Does Breed Really Matter When Choosing a Pet?
We originally titled this podcast and article, “This Is One Mistake People Make When Adopting a Dog.” We confess that title was a bit clickbaity, because as we learn from our podcast guest, Janis Bradley, dogs and people have been working things out and creating happy families together for centuries.
Still, we wanted to have Janis on this episode of the Individual Animal to talk about the relevance of breed in choosing a companion animal – and that is not-so-coincidentally the name of her book, which you can order here.
Big spoiler: Breed isn’t all that relevant. It’s the personality that matters.
Listen to the Episode
When you put breed stereotypes over the personality and needs of the individual dog, you don’t set the dog or you up for success. When you go into something with false expectations, it can create unnecessary challenges.
As Janis points out, these challenges are often workable, but it’s always best to go into a relationship with a dog sans stereotypes. In a recent livestream on Facebook, we discussed a specific situation that our staff experienced with one of our previously available dogs.
You can watch that below.
Watch Part 1
Watch Part 2
Studies Referenced in the Episode:
Read the transcript
Regina [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to The Individual Animal, a podcast about dogs, people and discrimination. I am Regina and that is Nikki.
Nikki [00:00:08] Hello. And today on our podcast, we’re going to be talking a little bit about the relevance of breed when selecting a companion animal or dog specifically. The reason that we’re doing this is sort of a follow up from our Facebook live. So go check that out to get a little more context. We’re going to go over it a little bit in the beginning, though, a little recap. So if you haven’t seen it, that’s OK, too. Joining us today is Ashley Pastor. She is our behavior and training manager at Animal Farm Foundation. Ashley’s career here at Animal Farm has been a lot of focused on building relationships with people who are interested in adopting dogs and helping them and learning how to help them make the best choices for their household. She’s going to give us her experience with that. And then our other guest today is Janis Bradley, who we’ve had on in the past. She’s the director of communications for our subsidiary, the National Canine Research Council. Janis’s life’s work. I feel like has been focused on finding the very best information about the relationships between dogs and people. And Janis, why don’t you go ahead and talk a little bit about how that work?
Janis [00:01:33] I would say that’s a fair description. It’s a fairly wide ranging but all having to do with how, you know, what’s with the junction between dog behavior and human behavior and how that affects those relationships. Therefore, if we’re talking about choosing a dog, I just wanted to briefly preface any discussion about that with a little bit of background about, you know, how those relationships work and to the extent that sometimes they don’t work. The important thing, I think the really important thing for people to remember is that most of the time the relationships work great. It’s very clear from lots and lots and lots of research that we have that both human beings and domestic dogs are in a kind of a category of a fairly exclusive category of animals that I would call the love, the one you’re with animals. And so easily make you create intimate, lifelong bonds with whoever is there to bond with. The biggest differences are just in our mostly and how big those circles are. So I think we do ourselves a disservice if we start by thinking there’s some huge problem of mismatches between people and dogs based on the dog’s behavior. There isn’t. People divorced each other in marriages more than they terminate their relationships with their dogs because of incompatibilities
Nikki [00:03:31] Absolutely.
Janis [00:03:33] Yeah. So we need to we need to bear that in mind that we’re not necessarily on the edge of disaster and divorce. We’re really not. Most of the most of the relationships work out fine and they work out fine with board for the lifetime of the dog. That being said, when I was doing professional behavior consultation, I was always thrilled and delighted. If if a client or former new client would come to me and ask for help in selecting a dog that would fit in to their household. I thought that was very forward thinking of them and a very, you know. Kind of conscientious way to approach a new relationship, as long as they always understood that when you’re talking about behavior, there are no guarantees. You never know for sure what the behavior of any given individual of any species is going to be tomorrow. You can only make educated guesses. So, again, most of the relationships were it’s certainly good to think ahead about that. The dog was going to be a good fit for your household. But I have to say, just anecdotally, I often observe that it’s kind of the quirky things about a dog’s behavior that sometimes wind up endearing them to people more than anything else. And we don’t, we again, we can relax a bit on on the matchmaking because it isn’t necessarily a catastrophe for anybody. Even if, your dog gets adopted and it turns out not compatible comes back. Recent study that one of my colleagues here at the clinic completed with another author showed that when that happens, it appears to effect the dog pretty much the same way as if it had been on a foster experience. And it goes out fast as the second.
Nikki [00:06:02] What’s the name of that study? do you know.
Janis [00:06:05] The factors associated with high live release dogs.
Regina [00:06:09] So everybody knows.I’ll put it in the show notes and the blog. So for all you listeners, you’ll be able to read it.
Janis [00:06:16] Wonderful. OK. Is it a great you know, we don’t need to be too terribly concerned. Then, again, when I did work with people who wanted to make the best match. I didn’t ask them to describe a dog because I would find that that’s too hard. It’s too hard for people to be regular people, to know enough about dogs to try and describe the dog that’s going to be a fit. What I would ask them to do was to tell me how they envision their life with the dog. What they wanted to be able to do with this dog. Did they do they want to be able to take the runs? Did they want to, you know, sit on the couch as companionable couch potatoes and watch TV together? Did they want to, you know, have the dog play with their kids and their kids friends? What did they want to be able to do with the dog? Which it was a much more, it was much easier then, to look at dogs that you had some information about and say, OK, this dog would like to do those things. We already know that this dog, you know, enjoys the kinds of things that you are thinking of. There’s no ideal dog because there’s no specific sort of map to what, for or how people like to live with dogs. People like to live with dogs and all different kinds. I’m no different than anyone else. I happen to have greyhounds who I have greyhounds because I like the way and the one I love the way they look.
Nikki [00:08:14] Where I talk about that today.
Janis [00:08:17] It’s you know, that’s not a crime.
Nikki [00:08:20] Absolutely not.
Janis [00:08:20] It’s how it’s it’s. It’s really how we pick our mates. For example, the first thing that that attracts us is there physical appearance. There’s no there’s no shame. You know, if you if if that’s what appeals to you, you know, get a dog that looks that way. Just don’t imagine that that’s going to tell you anything about how the dog is.
Nikki [00:08:46] The point of today’s talk is is going to be about how, if you like, the way a Greyhound looks, that’s great. But don’t expect it to chase around a flirt pole, if that’s what you if that’s what you’re getting it for.
Janis [00:09:05] It might, in the case of dogs, don’t even expect to get excited when these rabbits or wild turkeys.
Nikki [00:09:11] Right. Right.
Janis [00:09:12] Pick its nose up off the ground because my ones don’t. And that’s one of the reasons that that when I’m looking for a new dog, I don’t trust myself to go into a shelter and go kind of shopping down the aisle.
Nikki [00:09:30] Sure.
Janis [00:09:31] Because that’s you know, I mean, I need I’m I’m much more comfortable with something more like a dating service. OK. Somebody that I can describe what I want to be able to do with the dog, too. And then they can say, ah, we have this dog that, you know, would really like that. The dog that my most recent dog Tommy, he was like quite a little character. I had one major requirement and that had to do with the dog that was already in my house, Annie. Who was really lonely for another dog? I figured this out since my previous dogs had died and she was really lonely for another dog. But she’s very timid with new dogs, she’s very easily intimidated, and she’s also sometimes kind of obnoxious. So the primary thing I needed in a dog was a dog who would be willing to play with Annie. So that meant, a dog that would that would put up with kind of a weird playstyle dog and just being jovial and pleasant and forgiving about that. And I didn’t even care, I didn’t care if he was shy with people, I really didn’t care about anything else. That was the thing that I really needed. And my desires were specific there because, for example, they gave me a shy, my dog. I’ve been doing behavior modification for, you know, for decades. I can fix that, but it’s really hard to change a dog that isn’t like super social with other dogs. And I knew it needed to be a dog that would put up with my strange little Annie. So that’s what I ask the people at the rescue to find for me. And they did.
Nikki [00:11:40] And did they find it right away? Was it, they were like, OK, we found the dog we think will work and the dog went into your home and it just all worked out.
Janis [00:11:49] Fairly right away. Yeah, they actually had a dog in there in their foster system, Who’s now my Tommy. Who had been in foster for a long time because he was really, really, really shy with new. OK. Very, very, very shy with new people. And they were worried about you where they could place him, you know, where he could get some help in getting over that. Well I’m completely undaunted by that. I I’ve worked with, you know, 10 million shy dogs. I can I can fix that. That wasn’t the problem. But he got along with every other dog in the household and they had all kinds of dogs and dogs coming and going. And he would politely, sweetly ask everyone to play. And that’s what I needed. So he came home with me and everything was fine.
Nikki [00:12:47] And luckily, you know so much about dogs that you know that. OK. I like this look, and then this is what else I need, and this is what I know I can work with. Ashley, why don’t you talk a little bit about this? So if you didn’t watch the Facebook live, the reason we did it was because we got a dog that looked like a chocolate lab, I’m going to summarize it very quickly, And we had an influx of applications. And the reasons people knew that this chocolate lab was going to be great in their house was because they had previously owned chocolate labs in the past. That was probably the biggest reasoning that we got from people on the applications and on the phone calls we got. And I’m not knocking people for liking the way that chocolate labs look and wanting another chocolate lab, I don’t see anything wrong with that whatsoever at all. But what they weren’t saying were, this is what my household looks like. I really like the way this dog looks, but I need X, Y, Z for in order for it to fit in our home. Ashley, do you agree that that was sort of our experience with this? This particular dog?
Ashley [00:14:04] Oh, yeah, absolutely. Because when she was posted on social media site, we had such a large response, which we don’t normally get. And I think a large part of that was based on how she looked and the adopters when we would call them and talk to them on the phone. A lot of it was like, oh, they looked like my previous dog or my current dog. So, she’s going to act like this. That’s, you know, dogs I’ve had and that’s what she looks like. And so that was definitely a vast majority of the people who we talked to felt that way.
Nikki [00:14:41] And I I don’t blame them. I’m not trying to, like shame these people in any way or anything like that. I just think it’s something that we should discuss. So I. I certainly, before coming in to working for Animal Farm, have, you know, done the pet finder searches. You know, you just go on occasionally just to look at cute dogs even if you’re not ready for one. I don’t know if I’m the only one that does that, but.
Ashley [00:15:14] Nope
Nikki [00:15:17] And my first dog I picked because I just liked the way she looked. I never asked any sort of behavior questions about her. I just didn’t understand that that was a thing. I was just like, I want a dog. I’ll get a dog and it’ll be fine. And it was, I think, like you said, Janis. That’s a good majority of people are just getting dogs and it’s working out. But I’ve had other like friends and family members get a dog, you know, without asking any questions, just being like, oh, this is a cute dog. I want it. I adopt it. And then it ends up, you know, not a good dog for their house where they are. I have to either, you know, struggle to i don’t know ifstruggle is the right word. They have to really put in a lot of.
Ashley [00:16:09] Manage
Nikki [00:16:10] In order to manage their household. Now, especially people that aren’t dog trainers, don’t have any training advice. Maybe you don’t have the resources to seek out trainers or just don’t have the willingness to do so.
Regina [00:16:24] I just wonder if some of that is also managing expectations. Like, if so, if they think a dog is going to behave a certain way based on stereotypes and then the dog doesn’t like is my dog broken? What’s wrong with my dog? It’s not doing X, Y, Z. And I think that probably happens some too, is that people’s expectations then throw off their relationship with their dog a little bit.
Nikki [00:16:46] I could see that? I think that in my personal experience has just been with people that are just I don’t even know if they have stereotypes with dogs. It’s basically just that dogs cute. And I want it. I understand that need as well. There there’s a lot of dogs.
Janis [00:17:08] We need to take care of people, we need to be fair to people about this. Typically, the only information that is available.
Nikki [00:17:15] Yeah.
Janis [00:17:15] Is visual information. That’s all. That’s all people have to go by. And the way that the human brain works is basically, you know, we don’t have enough bandwidth to be to be encountering every situation as completely novel. So you have to, the only thing you’ve got are kind of the scripts from the past, from your past, experiences that were similar. So what do we expect them to do then? Unless they have people get some some better form of information somewhere, you know, they’ve got nothing to go on. But what the dogs look like. When you’re, you know, in the situation of attempting to place dogs and doing that, you know, sort of putting together those dating profiles or or, you know, marketing marketing pieces it seems like the most useful things you can do probably have to do with creating even visual images of what the dogs want, what this particular dog does like to do. And descriptions of those things. So people have some information about it. I like to think of it as the dog’s behavior so much as just you know what? What you’re going to do with him, what he’s gonna be happy doing with human beings, or in a human house. And then let people make their decision.
Nikki [00:19:17] And only that can go so far. Right. What we’re going to see in a shelter may be completely opposite this case that we we’re talking about on the live it was, we had Ashley tell us about the reports between the three. Can you talk about the differences.
Ashley [00:19:33] Yes. So we actually had information from her original owner on this dog we had. They had her since she was eight weeks old. They got her from a breeder. And they just saw that she’s a super high energy dog, their scheduling and lifestyle couldn’t meet her needs. So when she was with us, we saw some a little different. We saw her having some fearfulness when meeting new people and also some anxiety. And then the people who ended up adopting her saw something more like inbetween. So she still had some, like, you know, she was a little unsure when meeting new people, but not to the extent that we were seeing here. So it kind of what she had going home with was more in between of what we saw versus the original home.
Janis [00:20:27] Which is interesting, to give you some information about the importance of contact and affecting what you do. I mean, it applies to us, you know. I mean, we don’t human beings, I’m guessing, don’t act the same when they are, say, incarcerated as when they’re on vacation in the Bahamas, for example. That might have some effect on your behavior as a human being. Dogs are likely, no different. And even, by the way, in history from a previous household, the only study this actually looked at compared reports on people surrendering dogs to their subsequent adopters found that their descriptions of the dog behaviors did not match. Now, it could be that the behavior was different in the different contexts. It could be that the things that the kind of husbandry practices were different. Or it could be that the things that the particular people perceive as issues of particular behaviors were things that the other people didn’t really know. No way to know. But to my knowledge is only one study on that. And that’s what they found. They didn’t match. My favorite example, and this is always greyhounds on racing greyhounds because there’s such a specific case because they live their lives until, if they if they are full racing career some of them until they’re 5 years old in extremely socially impoverished conditions. They have they have almost no interaction with human beings. They have almost no interaction with other dogs. They spend more than twenty three hours a day in a tiny crate. And they live to full maturity in under these conditions except when they’re puppies. Their little puppy hood is a bit better. OK. They come out of this system and and probably in the United States, most of them are now adopted. Typically the trajectory for those dogs in a matter of a couple of weeks, sometimes less. The vast majority of them just act like normal family dogs. That’s how plastic dogs are. That’s how important context is.
Nikki [00:23:19] And we’ve seen similar scenarios with dog fighting as well. Where dogs go home.
Janis [00:23:24] Yeah. You would expect to see the same.
Nikki [00:23:28] Completely off topic, Janis, but I’m just curious. Why do you love the Greyhound so much? Was it something that happened in your life or you just got one one day and that was it?
Janis [00:23:41] It was an aesthetic. It was it was just it was it was just an aesthetic. I had just I had just admired the way that they looked for a long time. And I was writing. I had one dog at the time that I was I was writing a book about Dog Bites, which was a very big project. That was quite some time ago, more than more than a decade ago now. And my reward to myself when I finished the book was I was going to get a Greyhound.
Ashley [00:24:13] awh.
Nikki [00:24:14] That’s awesome.
Janis [00:24:15] I knew I knew nothing whatever about them behaviorally. But I really like this is probably not the context to admit this, I really didn’t care.
Nikki [00:24:26] I think it’s a good, honest thing to say. I think that we all need to be honest and I know all four of us have a look that we are particular to. And I don’t I don’t see anything wrong with that. But it’s when we place different ideas and behaviors and personalities onto these looks before we get to know the individual dog. I think that’s where the problem lies. And again, like you said, Janis, usually things work out. But let’s sort of give some insight on to why making these assumptions about dogs isn’t going to help you make any better matches in the long run. I think we should start out with the age old question. Can we accurately identify mixed breed dogs by visual inspection?
Janis [00:25:25] Easy question the answer is no.
Nikki [00:25:28] If you followed Animal Farm long enough? You’re all laughing with us. I know that the answer is absolutely not. When we talk about all the time, I wish that podcast sometimes could be visual because we have a ton of amazing. I have a ton of amazing examples. I don’t know if anybody any of you guys follow Embark on Instagram, but they often times share people that I’ve got and they embark DNA tests and they share their results that people share on their own pages they reshare. So I get to see like every day a new dog and a new DNA test. And every day I’m like blown away about the results. I mean, I shouldn’t be at this point, but I’m like, wow, this is still crazy to me. That dogs don’t look like what they are, you know?
Janis [00:26:22] No, they don’t. We have very robust literature now that has demonstrated that that’s the case. But to kind of bring it down to a human level, I mean, people can to put it inside of, you know, common experiences that people have, you know, you can think about your own family and that and the families of your friends friend and their say, you know, siblings, brothers and sisters in the same family. How common is it that you would never guess that they were similar? And those people are as closely related as any individual as any individual there can ever be, except for identical twins. They’re much more closely related then to dogs who happen to be of the same breed.
Nikki [00:27:25] Yeah.
Janis [00:27:25] And then, you know, they both came from, they had only the DNA from from two individuals to work with. And yet they commonly don’t look alike it at all.
Nikki [00:27:41] Or act like.
Janis [00:27:43] And most definitely, don’t act alike, I mean. Raise your hand if you, your brothers and sisters behave in the world in the same way. Probably not.
Nikki [00:27:57] Yeah. And we all have this. We’ll often sometimes say in the animal welfare field or if you have a DNA test on your dog. My dog is predominantly this breed and I always thought that that was super important. It was significant that your dog had X more than anything else in it. But Janis, do you feel comfortable talking about, like how sort of the DNA works around that a little bit and how.
Janis [00:28:31] I’m a not geneticist. So I need to paint this in very broad kinds of terms. I mean, there among among pedigree dogs, there are genetic commonalities so that there are things that have been bred for in there, even in some cases actual what you call evolutionary bottlenecks or something where some possibility has been completely eliminated. There might be something having to do with code colors. Most of the fairly strongly bred for characteristics in pedigree dogs have to do with appearance. So you can you can get some consistency there. Not so much selection for behavior. Now, numerically, you know, I mean, sort of statistically the higher the percentage of the genetic material that comes from a single breed. So, you know, as you’re moving up past 50 percent. Then just, on the on a kind of a on a kind of a gambling metric, your odds increase. Some what of having characteristics of that breed, again, mostly appearance come through. You know, because because there’s more of that in the kind of pool that’s being drawn from, that’s being you know, randomly drawn from. As that entity is being formed. But there are still huge numbers. So. So it’s like it’s it’s like deciding, well, I’m gonna play the Mega Millions because my odds of winning there are better than in the Super Bowl. Well, I mean, the difference between 13 million to one and 20 million to one in practical terms is doesn’t really matter.
Nikki [00:30:51] Yeah. So what I found in my not research at all, just looking at a crap ton of DNA test is that a lot of times what I see in a dog and of course that’s relative too. And then I look at their DNA and that what that look like say I see a chow. I think that dog looks like a chow mostly. And then I get their DNA and down at the bottom, like 12 percent is chow. I found that a lot. And my hypothesis on that, again, this is all non research was because only 50 genes make up the way a dog looks out of the 20000. So could it be that? I mean, it’s it could come from any of them, but is it more likely to come from the top? I don’t know asking, but shows that answer.
Janis [00:31:56] But that’s that’s still a big number when you’re talking about combination. I mean, when you think about the morphological diversity of dogs, it’s much greater than any other species on the planet. So the differences in appearances among dogs is quite safe to say is much greater than any other species. And that’s because of this very specific selection for a particular thing. But when you start to mix them back together. Then you have just a sort of incalculable, all kinds of possibilities. But on the other hand, as humans, we’re going to be predisposed to notice certain things more than other things. So you might identify your your bias might be to identify a breed to identify you to associate something with the shape of the dog’s snout. And so you’re always looking at that. And and that seems like a particularly powerful characteristic to you. It’s really not. Those are just the places where you happen to look.
Nikki [00:33:25] So. If we have the appearance of a dog, what is that going to tell me about the behavior of a dog?
Janis [00:33:36] Nothing. Except in the sense that Karen Prior. I don’t know how many people in the audience know who she is. She is readily available to look up anyway. She’s a famous animal behavior person. Used to be fond of saying that behavior is anything a dead dog can’t do. If you if you take it that far, then apparence can tell you something about the actual physical abilities of a dog. So my greyhounds can run faster than a dachshund. OK. That’s a behavior. There’s there’s not a dachshund that’s gonna beat them in a foot race. They just don’t have the wheels for it. On the other hand. I might have a dachshund sitting in front of me or a greyhound sitting in front of me or, Heaven help us, dachshund greyhound F1 cross sitting in front of me and I can make you no prediction whatsoever about how keen that dog is, that how excited that dog is gonna be about chasing stuff. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t.
Regina [00:35:02] Yeah, I think that touches on confusion, a lot of people have that behavior and breed traits aren’t necessarily the dog’s personality. I think that’s where a lot of people get confused.
Janis [00:35:16] So, I mean, there are certainly things that people have tried to increase the incidents of. And may have been successful, but they’re very, very specific. So, for example, and most of them actually have to do with predation. Most of the things that the people most of the work that people have asked dogs to do are like bits and pieces of, you know, acquiring dinner. And so they might be things like chasing, for example, or grabbing and those things have been turned into hurting stuff and gotten very specific. So pointers, for example, have been selected for an inclination to, you know, to take a certain posture when they sense a bird. On the other hand, we don’t actually know that Pointer Point more than other dogs do. They probably do. But it’s still a behavior that occurs across the species. And the kinds of things where it’s likely that there’s been much success at all are that specific. They’re very specific as that. But again, I’d love to go back to that to the racing greyhounds, because there we have what should be an absolute evolutionary bottleneck. No greyhound from a racing line gets to make babies unless they are keen to chase things. And yet. Not all of them come out to needing to chase things. And I mean, quite a number of them come out not keen to chase things might be species average. It could be that the incidents of wanting to chase things just is what it is in domestic dogs. You know, maybe it’s somewhere between half and seventy five percent. I mean, think about how many dogs, you know, that like to chase the most up. Right.
Nikki [00:37:24] Right. Right. But I can’t predict that by looking at the dog unless it’s a morphological feature in the dog that’s going to tell me.
Janis [00:37:33] Yeah.
Nikki [00:37:34] It’s gonna want to run it.
Janis [00:37:36] It maybe already be established in the species before bringing on people started trying to, you know, make sure they got that. They didn’t actually make any difference. Nobody knew. But they do know that plenty of them don’t do it even though they cannot reproduce unless they do. That’s in terms of evolution and in terms of genetics and behavior, that’s bloody impressive.
Nikki [00:38:05] Yeah, yeah. So to all of the people looking to adopt a dog, I think the important thing here is just that you can’t look at a dog and expect it to do X, Y, Z. You might be able to assume certain things based on their morphological qualities, but the next thing would be. So I have this dog’s DNA, so now I know what it is. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. I’ve got the DNA in front of me. This dog is a boxer lab chow greyhound mix. Now, can I can I take all that information and say, well, it’s going to do the traits from each one of these dogs?
Janis [00:38:56] Nope sorry guys.
Nikki [00:38:57] What happens when a dog leaves that gene pool and becomes a mixed breed dog?
Janis [00:39:06] All bets are off. You just have, you know, kind of a random dog. But for practical purposes, it doesn’t matter. Even if you have a purebred purpose bred dog, you still have to look at the dog in front of you and see what it actually does. It just doesn’t matter. Even if you can find some qualities in the aggregate in an economist gene pool like a breed, even if you can find some inclinations that something, some behavior occurs at a slightly elevated rate over the norm for all dogs. If we knew what that was, which we never do, even if you knew that it doesn’t matter, the dog in front of you might not express that. And there are all kinds of things that go into that. There is no substitute for getting to know the particular dog in front of you. There’s no shortcut.
Nikki [00:40:13] Because even there’s one thing that we talked about that you can’t see, which if you don’t know the dog’s history, you can see how the dog looks. He might be able to see the DNA. But the one thing you don’t know about the dog in most cases, unless you have a very big behavior, history of the dog is the nurture side of a dog’s personality.
Janis [00:40:35] And you don’t need to know the nurture side. You don’t need to know what happened to him. You just need to know how he acts. OK. Why did what he actually does. You don’t need to know where it came from. But it’s useful to know how. Yes. This is a powerful argument, by the way, for the use of fostering in homes, when we’re talking about rehoming dogs, as the primary kind of, you know, organizational way to deal with dogs that need new homes. Put them in a natural environment withpeople who you’ve given some training in how to interact in a behaviorally healthy way with dogs and observe them and find out what they do.
Nikki [00:41:25] Right. Right. Yes. We don’t need to know the nurture side, but we need to look at the dog and see how it behaves in order to understand.
Janis [00:41:36] You don’t need to know how. You just need to know what.
Nikki [00:41:39] Yes, exactly. I sort of went into this podcast like we gotta tell people how to best to get good matches. And I’ve only been like yeah, Janis you have good points here. That it doesn’t really need to be that hard.
Janis [00:41:56] You never get what you expect from me.
Nikki [00:41:58] Maybe we don’t need to take this as seriously as I thought we should. And good matches are important, but most people figure it out and i’ve slowly gotten off my high horse towards the end of this podcast.
Janis [00:42:16] The longer I’ve been in this and the more experience I’ve gotten, the more sympathy and empathy I have for adopters and dog owners.
Nikki [00:42:28] And what for the folks listening that do adoptions like, what is your advice to them on how to find that empathy, because I think sometimes it gets jaded.
Janis [00:42:45] Yeah, boy. Maybe then maybe.
Nikki [00:42:50] I’m sorry to put you on the spot.
Janis [00:42:56] I think the only thing, I don’t know any short answer to building empathy. And I think in my own behavior consultation, I had a number of sort of epiphanies that were comeuppances for me where I said, you know, I’ve been pretty presumptuous here and I need to I need to listen to my clients. They actually know their dogs and by golly, they know their dogs better than I do. So I need to listen to what they’re saying, even if they don’t frame it the way that I would . So I would say that the biggest way is really to try and understand what people are saying, to try and figure out what’s underneath, you know, what they’re saying when they say that they need a dog. They say they need a dog you know that that matches their furniture. You know, there may actually be. I know. I know. But you don’t even the sounds that egregious. You don’t you can’t just dismiss them and say, oh, this person doesn’t really care. Care about the dog at all. I had a friend. Who went shopping, who did it the other way, who went shopping for furniture with a bag of dog hair?
Ashley [00:44:18] Oh my gosh.
Janis [00:44:20] to see what would stick and what would stick.
Nikki [00:44:27] I need to do that, less vacuuming.
Janis [00:44:31] You can totally do the opposite. You know, and say, oh, man, you know, I’ve got this furniture, you know, that I’ve spent thousands thousands of dollars on. But I really want to live with the dog, you know, on the couch with me, you know, on my lap. I need a dog that’s, you know, that doesn’t have a giant double coat and isn’t going to be shedding a normal coat. nothing wrong with that.
Nikki [00:44:57] Yeah.
Janis [00:44:59] That comes from how they how they actually want to live with the dog in a companionable way. That’s fine. But you don’t know if you don’t ask.
Nikki [00:45:10] You kind of have to deconstruct what they’re saying before judging.
Janis [00:45:16] And nobody gets a dog, I don’t think anybody gets a companion dog without a kind of a of a fantasy picture in their mind of what it’s going to be like. And in many, it may be unrealistic. And if you if it’s a person who’s who is open to really having some discussions about this, then you can spend some time digging and finding out what’s underneath that. That’s what they that’s what they really want, you know, and what’s the avenue to the to the thing that they really take to the real what they really want. But I think people who are in dogs, we tend to be much too quick to say, oh, this person just just shouldn’t have a dog. Yeah. It should take you a long time to get to that point where you’re willing to say, you know, this may be more of an intrusion on your lifestyle than you want to deal with for, you know, for both of you to be happy. But, you know, that’s you don’t you don’t need to. You don’t need to jump to that.
Nikki [00:46:22] Yeah. And where’s the dog going to live if it’s not going home with this person. In a kennel in the shelter?
Janis [00:46:29] And if you’ve got a choice. Yeah. I mean, if you’ve got a choice between spending lots and lots of time gathering information and you’ve got enough active people waiting. I would generally go for the, you know, bring them in, send them out. If it doesn’t work out, bring them back.
Nikki [00:46:49] I agree.
Janis [00:46:50] Dogs. Most dogs seem to seem to cope quite well with changing household. I think there probably a few outliers who don’t, who really have a hard time, you know, leaving one relationship and forming another. But we flatter ourselves. Dogs are very. Love the one you’re with.
Nikki [00:47:13] Yeah. Yeah.
Janis [00:47:15] They seem to feel the need. They gotta love somebody. And if you’re who is there, they’re going to love you.
Nikki [00:47:22] That’s. I’ve had creature for a few days now. I mean, he’s had like overnights every once in a while here. And I’ve got two dogs of my own. And you know, the first day he’s running around following me around the house, he’s like, you know, cause commotion. He’s waking me up in the middle of the night. He’s like doing all these weird, uncomfortable things. So I’m sure he’s not super happy to not be in his home. But by night, two, he’s like, alright, I want to cuddle near you. And this is what I’m going to do now with the other dogs are doing. And he just kind of followed suit and, you know, and that was that. After you take, two. So that’s one example of that. But the creature is going to go back to his mom tomorrow.
Janis [00:48:05] It’s very good, for his mom. So, yes, I mean, again, I think I think we can kind of relax. And of course, bad things will happen. And mismatches where there’s really, you know, harm done will occasionally happen. There’s if we try and micromanage things to the extent that we’re approaching some kind of zero defect, which is a whole lot of dog spending, a whole lot more time than they need to in the shelter.
Nikki [00:48:39] Absolutely.
Janis [00:48:40] And that’s notgood for them either.
Nikki [00:48:43] So if you’re out there and you’re looking to get a dog in the near future. My advice would be, listen to Janis. She’s right. It’s just probably going to work out, but also think about what you need in your home and consider that as well. And I think if you take a little bit of extra time to figure out what you really need in your home and don’t make you know. I was going to say you don’t make rash decisions. And just get a dog on a whim. But I do that with both of my dogs.
Janis [00:49:21] How about something where, you know, where you were never supposed to give dogs as gifts? Turns out they’re not returned at any higher rate than any other dog.
Regina [00:49:31] Absolutely.
Janis [00:49:32] You know, we kind of made up this stuff based on, you know, some poor information. But if you know, if you want to make a careful decision, I absolutely encourage that. But spend a little bit of time and really think about what your fantasy is of your day to day life with your dog. You know, paint yourself a picture of what that looks like. I want to do this and this and this with my dog and then give that information to whoever, you know, describe that same thing to to whoever you’re going to get the dog from. They’ll be able to do a much better job of helping you find a dog that’s going to fulfill that.
Nikki [00:50:20] And Ashley you deal with adoptions on a daily basis. Can you tell us a little bit about what you appreciate from adopters to help you find them a dog that’s gonna be, you know, work best in their home for what we have?
Ashley [00:50:33] Yeah. I mean, you’ll see a good amount of people who do go the visual route like, oh, I saw this photo of your dog online and I just instantly felt a connection, which is great. But then as like the like adoption counselor or whatever, your job is to kind of just pull information if they don’t really realize what they want necessarily. If you just ask different types of questions and different ways to see what they want. What do they do on a day to day basis where they want to do stuff like that, then you can in your mind kinda process that and see who would fit the best from your dogs with them and what they want to do.A lot of the times people they’ll give you the information if youre just wiling and sometimes you’ve got to pull it out more than others. Yeah. I mean, as long as you just are asking the right question, you’re going to get the information you need to make those matches.
Janis [00:51:35] Yeah. And I mean, if I don’t trust myself to make a good choice just based on pretty pictures. You know, I think it’s much better to have somebody else make that choice for you rather than grab, rather than go down aisles and go shopping.
Ashley [00:51:55] Yeah. When you have too many choices.
Janis [00:51:58] Yeah. I mean I adopted a Doberman one time. Same deal as with the greyhounds. It had been my fantasy dog for a long time because I thought they were beautiful. And I’ve and I worked with a with a with a Doberman breed rescue and told them about, you know what I wanted to you know, what I wanted to do with Dog and and, you know, where she’d need to be able to get along with lots of people because I took her work with me. And, you know, all this and that and the other thing. And so they said, you know, we’re gonna. Yeah, we’ve got a female about the age you want. You know, she’s the personality you’re talking about. Yeah. This is you know, let’s get you this dog. And I remember when they took her out, they met me because they were very far away. They met me in a midway location and got that dog out of the car, and I remember feeling really disappointed because I had this image in my mind of don’t know what Dobermans typically looked like is beautiful very, very, very sleek, athletic looking dog. And my Ruby, when she came to me, was quite pudgy. Didn’t really fit that image. I would never in my life have, you know, picked her out from a row of Dobermans. And she was a perfect dog for me. They did a fantastic, Job. And she was separated from the dog that she’d been living with, all of whose food she’d been eating and who was himself all the larger than her, very, very thin at the time, she took some weight off and became a little more svelte.
Nikki [00:54:00] So I feel like we’ve been all over the place with this podcast. But I also think we’ve covered a lot of really good information. I think what I wanted to accomplish was just to let people know that breed is not irrelevant. When making, you know, and finding your next companion dog. But I feel like I’ve learned so much and kind of so glad that you that you really started off with that Janis that whole perspective changed. It was really great. And I think it’s an important thing for people to hear. I mean, I just want to end with is to just reiterate that it’s OK to like a certain look of dog, but the look of that dog is not going to tell you who that dog is. But you can certainly find a dog that looks the way that you want. That’s a good fit for your house. But yeah, I think that sums up what I wanted to get across today. There’s anything to add. you guys still there? did i bore you to death?
Ashley [00:55:17] No. we’re still here. no. that was great.
Regina [00:55:21] I mean, the only thing I have to say is, do you all notice how I didn’t mention my dog once?
Nikki [00:55:26] I was actually going to mention Regina had texted earlier and said, “if you find a dog that looks like Hachi, I will love you forever.” I was like, do you not know what we’re talking about today?
Regina [00:55:43] I guess I just didn’t I you know, I didn’t want to co op the conversation talking about my dog.
Janis [00:55:53] We should have mentioned that when we were talking about the, you know, liking dogs that look a certain way because, this would be an interesting thing for somebody to study, too. Because it’s really, really common for people to to pick a breed and stick with that breed.
Nikki [00:56:14] Yes.
Janis [00:56:16] I suspect that for many people, that’s based on an emotional connection that they had, you know, with the first dog. And so they’re wanting to then seek out, you know, to experience that emotional connection again, which completely makes sense. That you would feel drawn. I mean, you’re drawn to people who look like people who you people you like. You know, why wouldn’t you be if you if you had a dog that you that you love, wouldn’t you be drawn to another dog who looks similar. It’s completely natural.
Regina [00:57:02] Yeah. Yeah. And I have. So I mean I have a preference for my next dog. It would be a dog that I would train to be my next service dog. So for me, obviously I really need that behavior and work ethic out of it. But that takes precedence over how it looks.
[00:57:18] I also can’t have a dog that is my current breed of dog due to size, but I still have a specific look. So like I know I want more angular face. I know I want pointy ears. These are things that I want that I want that primitive look. So that narrows my options. But ultimately, I want a dog that can help me. So I’m willing to forego the look if I get the dog. You know, that would be a good fit. But yeah, I still have a look.
Janis [00:57:52] And that in your case. That’s going to be a dog that’s been heavily auditioned before it comes.
Regina [00:57:58] Yeah. And that’s the challenge. That’s a real challenge.
Janis [00:58:02] You know, there’s gonna be, you know, people looking through for that dog and saying, ah, this one might be the one.
Regina [00:58:09] Yeah, well I’ve Bernice has already said she would keep an eye out for me.
Nikki [00:58:14] You got the best person on the case.
Regina [00:58:17] Oh, that’s also like I was going to say when we talk about that breed isn’t necessarily relevant for a companion animal, but it’s also not relevant necessarily for a working dog. And as our service dog program proves, as my dog proves, doesn’t necessarily have to be one of those purpose bred dogs.
Janis [00:58:39] I think purpose breeding is the most wasteful thing going on in life. And there’s research directed at it and stuff. And I just I. People just need to get over it. And it’s a vicious cycle because sometimes people justify research on and on breeds and and behavior and stuff. And in terms of facilitating working dog breeding programs and so the two things tend to kind of justify each other and and I think they’re both bogus. I think it’s an incredibly inefficient way to do this. If only because a puppy is always a crapshoot.
Ashley [00:59:31] Yeah.
Janis [00:59:31] You’ve narrowed your odds of being able to figure out what a dog is likely to do exponetially. That dog is already an adult because now you’re not a prediction business anymore. You’re in the observation.
Regina [00:59:46] Yeah, we talk about that. We did a podcast with Jessica Hackman. I don’t know if you had a chance to listen to it. It was a long time ago. And we addressed this very thing. And we talk about like I asked her what the dropout rate is for service dogs that are born into programs that she says, I think I’ll double check and put it in the show notes. But she said it was something like 50 percent because a lot of the dogs that are puppies, they never even make it into the actual training. The puppies go to homes or something.
Janis [01:00:16] Yeah. Yeah. Don’t have had an enormous cost.
Regina [01:00:22] That’s why they’re so expensive.
Janis [01:00:25] Yeah. Yeah. It’s just it’s completely ridiculous.
Regina [01:00:29] Oh, Ashley. Ashley, actually. You want to talk about gadget?
Ashley [01:00:34] Oh, yeah. We briefly mentioned him on the Facebook Live, but our service dog and training inspector gadget, he was quote unquote bred to be a sports dog. He was his breed is American Bulldog and Greyhound. And they thought that would be a good combination to be a sport dog.
Janis [01:00:59] Wow do you have a picture of it!?
Nikki [01:01:03] I’ll email it right now?
Janis [01:01:05] Oh my god i want to see this god!
Ashley [01:01:08] He is very adorable. You would love him.
Janis [01:01:13] Wow. I form words.
Ashley [01:01:19] He looks more like a Greyhound. But anyway, so he. There were he had two siblings and I believe it because he has no drive to catch a Frisbee or catch anything, really. He’d rather just hang out with his person who he does have a client that he’s in training to help. And yet he has no drive to be a sports dog. And either did his brother, who just went home as a pet and I believe his other brother did the same thing. So they were trying to breed for this specific, you know, trait characteristic and quote unquote, they end up being duds.
Janis [01:02:02] There aren’t a lot of greyhounds that do any kind of sports.
Ashley [01:02:03] Yeah right,. He will pick up stuff for his person that he’s dropped. That’s about it. He’s got a good retireve.
Janis [01:02:14] Yeah I’ve never met a dog i couldn’t get to retrieve. Yeah. I think that’s a pretty easy skill to teach.
Ashley [01:02:23] Sure. Yeah, absolutely.
Janis [01:02:29] So somebody just got this idea, I know I’ll take an American bulldog and breed it to a greyhound and have what kind of dog sports did it want to do.
Ashley [01:02:38] i think like probably Frisbee. Agility, stuff like that.
Janis [01:02:45] Oh, my god.
Ashley [01:02:45] . Yeah. No real drive for that.
Nikki [01:02:54] All right, guys, I think we have plenty of content for this podcast.
Janis [01:03:00] Okay. Well, that was fun.
Nikki [01:03:02] I’m glad you liked it. I feel like I have so many other things I want to talk to you about. All right, guys, thanks so much for hanging out.
Help Us Keep Dogs and People Together to End Discrimination
Please click “donate” to proceed to payment information.
Animal Farm Foundation is a 501c3 organization. Your donation is tax-deductible.
The Latest From our Team
An interview with Animal Farm Foundation's Director of Behavior and Training
P.O. Box 624
Bangall, NY 12506