and she brightens up every day for me :)
So it must be all of them. In my original reply, I stated that Bichons are great dogs but my aunts were stubborn when it comes to houstraining. They are 3 and still go in the house sometimes!
 

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I am not biased in any way but you cannot go past a Border Collie. With the woods down the road he will be in his element, especially if you train him to retreive tennis balls.

I do agree though that trying the resue groups is a better idea than the shelters. The local Border Collie rescue in your area will usually have a very good idea of what temprement the dog will have and may well be able to produce pedigree papers, an indication that the pups risks of genetic issues may have been checked by the breeder.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the advice everyone. I think that we are leaning a bit away from a puppy at this point (good advice to go with a rescue group) and away from the smaller dogs like a Bichon. I have been on petfinder...very helpful site. We're starting to think about a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel...they are very sweet! I LOVE the border collies, but heard that they often try to herd the kids? Do children make them nervous? What is their energy level like as well?
 

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Thanks for the advice everyone. I think that we are leaning a bit away from a puppy at this point (good advice to go with a rescue group) and away from the smaller dogs like a Bichon. I have been on petfinder...very helpful site. We're starting to think about a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel...they are very sweet! I LOVE the border collies, but heard that they often try to herd the kids? Do children make them nervous? What is their energy level like as well?
Cavs are awesome dogs, but look up syringomyelia. It's very common in cavs, as are heart murmurs, so you need to be aware of it.

Border collies aren't scared by children, they tend to view children as sheep to be herded. BCs herd by using their stare to get the sheep to move where they want. If the sheep fail to obey, the BC escalates to nipping the ankles. This is a problem with children, because children get freaked out by the stare and attempt to run away. Then the BC nips the child's ankles, which scares the child even more and then things really get out of hand. This is one of the reasons you see so very many BCs in rescue.

It depends upon how obedient your children are. If you tell your children not to run from the dog, will they hold still, or will they freak out and run anyway?

The other reason you see so many BCs in rescue is BCs are incredibly intelligent. Intelligent dogs are harder to manage and people dump them in shelters rather than try to handle a dog that can open locked garbage cans and doors and get into anything and everything. You need to decide if that's something you can deal with or not. It's not impossible to deal with such a dog (my last dog was like this), but it's not the easiest thing ever, either.
 

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I am not biased in any way but you cannot go past a Border Collie. With the woods down the road he will be in his element, especially if you train him to retrieve tennis balls.

I do agree though that trying the rescue groups is a better idea than the shelters. The local Border Collie rescue in your area will usually have a very good idea of what temperament the dog will have and may well be able to produce pedigree papers, an indication that the pups risks of genetic issues may have been checked by the breeder
.

I LOVE the border collies, but heard that they often try to herd the kids? Do children make them nervous? What is their energy level like as well?
I would tend to steer you – as a first time dog owner with younger children – away from border collies, unfortunately. My girl is good with children with considerable training and management, but she easily gets overstimulated. She LOVES kids, but her natural tendencies to herd and react to motion/sound/emotion make it hard for be around them when there’s kid craziness. Kids can get her very riled up when they’re playing.

My girl requires consistency from every member of the family in order to maintain good behavior in the home and in public. She’s smart enough to get away with certain misbehaviors with certain family members. Even on a bad day, she gets 2-3+ hours of intense physical and mental exercise– jogging, fetching at the park, makeshift agility, trick training – and she’ll still harass you with a toy indoors to play all day if you let her.

Border collies, in my experience, are not as bullet-proof as other breeds. By that I mean, inconsistencies in training and irregular exercise may not “ruin” a lab, but it could easily lead to a neurotic, reactive, and highly problematic BC. When you’re a first time dog owner, you make mistakes. It’s natural. My border mix was my first dog. It only worked because I am a perfectionist who did my homework and worked my butt off to get everyone training her on board. I also made changes to my lifestyle to accommodate her. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But not everyone could handle a dog like my Gypsy.

I don’t wish to totally chase you away from the breed. If you think a BC is right for you, go for it. In that case, a rescue might be the way to go to match you with the perfect dog. You might even find a lower key BC at a rescue, if that's what you want. I just think it’s important for people to understand that BCs, on average, are very different from a lab or a standard poodle. They end up in shelters a lot here because they’re too much work for folks.
 

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Ditto to the goldens and labs
most tend to be mellow. you may get a crazy lab. but that happens with just about any breed ;)
a rescue pug would also be great. if you go to a pug rescue they'll find you a mellow one to match for your family. ive got a crazy girl over here ;)

Do you plan to adopt or buy from a breeder?
 

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Having worked at a shelter I would stay away from a border collie. Many are surrendered to shelters because the owners did not have time for them or work them hard enough (they will find their own jobs if you don't provide one, and you may not like their choices!) and the dogs have picked up bad habits. I think a standard poodle, even a larger miniature one, would be a good choice. The grooming is not that bad as long as you can live without all the little tufts and balls of fur neatly clipped on the hips and feet. A bichon would not be my first choice because of training issues, not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. Cavs are beautiful. But unless you can afford to buy from a breeder who does health testing, you are probably asking for heart ache. I'm voting for visiting some shelters, you may have to go a bit farther from your home, and look for a dog that is past the puppy years (think >2-3 years old, depending on breeds...for instance, I think labs are better after 3 years old, other dogs mellow out around 18-24 months). You can usually find some mixed breed dogs that are great. Watch out for dogs labeled "lab mix" as I know several shelters in our area do that to reduce the number of pitbull mixes on the roster. I have nothing against pitbulls, have known some wonderful ones, but the ones at the shelter are often surrendered because they were poorly socialized with other animals. A good retriever or hound mix is great. If a hound, be sure that you can contain them or have no problems with letting them run free. They are controlled by their nose and will run for miles following a rabbit or scent. A retriever or poodle mix might work. Most volunteers and employees at the shelters know the animals fairly well and can often help you find a short list of dogs to consider so you don't have to figure everything out for yourself. They often know why the animal ended up at the shelter or some background. And you might also ask the local vets if they know of anyone looking to re-home a good dog. Sometimes people need to re-home because they are moving, divorced, have to give up home for an apartment, kids develop allergies, etc. Have fun looking!
 

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When I was a kid, we had a border collie and he was great with me and my brother. But, since we lived in a farming community there was a lot of outdoor activity to help keep him stimulated and most people were accustomed to how the dogs behaved, even kids. Living in a suburban/city/town setting, I'd be concerned about having the right activity level and people interaction, especially with kids. It can be managed but it would be a lot of work for a first time owner.

There are several mid-sized terrier and spaniel breeds and mixes that might work well for you but it's often up to the personality of the individual dogs. Some work out great in family situations or with other pets and others don't.
 

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Labs and goldens are definitely good family dogs. I (as usual) would also recommend a collie (of the Lassie variety). If you don't like the long hair, look into a smooth coat. The females tend to be smaller than the males if you're looking for a medium sized dog. They tend to be MUCH mellower than BCs or Australian Shepherds. They're easy to train and LOVE their families, especially the kids.

I am notoriously biased, but I think they're excellent first time family dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks everyone for the feedback. It's been very helpful! We may approach a local rescue center and let them know we are interested in adopting. There are a few really good ones that foster all their pets and match the pet with a family. I think that's probably going to be the best way to go for the first time around. Just out of curiosity, a neighbor of ours just bought a golden doodle. Any thoughts about that?
Thanks again!
 

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A golden doodle is a good dog, but individual personalities are unpredictable. I mean each individual is different, not that the dogs are unpredictable, but if you can find a Rescue, might be OK. Be sure to ask for kid and cat friendly.

I recommend a 3 yo - 5 yo adult Lab rescue, especially for a new owner, because Labs are so forgiving of mistakes. Tell the Rescue that you have cats and children, and they should be able to find an excellent match to fit your lifestyle. Adult Labs are adaptable, love kids, and can thrive on a daily 30 min. walk, 10 min. of training, and a game of fetch.
 

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I want to third or fourth the 'no to a border collie'. They are awesome, awesome dogs but also a lot of dog. I really don't recommend them to people unless you've spent a lot of time around the breed. It's a very quirky and intense breed.
 

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One thing about labs they NEED exercise or you may not come back to a house ;) How much exercise/training can you give your dog daily? If you want a mellow dog tell your rescue that. my labs are not mellow. In the house they can be lazy but once outside it is like energy came from no where. My 2 year old lab gets at-least a 3-5 mile walk, 1 hour off-leash and runs a mile by my bike. My other lab gets less because of health problems. They need daily stimulation mentally and physically.
 

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Thanks everyone for the good advice. I have approached a local rescue center and completed an application. They actually foster all of their pets...they require references and a home visit and they work with you to find the best match for your home. It's a slow process, but I think worthwhile in finding a dog that will enjoy our family as much as I do! Thanks again. I'm sure I'll be back for advice once we adopt our new member.
 
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