When deciding to hopefully adopt a dog, it is important to research the breed (or breeds if the pup you want is a mixed breed) to ensure its personality will match your personality; its energy level matches your energy level; and its space needs matches the space you have. You don’t want to adopt a Greyhound if you are a couch potato and you don’t want to adopt a bulldog if you are a runner; and you don’t want to adopt a Border Collie if you have nowhere for the pup to run!
One of the things you can count on is that no dog is alike. Even throughout the same breed, each dog will be different. Sure, each breed has a temperament associated with it, but there is no guarantee. For instance, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Great Pyrenees, is “calm, patient, smart, strong-willed yet affectionate” (http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/great-pyrenees/). However, there are many factors that will shape your dog’s actual personality.
I rescued a Great Pyrenees from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in 2012. When I first met him (I volunteered there) he was very calm, patient, and affectionate. Then I brought him home and everything changed! He is still loving, but he has territorial, food, and stranger aggression…so not so calm!
On the other hand, I also have a German Shepherd (GSD). The AKC states that German Shepherds are “smart, confident, courageous, and steady; a true dog lover’s dog” (http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog/). My GSD is ridiculously smart, smarter than me and too smart for her own good! She will jump over whatever I ask her to; go through dark, small tunnels if that is what I want; and run over a teeter-tot in agility without even blinking an eye. She is amazing. However, she has dog aggression due to fear.
Having said all of that, when you get a dog from breeder, adopt a dog from a shelter, or rescue a dog from somewhere else, it is impossible to predict exactly how your dog is going to act, even given breed temperaments. There are many things that can affect a dog’s personality, even one from a breeder. So do your research, make a smart decision, but understand your new family member might not act exactly how you expected. I love both of my dogs unconditionally, even though they drive me crazy at times, as I am sure yours do! Although it is difficult to remember they are most likely acting out because they are stressed, (I promise you they are not being jerks on purpose) it is hard to remember that in the moment. But try to keep calm, don’t yell at them as that will just stress them out more, and try to take them out of the stressful situation.
From my Great Pyrenees, when he goes crazy barking at a stranger from the window, I simply grab his collar (I know he will not attack me) and gently pull him away from the window. I do not yell at him, but I remain calmly holding his collar until he is no longer stressing. If I am walking my GSD I ensure I change the side of the street I am walking on if we see another dog. However, with my GSD, I have been able to actually take walks with other dogs. But it was, and still is, a slow process. If she begins to stress, I simply walk her away from the other dog.
Be patient and work with your dog; help your dog deal with whatever stress they may have. It may take a while, but it will be worth it!
Michelle Turner is a certified dog trainer and behaviorist.