Mr. Cheap Asks: What Kind of Dog Should I Get My Dad?

by Mr. Cheap

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My father generally doesn’t like change in his life.  We joke that if something ever happened to my mother he’d look around for a woman just like her and stay single if he couldn’t find her (ideally he should have married a woman with an identical twin so he’d have a backup). He doesn’t travel at all, because he likes his daily routine to stay as constant as possible.  Growing up, he had a series of dogs, and each of them was named “Buddy” (as soon as one dog died, it was replaced with another and given the same name).

Shortly after he retired we got him a dog, and at first he was really angry (he said at one point that the dog ruined his retirement), but before long they were best buddies and the dog went everywhere with him.  For months after the dog passed away people he’d never talked to before would come up and ask him where his dog was (people had got used to seeing them together).  He said a few times over the years that if anything ever happened to the dog he’d want another, as she added so much enjoyment to his life.  My father has had difficulty making change happen and still doesn’t have a dog in his life (it’s been years now).  After talking to the rest of the family, I’ve decided to get him a new dog in the spring and was hoping some of our readership is knowledgeable about dogs and can give me some advice.

His previous dog was an English Springer Spaniel which was pretty close to ideal for our family.  A dog trainer I was talking to made the point that when you get a new dog, you don’t want it to be the same breed as the last one (so that you won’t view it as a clone of the previous dog and will realize it’s a new dog with its own personality).  This made a lot of sense to me, so I’m now trying to find a breed similar to the English Springer Spaniel, but different.

Things we liked about the breed:

  • Friendly breed that’s good with strangers (we don’t need a guard dog), if it was barking a lot that’d be a problem.
  • Very sensitive – this is an important characteristic which was explained to me as how much the dog will “read” its owner.  Dogs that are more sensitive can tell when the owner is upset, whereas less sensitive dogs need to be disciplined more blatantly.  My dad definitely needs a dog that can read him when he’s getting upset (and stop doing whatever its doing), as my dad isn’t the best at formal discipline.
  • Reasonably athletic – my dad took the dog for at least one long walk every day and would often take the dog cross-country skiing with him.
  • It probably doesn’t make much of a difference, but we’ll get a female (I’ve read in some breeds the males and females can have different behaviours).

Things we were indifferent to:

  • English Springer Spaniels are apparently “one master” dogs and tend to bond with one person.  My mom would like a dog that was more of a “multiple owner” dog, but I think my dad likes the one-on-one dogs.
  • Especially in their old ages, English Spring Spaniels tend to want their own way with things (and can get grumpy).  My parents were fairly accommodating with their old dog (although this used to irritate me a bit).
  • Our previous dog was supposedly “pure bred” without papers.  We like the breed just in terms of knowing what the dog’s general characteristics should be, but we couldn’t care less about the pedigree beyond that.

Things we didn’t like:

  • My dad has found the house a lot easier to clean without dog hair everywhere.  A breed that shed less than English Springer Spaniels would be good.

If anyone can suggest breeds that have the important characteristics for us, I’d really appreciate it!  I’ve had suggestions to look into a Brittany and a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  I’ve also considered getting a English Springer Spaniel with different coloration (the previous dog had liver colouring, but I’m not sure if getting one with black colouring would be enough of a difference to prevent comparisons).

I suspect the suggestion will be made to rescue a dog from the pound.  I’m certainly sympathetic to why that would be a good idea (there are dogs that certainly need a home).  Ultimately, my view is that dogs are a pack animal and abandonment is VERY traumatic for them.  My parents aren’t well equipped to rehabilitate an animal recovering from this trauma (and I suspect the process of adjusting to each other would prevent bonding:  my parents would probably take the view that it’s a “bad dog”).

Given the criteria outlined above, do you have any suggestions on breeds I should consider or general advice about the process of getting a new pet?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mfd

Call me bias but I loved my boxer. They are extremely loyal and friendly. They just love being around people. When you take them out they can be that active dog that you can throw the ball around with. Then when you get home they can be that lazy dog that you want to lie down with you while you watch TV. Generally they aren’t big dogs and usually come in at around 50 pounds but you can get “big-boned” versions that are 90 pounds plus.

the three issues that boxers have are :

1- because they have a short snout when they get excite the sometimes blow a little snot out. Its not as bad as it sounds but can take some getting used too.

2 – they are a short-haired dogs which can actually be harder to clean up after. Sure the hair isn’t as visible as long hair dogs but the hair has the ability to dig into furniture.

3 – they have issues with Hip Dysplasia and some other things. If you get a dog from the a reputable breeder then you can mitigate these issues. Check out the following link :

http://www.americanboxerclub.org/genetic_diseases.html

2 Nurseb911

Hmmm…..a Great Dane or Bernese Mountain Dog 🙂 !

That way Cheap could borrow the dog for getting to & from school in the winters and save a lot on gas money. All he’d need is a sled and it would be great exercise for the puppy! His/her poops might be landmines in the backyard, but think of the gas money & parking you’d save!

3 WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com

I’ve been really growing an affinity towards Golden Doodle’s – mostly because they look like Chewbacca (bleached), but also because they just seem so congenial – and apparently they don’t shed – but I’m no dog expert.

Although I used to have a dalmatian named Buddy – his loss was traumatic enough that it will be a long time before I get another dog (or even a cat).

I think Doodle’s are on the medium-large side though.

Let us know how it pans out!

4 nobleea

I honestly think that purebreds are not all there in the head. They seem to have more medical issues too.

Get a mutt or a cross breed. Why should you pay $1000 for a dog? I can understand your concerns for getting a full grown dog from the pound. I think puppies go very fast from the pound. Surely there’s a bunch of ‘free to a good home’ ads in the paper for some new cross puppies?

5 Mr. Cheap

Nobleea: Purebred dogs are a strange remnant of the 19th century fascination with eugenics (with an unpleasant character named “Adolf Hitler” pushing the idea in a different direction).

I tend to agree that a cross would be a good choice (if I could get a cross between a Springer and one of the species I listed I’d jump at it).

The purchase price of a pet has never bothered me. You make a commitment to an animal’s health for its lifetime when you become a pet owner, and food and medical care will cost FAR FAR more than the purchase price, so $1000 is a small price to be paid to get a pet with the characteristics that would be compatible with your family (in my opinion).

Preet: If you ever get another dog will you name it Buddy as well? A dog that looked like Chewbacca would be fun. I’d say “Punch it Chewie!” every time we head out on a walk…

MFD & Brad: Not sure what my dad & family would make of it if I showed up with a boxer or a great dane. We could always call the great dane Scooby I guess…

6 Potato

As someone who’s had consecutive dogs of the same breed, it really isn’t all that hard to appreciate a dog’s individuality. After all, many people often get children from the same parents and still manage to find a way to love them in their own respects… Plus even if it’s a different breed, it’ll be hard not to make the occasional comparison.

7 guinness416

Having been around a couple of them, and seen them interact with both sick and pregnant people, I do think springers are especially sensitive. Maybe your idea to choose one with different colouring is a good idea. I am as biased as those above and would therefore suggest a lab, they shed a little less than spaniels I think but do shed. They have wonderful personalities if your folks are up for the exercise they need. With goldendoodles being trendy I’d be worried about mills, but they sure do look pretty. The thing is that you don’t know if you’re getting something that’ll look or act more golden- or more -doodle, but the ones I’ve interacted with are extremely hyperactive. I wouldn’t leave one alone in the house. Nobleea is definitely right as far as pure bred pugs and alsatians and cockers and so on go, it is really sad what we’ve done to breeds like them.

I am available to dogsit. Wish my lifestyle meant I could have a pup 🙁

8 Mr. Cheap

Potato: My parents (especially my father) often accidentally call me by my brother’s name, so maybe we aren’t all that easy to keep separate 😉

Guinness: I definitely wouldn’t want to patronize a puppy mill, so your point is well taken. A hyper dog (or a crazy energetic dog) wouldn’t be ideal, but honestly a dog would get more exercise with my father than they would from most owners. That’s actually how they realized their previous dog was ill, she started having trouble keeping up with my dad when they went skiing together (in the past she’d always ranged out ahead of him and “scouted” the territory for him)

9 Julie

I agree with Noblea – why not get a shelter dog.. I’ve had both and purebreds do have way more health problems in my experience.
petfinder.com pools all of the shelter animals together.. you can search by breed. We have a briard mix and she’s awesome..

10 Looby

My family has had labs and retrievers, one purebred lab that we inherited and a couple of unknown mixes that came from the shelter- all awesome pets, great companions- the lab was especially sensitive, she seemed to respond especially to people who were in pain or upset.
My aunt has kept cockers and springers, not sure if they were purebred or not but they always seemed quite similar in personality.
My friend has a border collie, it’s probably the most energetic dog I know, if your dad really likes a lot of exercise this could be an option.
I like the idea of shelter dogs but if your parents wouldn’t be able to handle one it’s good that you are aware of their capabilities and pick a dog that’s most suited to them, it would be much worse to get a shelter dog and then have to find new owners for it.

11 Alex

I vote for a mutt. They are healthier and generally more mentally stable than most purebreds.

Dogs are like people…some handle change just fine and some have issues with change. If you get most shelter dogs home, generally they adapt just fine. Especially if someone is home with them most of the time, as it sounds like your father will be. Dogs need a pack, but they don’t necessarily need the same pack – they actually adapt to whatever pack they’re in.

You can find lots of dogs at the shelter with various ‘issues’ that aren’t a problem in a new home with proper training and love. Most often, the ‘issue’ isn’t the dog’s fault, it’s the previous owner’s lack of training and care. Very rare is there a really bad dog, mostly it’s bad owners.

If you want a well-balanced shelter dog, though, then learn the language used in the shelter descriptions. For example “needs a home with somebody home all the time = separation anxiety.” “Gets along with some other dogs = some dog aggression issues.” “Wants to be the only dog = more serious dog aggression”. “Good fit for an active person = probably too much energy.” You get the gist.

There are too many dogs that need a good home in this world in shelters to even consider going purebred unless you’re planning to show the dog at Westminster. But please, please don’t get the dog from a pet store under any circumstance. Because they’ll originally be from puppy mills that keep the ‘parents’ in wretched conditions, doing awful things like making them live their whole lives in tiny wire cages to cutting out their vocal cords with scissors to keep the dogs quiet. Disgusting.

Good luck!

12 Mr. Cheap

Julie: Unfortunately Pet Finder seems to be US only 🙁

Julie, Looby, Alex: I actually talked to my mother while preparing this post and suggested that they start walking dogs from the local shelter (they’re happy to have volunteers take dogs for walks) as a way to see the dogs personality before they’ve committed to taking her home, and my Mom was more receptive to this then I expected, so maybe a shelter dog will happen after all. She even mentioned that she’s had friends who’ve gotten dogs from the pound and they’ve all been lovely pets.

13 WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com

I wouldn’t name another dog with a previous dog’s name – I think it would dilute the memory somehow. I wouldn’t want a dog just as a replacement, I’d want the new dog for the dog that it is.

But the next one must definitely be named Chewie if it’s a golden doodle! I’ll even get a shoulder strap for holding empty ammo clips – how cool would that be!?

14 Four Pillars

I have to agree with some of the commenters – mutts make better pets and will likely have lower vet bills. They last longer too.

15 the weakonomist

A boxer might fit the profile for everything you’re looking for except:

THEY ARE SIMPLY ENERGY WITH FUR. They only rest while you sleep. During the day they will wear you out with the energy. Not the best dog for anyone over 50 I’d say.

16 Aaron

Your dad is retired so I’m assuming he is older. At some point in his life he’ll likely want a dog he can lift easily, especially as they both age together. Regardless of the breed you go for, each dog has its own personality and the breed only helps you to get towards generalities. My black lab was supposed to slow down at 2. Then they told me 5. She’s definitely slowing down at 12.5 and I’m grateful for how much life she’s had and brought to our family. Other pups in her litter are *completely mellow*. YMMV.

This site seemed quite useful for generalizations:

http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/dogbreeds/index.html

although every dog I clicked on, including what you mention, said things like:

“Vigorous exercise requirements ”
“Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough ”

Although the jack russell seemed to be the best blend for what I imagine your father would need/appreciate:

http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/reviews/jackrussellterriers.html

Good luck, please let us know in another post what you end up doing!

Aaron

17 Mr. Cheap

Nerd Money: Weird, you’re totally right! Thanks and ignore my earlier comment 🙂

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