Female or Male? Baby or Adult? Fluffy or Flat?

When people talk about getting a dog, they often have very fixed ideas about what they want. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misperceptions that are used to make these decisions.

There are a lot of myths related to a dog’s gender. The first one is that female dogs are falsely perceived as more affable and easygoing than male dogs. In reality, of course, personality can best be determined by evaluating personality on a dog-by-dog basis. I can tell you emphatically that some of the most irascible dogs I have met have been female, and a lot of the biggest love bugs have been male. There is little rhyme or reason to it, except there are some dogs (and breeds) who seem to gravitate to humans of the opposite sex. Chow Chows are notorious for this, for example.

Another reason is that people associate male dogs with behaviors such as marking and leg-mounting. It’s true that an unneutered male is more likely to do these things than a female dog, but once the dog is neutered, that behavior diminishes rapidly. Any remnants of the behavior can be trained out of the dogs. (By the way, both male and female dogs can have those behaviors.)

The other reason for preferring female dogs that I’ve heard a few times is that prospective adopters have an aversion to seeing their dogs’ penises. They simply don’t want to be exposed to them. I get it, I think. It’s a reminder that they are dealing with an honest-to-God animal with all of the drives and behaviors that come with it, and they are uncomfortable with that.

Another major decision is whether to adopt a puppy, adolescent, adult, or senior dog. There is a perception that puppies are optimal because they haven’t been ruined or damaged by other people. That’s simply not true. I have done rescue for years, and although non-puppies might have some bad habits, they are able to concentrate and learn more quickly than their younger peers. Yes, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Puppies do that whole big head innocence thing and they have adventures. However, they need close supervision, destroy everything, have hundreds of accidents, and have a tendency to emit ear-shattering shrieks and whines. Adolescent dogs are young, healthy, and playful, but they can be hyper, destructive, and hard to train. Adult dogs are calmer, learn well, and make better choices, but they are likely to be less energetic and less playful. Seniors can be immensely sweet and heartbreakingly grateful, but they won’t be with you for as long, and they could have health problems. The key is to know yourself. For example, I have never been a puppy person because of the noises, which shred my nerves. I don’t have a problem with a less active dog, so these days I would choose an adult.

Another thing to consider is long coats vs. short ones. You might think that long = high-maintenance and short = low, but it’s not that simple. Long-haired dogs don’t always shed all-year round; some of them blow their coats twice a year and only require regular brushing. In contrast, some short-coated dogs shed constantly, and their fur sticks to everything. Our beagle/lab was totally like that. We found her fur for years after her death. It had insinuated its way into the weave of rugs and would cling stealthily to dog beds even after we had washed them dozens of times. (Labs are water dogs so their coats contain an oil that makes them stick to things.) Also, a lot of adopters believe they can get hypoallergenic dogs. That’s simply not true. Yes, there are some breeds that are low- or no-shed, but they still produce allergens.

I think a good rule of thumb when it comes to these factors is that none of these decisions is as simple as it seems. However, the good news is that you might find a wonderful dog who didn’t match your preconceived ideas of what you needed.


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Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is https://twitter.com/GobezMoretta.

5 thoughts on “Female or Male? Baby or Adult? Fluffy or Flat?”

  1. I always like the cutesy-wutesy puppy-wuppy dogs, which suggests to me that I’m not a dog person, rather an avid admirer of cute animals.

    The female/male thing is interesting to me, though. During my horsey years, geldings were always preferable over mares. Perhaps I knew some particularly cranky mares, but I did always find geldings far easier to work with.

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