Posts Tagged With: Small Dogs

Purebreds VS Rescues

Purebreds VS Rescues
Please note that this post is geared mostly towards those looking to adopt or buy a puppy – not an adult dog.  I am also using “rescues” to generally refer to dogs of unknown history and breeding – not necessarily purebreds who need a new home or end up in shelters.

As with almost every other subject, people can get very defensive, and downright mean, when it comes to purebreds versus rescues.  So, just in case anyone is curious, here are my two cents on the subject:


And here’s why: each owner’s needs, and each dog’s purpose, is different.

I love rescues.  They come in all sorts of cool and sometimes funny looking combinations.    I grew up with Dingo, a “pound puppy” who was mostly Golden Retriever and a little bit of who-knows-what-else.  We had her for nearly 16 years and loved her dearly.  As a adolescent, I never dreamed I’d ever grow up to own a purebred dog.  After all, I’d had a great rescue, rescues are cheaper (initially, at least), and there are a ton of them available.  So, how did I come to a place where I now own two purebred dogs?



I love purebreds.  They may be cut from a relatively similar cloth, but they are all still individuals.  I ended up with my first purebred dog, Tucker, because I volunteered to be his Puppy Raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  When he was career changed at a year and a half, they gave him back to me.  During this time, I also had the privilege of becoming good friends with a couple who train Search and Rescue dogs – all of whom just happened to be purebred German Shepherds.

Then I became a dog trainer.  As my business grew, my Labrador (who is atypical in my opinion) decided he didn’t want to have to work every day.  He’s mellow and he’s lazy.  He didn’t seem to enjoy being the one and only demonstration dog or training assistant.  So, we began thinking about our next dog.  And although a working dog will always also be a family dog in our home, our business needs were a huge priority.  I needed a dog with a great work ethic, a confident personality, and a good temperament.  The more time I spent with my search and rescue friends, the more I fell in love with the qualities of the German Shepherd Dog.  And now we have Ellie the Warrior Princess.

Tucker and Ellie

Ellie and Tucker


So, if you’re looking for a dog, and you have friends on one side yelling, “adopt, don’t shop!” and friends on the other side yelling, “you don’t know what you’re getting!” how on earth are you supposed to decide what to do?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Health
    • Most people have heard the statement, “mutts are healthier than purebreds.”  In my experience, that has been true to a point, but not 100%.  My parents currently have a rescued German Shepherd mix and she has had very few health issues so far.  Dingo, however, had poor hips and allergies, and was on arthritis medication for roughly 8 of her 15.5 years.  Tucker is a mess of weird health problems – acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, poor tooth structure – while Ellie, thus far, hasn’t shown any issues other than a birth defect in her eye (which doctors say isn’t necessarily genetic).  When you rescue a dog, you don’t know their health history.  When you buy a dog, you can (and should!) look at their lineage and health history, but it isn’t a guarantee.
  • Physical Characteristics
    • Some people like big dogs and some people like small dogs.  Some people live on 50 acre farms and some people live in one bedroom apartments.  The size of dog you have, and their other physical characteristics (such as their fur), can have a great impact on your life.

      My dad took me to the pound and let me pick out Dingo all on my own – at five years old.  I wanted a “golden colored” puppy – that was my only requirement.  My parents had no idea how big she would or wouldn’t get and what her temperament would be like.  Newsflash y’all – rescues organizations and shelters GUESS at a dog’s breed to the best of their ability, but when they don’t have any history on a puppy, they are guessing in the dark based on the physical traits they can see at a young age.  Thankfully for us, we had the space and finances to handle what turned out to be a 70 pound Golden Retriever mix – not all families have that luxury.  Another example:  I worked for a wonderful veterinarian for a few years who will readily tell you that guessing a puppy’s breed is not her best skill.  She currently owns an 80 pound hound dog because her son brought home a stray puppy that she thought was a Beagle pup…

      While size is an important factor, another important one for a lot of families is the coat.  If you know a family member is allergic to dogs, you may not want to invest time and money into a rescue who MAY be hypoallergenic when you could buy a specific breed known for that quality or even one who has already been tested and proven mostly hypoallergenic.  And besides that, some people just don’t want to deal with fluffy tumbleweeds floating around their house!

  • Purpose
    • To me, purpose is one of the most important factors to consider in this debate. If you’re looking for a family pet, a companion, or a walking buddy, you may not care exactly how big he gets or what his level of trainability might be for advanced commands.  If you’re looking to train for a specific task or skill, or you need certain physical characteristics because of your environment, you may be wary of adopting a rescue puppy when no certain history is available.

      And do you know what I think?  I think that is perfectly acceptable.  I don’t think either of these sides should be judged too harshly.  After all, if you believe as I do that a dog is a long term commitment, you want to be sure that you’re committing to something you can handle and that serves its intended purpose.  Now, there are always exceptions to the above thoughts.  There are organizations who are willing to take the time to comb through shelters and pick out dogs with certain characteristics to train for high functioning jobs – and that’s awesome.  There are breeders/shops who are in it for the money, who are irresponsible, who sell dogs with horrible health and temperaments and who contribute to our shelter dog problem – and that’s repulsive.

      At the end of the day, you should think long and hard about your decision to adopt OR shop and make the choice that will be best for you, and the dog, in the long term.  Don’t let someone bully you into rescuing a dog with a laundry list of issues that you don’t have the money/time to handle.  Don’t let someone bully you into going to the most expensive breeder in town because they think a dollar sign is the only qualifier of worth and value.  Seek out people on both sides of the road, do your research, and make the decision for yourself.

      Mixed breeds and Purebred dogs

      Between my parents, sister, and myself, we have two rescues and two purebreds.  They are all dearly loved and serve their purpose well.  My sister’s dog Harley, who is a who-the-heck-knows-husky-mix?, fits in well as a patient big brother to my nephew and cuddle buddy for my sister/brother in law.  My parents’ dog Kalli, a shepherd mix, lives a happily introverted life with two empty nesters and has amazing mole catching skills.  And then there’s my kids – the German Shepherd Dog who cries when she doesn’t get to go to the office and the lazy Labrador who enjoys sleeping next to kids at the elementary school while they read.  They all have purpose – they are all valuable – and they are all exactly where they need to be.  



Categories: Adopting a dog, Blog, Buying a dog, dog training, Mixed Breeds, owner encouragement, Puppy, Purebred dogs, Rescues | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Small Dogs – Why Training Matters

I’ve been working with dogs in some capacity for about a decade.  To this day, the only dog who has ever bitten me out of aggression/fear was a Chihuahua/Terrier Mix who likely didn’t even weigh ten pounds.*

In the BBC article I’ve linked in below, the author examines the theory that some small dogs may actually be more aggressive than big dogs.  The author discusses several theories for why this might occur, and finally concludes that no-one  can say with 100% certainty how much of the behavior is “nature” and how much is “nurture.”

Now, let me be clear that I am not stating that all little dogs are aggressive – far from it.  What I am stating is that despite what some may believe, little dogs can suffer from all the same problems as a big dog – including, but not limited to, aggressive behavior as stated above.

As the article suggests, I tend to believe that dog behavior has roots in both “nature” and “nurture.”  When it comes to little dogs, I think the “nurture” portion often takes the driver’s seat.  Why?  Because our society has a tendency to treat little dogs not as dogs, but as small babies in need of carrying, cuddling, and comforting.

The dog who bit me all those years ago rarely spent any time on the ground, running around, sniffing outside, learning commands, or behaving like a “real” dog – his primary caregiver (who was a child) carried him everywhere he needed to go and treated him very similarly to her baby dolls.  She, like so many, would try to comfort him like a child when he was frightened, not knowing that she was having an opposite affect on him and making him even more fearful.  Dogs don’t process that type of comforting in the same way a child might.  When you hold your dog close, pet it, coo to it, and tell it it’s going to be okay, that dog interprets your behavior as praise for its current state and confirmation that you’re upset, too.

So, when the dog saw me and started shaking (as Chihuahuas have a tendency to do), she held him close, told him it was going to be okay, and told me I should pet him.  Being a young teenager myself, I made the rookie mistake of trying to pet an anxious dog in the arms of his owner… and that poor decision led to several bandaids and a pretty painful finger.

But aggression is not the only bad behavior that plagues little dogs because of our own actions.  We very often choose to manage the inappropriate behaviors of small dogs because we can.  Small dogs jump on people too, but because they don’t tend to knock people over, few owners actually correct it.  Small dogs pull on their leashes, but because they don’t have the weight to jerk an arm out of the socket, few owners bother to teach leash manners.  Instead, we just deal with it or manage their poor manners by picking them up and removing them from situations where they might bother a guest or jump on a child.

So, small dog owners, let me ask you this – how well does your dog listen to you?  Does your dog come when you call it away from the feet of company, or do you simply go pick it up and take it to another room?

Small dogs are just as capable of better behavior and manners as big dogs – you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort to find it!  Your small dog has BIG potential – give us a call today and we’ll discover it together!

Chelsea Cutler, Certified Professional Trainer

*In this statement I exclude two scenarios – intentional bite work while in school at National K-9 and a few times when Tucker has accidentally missed a tug of war toy while playing and caught my hand (which has never broken the skin).

Categories: Blog, Small Dogs | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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