Six Dog Breeds That Will Surprise You

I have spent many years in animal rescue, and one of the things I’ve learned is how completely wrong breed stereotypes can be. These are six breeds that are nothing like you’d think. Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT intended to be an advertisement for purebred dogs. First, many, many dogs in shelters and rescues are purebred, even if they haven’t been identified as such. Second, these breed behaviors are also frequently seen in animals that are predominantly one breed, but not necessarily purebred. Also, not all dogs are going to meet this requirement – everyone knows an exception – so I’m anticipating getting some comments about how this doesn’t apply, and that’s fine. I’d love to hear about your dogs. Now, on to the breeds.

  • Standard poodle – Standard poodles have a reputation for being fancy, foofy dogs. Many people associate them with ridiculous grooming and excessive owner affectation. Sometimes they will be portrayed as neurotic or finicky status dogs. The reality, though, is that standard poodles are AWESOME, AWESOME dogs. First of all, they are incredibly athletic, and have a special affinity for the water. In fact, some of the weird grooming conventions that we see today originated because poodles used to be clipped for optimal swimming. A standard poodle is up for hiking, fetching, frisbee and any other sport you want to engage in. In addition to their status as super jocks, standard poodles are really smart and responsive. They are great with kids, and although not guard dogs, are good family watch dogs.
Black standard poodle standing in the snow with her ears flying up
EARS! Photo credit: Pete Markham
  • Cocker spaniels – There are few dogs more aesthetically beautiful than the cocker spaniel. With their long, flowing curls and soulful brown eyes, cocker spaniels were a favorite on television and in movies (remember Lady and the Tramp?) for many years. Unfortunately for us, the cocker spaniel is not a sweet natured little lovebird by nature. They are, in fact, quite curmudgeonly. Cocker spaniels don’t suffer fools gladly, and there is a strong chance they will consider you to be a fool if you upset their human or stop them from doing something they really want to do. If they could talk, they would bark, “You kids get off my lawn!” That’s not to say they don’t love their family – they do. They just aren’t people dogs. To be honest, this crabbiness makes me like cocker spaniels even more because they live life by their own terms. Our neighbor’s adorable little cocker spaniel hates us for no real reason, which tickles me every time I hear her peppery, enraged little bark in the next yard. However, our group has had to rehome several nipping cocker spaniels (something that would make them unadoptable at the local pound), so we tend to consider this breed one for experienced owners who aren’t social butterflies.
Cocker spaniel puppy sitting in the grass
Could I get any cuter? Probably not. However, don’t touch me because you get on my nerves. Image via Wikimedia Commons
  • Bloodhounds – Do you love the image of a long-eared hound sleeping on a country porch? Well, purge it from your head because the bloodhound is one of the most active and destructive breeds around during its early years. They are huge, curious, have a fantastic sense of smell and love to run around barking their fool heads off for no perceptible reason (or at least that’s how we humans perceive it). They go into their own little world when they smell something, so you can’t expect obedience from them (those velvety long ears were designed to act as shields to keep them from being distracted by sight and sound when they catch the scent of something). Also, they are diggers. Boy, it sounds like I really don’t like bloodhounds, huh? Well, you’re wrong – I ADORE them. However, they are working dogs (in the true sense, not in the breed category sense) and aren’t well suited to be family pets or companion animals.
Hameau Jouas bloodhound running across a yard
No porch-sleeping here, thank you very much. Excuse me, now I have to howl loudly. Whooo!!!! Image via Wikimedia Commons
  • Boxer – If you have never met one, you might thing that boxers looks stern and foreboding, and maybe you think they would be intimidating watchdogs or guard dogs. Well, I suggest you talk to some people who have the good fortune of living with boxers first. The word you’ll hear most often is clown, and then it’s a tossup between loving, affectionate, emotionally sensitive and smart. If you are loved by a boxer, you are a lucky person indeed.
Boxer, waving its tail vigorously
Why is this photo a little blurry? Because the boxer can’t resist loving up to the photographer. Note the silly smile.
Boxer that looks very happy
What’s this? Another boxer? Yep, looking as happy as the first.
  • Greyhound – Boy, you better be pretty athletic to have  a greyhound, right? WRONG. Greyhounds need space to exercise in intense bursts for short periods of time, but in reality, a lot of them would (and do) happily spend their days lounging, sleeping and napping (these are all very different things, something you’ll appreciate if you live with a greyhound). They have their special requirements – like clothing in inclement weather – but all in all, it is more important that you provide them with proximity to you and soft beds than with a human running partner.
Greyhound curled up on a mat with a cat
Yeah, why don’t you go ahead on that walk. I’m going to stay here with Mittens and catch some Zs. Photo credit: Marianne Perdomo
  • Doberman Pinschers – These dogs look like tough guys, and it’s true that their original purpose was as a guard dog. However, there is MUCH more to them. Dobies are smart, loyal and immensely loving. If you train them, exercise them and provide them with calm authority as their human, they are great dogs. Also, they are world-class cuddlers. If you want to know how it feels to be adored unconditionally, a Dobie is your dog. They are frequently referred to as  “Velcro dogs” because they stay so close to their humans at all times.
Doberman close-up
I would do anything for you. Also, thanks for not cropping my ears. That HURTS and it makes me look mean. Photo Credit: Andreas Kollegger

Well, it’s your turn, readers. Do you agree? Share your thoughts if you want.

By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is

46 replies on “Six Dog Breeds That Will Surprise You”

My little teacup poodle we found out a few years ago was bred to be a “lady’s companion” and we never doublechecked because it honestly made a lot of sense. My dog is obsessed with me, if I’m in the house, he’s at my side. I don’t know how much difference is between them and standards personality wise, but they are the sweetest. However, their size does cause a lot of health problems (one of his balls didn’t drop and apparently needed to be removed to prevent cancer, he has extra teeth that do not help with the tartar build up) but they’re sweeties and love strangers.

I tell people who want the really tiny dogs that if they adopt them, they need to understand that they are truly companion dogs, and they need human interaction just slightly less than they need food and water. I’d love to hear the story about how you found a teacup poodle some day. That sounds like a children’s book.

I am happy to tell you, but I don’t know if it really is. That’s an excellent way of describing it though. He makes the most contented noises hanging around me.

What happened was we had chihuahuas as my second and third doggies and then that whole China-accidentally-poisoned-our-dogs thing happened with Alpo, and one of my dogs (Dusty, the boy, the runt, the sweetest little dog) ate it up (obviously, we had no idea something was amiss until too late). Oddly enough, Sandy, his aggressive older sister who normally stole his food if we didn’t watch out, was obstinate when it came to eating the stuff. I still don’t understand.

Needless to say, I ended up with one less dog, and I was pretty miserable about it. My parents work downtown, and had gone out to lunch and were walking back from the restaurant and met this woman who was a dog breeder (I hope to this day she was certified and stuff, but I honestly can’t tell you) and had just bred a new litter of puppies and was showing them off of her porch in a little run, you know, drumming up business. My parents thought they were adorable, talked about it to us, and I said, hey, you know, we’re a dog short (I SWEAR it was not as callous as that, Dusty has and always will a place in my heart, but I saw the opportunity for logical easing in of a dog) and with a little finagling (I gave up any birthday presents that year) I was promised a puppy. My parents chose him based off of my preference for a certain colored dog (taupe really does him justice) and the fact that he was the sleepiest dog on the lot (my father). It doesn’t matter, because he loves to run around anyway.They brought him along when they picked me up from school that day, and we’ve been best buds ever since. He is seriously with me whenever I am home, or else he whines and barks (we have him crate-trained, so he lives in there, but I assure you, he gets his exercise and constant attention). But you’re right, they need the love or else I swear they would die.

My bb is famous!!! Moretta’s caption is perfection. Bug really just wants to be next to you so she can show you how much she loves you and missed you for those three seconds you spent in the other room because you had to pee. She was a really active puppy and a chewer, but one day, the “grown up dog” switched flipped. She is also a TERRIBLE guard dog. We were robbed a few years ago, and I’m sure she helped her “new friend” (everyone is a potential new friend to her) in through the window.


One of my neighbors has a boxer mix, and she’s a scaredy — but we’ve become friendly. She even licked my hand last time I was outside during their bathroom trip (it did take some encouragement from her person). I’ve also known a retired greyhound, and she always whined if I didn’t sit next to her bed — because she wanted to lay in her bed, but she wanted to snuggle too.

I want a puppy SO MUCH.

GREYHOUNDS! Mine turns 12 next month and she is just THE BEST. If you want a dog but aren’t a “jog with my dog”/”jog at all” person, but do enjoy leisurely strolls for brief distances while your gangly dog makes friends with everyone, get a greyhound. Specifically, go through a rescue group and not a breeder, because hounds bred for racing are bred for health and speed, not AKC standards, so there’s more variation in how they look, but they have very few instances of sad stuff like hip displaysia. On the downside, they aren’t great for dog parks because their skin is SO thin, it tears very easily– the most I’ve seen Houdini bleed was when she skidded to a stop on her butt and scraped her tail on a tennis court. They also can’t be off-leash in unfenced areas and will be obedient when they feel like it, which I guarantee is not when they see a squirrel on the other side of the road and go from 0-40 in three steps into traffic.

BUT. They’re sweet, their personalities absolutely blossom when they get into a home, they pick their owners as opposed to you picking them, they’re gorgeous clowny dogs, most don’t bark (Houdini’s only barked once and it was in her sleep), and they sleep/nap/lounge 18-20 hours a day. While she’s not the best dog to be with an enthusiastic and clumsy 32lb toddler, she is the sweetest and best dog I’ve had. Our next will probably a lab-mix mutt who will follow the kid everywhere, but my heart belongs 110% to greyhounds.

I definitely second the Boxers! Also Great Danes. A lot of people think “big” = “aggressive”, but every Great Dane I’ve ever met is a big, sweet dope. Friends of mine have a rescue Great Dane who is afraid of small children en masse (justifiable; she came from a home where the kids harassed her nonstop), but around everyone else she just wants to be a 150lb lapdog and nap on top of you.

Building on the conversation about huskies and Bassets, even though they have a huge (and well-deserved) reputation as companion/service/working dogs and therefore are assumed to be naturally obedient, Labs also need a lot of training, not just exercise. None of my family’s Labs have ever stopped being puppies at heart; Finn only really settled down when he turned 10. So if you don’t train them young, you just have a big, destructive puppy for a decade. People tend to be really surprised by that.

They’re the best dogs ever, though, so they’re worth it :P

Aww, Finn. Labs are great, and I have met a lot of goofy middle-aged puppies now that I think of it. So much has been made of labs’ high obedience intelligence that I assumed they were practically “once and done” in the training department.

Oh man, my best friend and roommate in college had a boxer, and she was the biggest lovebug ever. My biological father had dobermans when I was growing up, and they are the best dogs EVER. Even though they were his dogs, if he pretended like he was going to grab me or my sister, the dogs would immediately get between and growl at him. No one was going to lay a hand on their girls.

I dislike cocker spaniels. All that I have encountered are assholes. The only time I have ever been bitten by a dog for no reason whatsoever was by a little spaniel asshole. Yes, I am holding a (possibly totally unfair) grudge.

So true! My family has had a cocker for the past 15 years (she’ll turn 16 in August! assuming she holds out that long) and while she is a lovely dog, she was just not particularly sociable for the first 10 years. We had a dog run in the back yard and she preferred to be out there rather than spend any time with the family. My sister and I were both nipped at by her early on, but in general she hasn’t been aggressive with people, just other dogs. She just didn’t like to be around people. She moved with me for grad school around age 9, started to get cuddly and want to be held and loved on, and she’s also mellowed out considerably around other dogs since. I’m going to miss her a lot when she goes.

TL;DR: my experience with our cocker spaniel has been pretty typical of the breed.

I wasn’t bitten badly by the cocker spaniel, either, thank goodness, but it was the sheer gall of the little beast that pissed me off. I was sitting on the couch watching TV and the damn thing ran into the room and bit me. What. The. Fuck.

Not sure on the hip problems, and I will admit, the Cavalier Kings are the exception to my spaniel dislike rule. Their little faces are SO stinking cute.

How about huskies? Boyfriend has doggy fever right now and REALLY wants a puppy. He loves huskies because they are pretty, but I don’t think they are the dog for us because we’re not active enough and I understand that huskies aren’t the most trainable, and as first time dog owners, that just doesn’t seem wise.

If you say otherwise, though, I might be able to go with it.

Though I’ve been trying to sell him on the standard poodle for a while. I think that dog would be perfect for us for many reasons.

I grew up with a husky, and he was the best dog ever. Huskies shed like a mofo in the spring/summer/fall/part of winter, so that’s something to consider, but every one I’ve known has been awesome, and very smart. They’ve all been well-trained, too, but I don’t know how much work that was. I was 2 when we got Lobo, so I don’t remember.

OK, I am pretty familiar with huskies, and they are NOT easy dogs. Besides shedding like Selena points out, their super-intelligence and problem-solving abilities translate into a lot of curious destructiveness. They can sail over short fences, so you’d need a six-footer to keep them safe. They need a TON of exercise. Also, they are extremely vocal, which can get stressful. You are going to need to alter your life to fit a husky’s needs, trust me, in ways that are funny but also inconvenient. Some of our husky adopters had to get rid of their down comforters because their huskies would constantly tear into them when they got bored. (I guess they could smell the feathers?) I’m not trying to be hyper-critical of huskies — I LOVE them — but they are high-M.

My favorite description ever of Basset Hound personality is, “A Basset Hound is NOT a Golden Retriever.” People think they’re massive couch potatoes, but especially in puppyland, they most certainly are NOT. We go out with our boys, and people with Basset puppies will come up and ask when their pup will calm down. It’s so sad to see them cry when we tell them that Bassets don’t begin to act like adult dogs until age 3 at the earliest.

People also think Bassets are dumb, but that’s because they confuse intelligence with obedience. Bassets are very smart when it comes to getting what they want, so to get obedience, you have to convince them that they want what you want. We’re still trying to convince our 4 year old that he wants to pee outside when it’s raining.

I fostered a Basset puppy and she was the funniest little character ever. Totally agree with what you have found — they simply aren’t interested in doing what you want when they have their own priorities. One way I found to get Theodora to stand still was to put a mirror in front of her, BTW. She was just transfixed by herself.

When people mention how cute Basset puppies are, I usually reply along the lines of, “They have to be, otherwise we’d strangle them!” Big Dog chewed up my husband’s laptop, although in Big Dog’s defense, he was chewing up Husband’s backpack-the laptop was just collateral damage. Little Dog likes to steal Husband’s wallet and hide it. Fortunately, in his attempts to protect his prize, he usually gives away the hiding spot. He also steals my spot on the chair every time I get up for more than 2 seconds. But then Little Dog makes funny noises in his sleep, and all is forgiven.

My mother has a pitt bull- Boxer mix. HE IS THE BIGGEST MOST ADORABLY SWEET DOG EVER. They also have a super mini-dachshund (a rescue) and Sarge will lick her like she’s his puppy needing a bath- which if you didn’t know him might be startling, as she could fit in his mouth! (His full name is Sargent Pepper.) Not the smartest dog in the world- he gets into porcupines all the time- but completely loving.

Image has Sarge sleeping on the divided love seat with my dog, Molly, and Rosie the mini on the other seat by herself.

I love this! My cousin and her family adopted a standard poodle, and were shocked to learn how athletic, energetic, and smart they are! They’re fantastic dogs, if you actually know what you’re getting into, but I know lots of people who were surprised by the dog they got.

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