How Many Dogs Old are You?

4dogsOver the years, many people have asked for help on how to pick the perfect dog. I’m always happy to assist when I can. I usually start by asking: How many dogs old are you?

Huh? you say.  Are you asking me how old in dog years I am?

No, it’s not a sneaky way to calculate your age. Rather, it’s a very important question in a list of questions that need to be asked to ascertain what kind of dog would make a good match for you.

Let me first explain what I mean by that question, which was first posed by renowned dog trainer, Suzanne Clothier:  How many dogs have you lived with over your life?

Why does that matter?

Because it’s a pretty good indicator of how much dog experience you’ve had, and therefore how much dog you can probably handle.

For instance, I’ve lived with 21 dogs so far. That makes me 21 dogs old. One could safely assume from that number that I’d have a fair amount of dog experience, as opposed to someone who is only two dogs old. And they’d be right. And that I’d have less experience than someone who is 200 dogs old. And they’d be right again. Perhaps.

Huh? you say again.

While knowing how many dogs old you are can tell a lot, it won’t give the full picture. In order to get that, we’d have to ask how many breeds old you are.

You see, as much as it matters how many dogs you’ve lived with, it also matters what kinds of breeds they’ve been. Because not all breeds are created equal, and not all dogs within the same breed are created equal. What that means is that while each breed type has overarching characteristics and personality traits, within each breed there can be significant variations.

For example, I’ve lived with dogs from each breed category (herding, sporting, working, toy, etc.) with the exception of the non-sporting group. I’ve also lived with a few different breeds from within each of those categories. For instance, from the herding breeds, I’ve shared my life with 4 Shelties, 2 German Shepherds, 1 Border Collie, 1 English Shepherd, and 2 Australian Shepherds.

So even though I’m 21 dogs old, I’m also 14 breeds old. If the person who’s 200 dogs old is only one breed old (say a breeder of Labs), then I would be considered older in dog experience because I’m more familiar with a larger number of breeds.

While people who are several dogs old aren’t likely to be looking for help selecting their next dog, it’s still very telling to find out how many breeds old they are, and whether they’ll be staying within those breeds.

That’s because, in truth, people are most likely to get into trouble when they switch breeds. Specifically, when they switch from a relatively easy breed to a more challenging breed with which they have no previous experience. I’m speaking from both observation and personal experience.

Even though I was 10 breeds old by the time I got Kiera, they’d all been breeds I’d had multiple experience with. When I switched to Australian Shepherds, even though they were herding dogs, they were unlike any other herding dogs I’d had before. The learning curve was steep.

To help shorten your learning curve, here are the important things to remember in selecting your next dog:

If you’re young in dog years, it’s a great idea to seek out the advice of someone more experienced to help you select your perfect partner. You’ll be glad you did.

Even if you’re old in dog years, but you’re young in breed years and you’re thinking of switching to a new breed, it’s incredibly valuable to spend time visiting with and talking to others who live with that breed. You’ll be glad you did.

And then, armed with all that insight and experience, it’s a lot easier to go find that special dog waiting for you. You’ll be glad you did.

So then, how many dogs old and breeds old are you? Which breeds have you enjoyed the most? What breeds have presented your longest learning curves?

By | 2016-10-24T09:56:19+00:00 January 16th, 2016|.My Dogs and Me, Dog Training, Dogs in General|13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Mommas Soapbox January 16, 2016 at 2:26 am - Reply

    I’m not sure how many dog years old am, but we have had dogs ever since we got married 21 years ago. Growing up I only had one dog and it’s wasn’t a great experience I’d have to say.

    For the last 16 years we have had labs….. in fact our “nestlie” (chocolate lab) is getting on in years and not doing so well. Her tail still goes 100 miles an hour when she sees us though…..

  2. Michelle O'Neil January 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I’m newborn, and loving it!

    (There was one dog years ago, but she wasn’t really a dog. She was a sweet cat in a 7 lb. dog’s body).

    • Karen Shanley January 16, 2016 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      Yay for you and Riley! There’s nothing like it! And about that cat in a dog’s body… I have a dog in a Maine Coon cat’s body. : )

  3. Elaine January 16, 2016 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    I think I just counted to twelve as an adult myself. An Irish Setter, two Dobermans, a small GSD cross (we think), two Collies, a Rottie cross, two Golden Retrievers, one Dalmatian, one Sheltie, and a miniature schnauzer. We’ve raised four dogs from puppies (two Dobies, one Collie, and the schnauzer.) The others were either young adults or mature adults being re-homed. Of these breeds, I don’t think I would get another Dalmatian, and the Irish Setter would be a hard sell too.

    I would tend to avoid the herding breeds because they present management issues around horses, but like their temperaments.

  4. Cindy January 16, 2016 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Well, let’s see….I’m twelve dogs old, and I have experience with seven breeds….beagle, lab, shepherd, poodle, dachshund, boxer and…mongrel, but wait, that last one doesn’t count as a breed does it? But I must say, it’s been the mongrels in my life that have warmed my heart the most. The scruffy vagabonds, those lost and vague breed of dogs I’ve rescued….who then in turn rescued me. You see, these dogs have entered my life when I needed to “get out of myself”, or in other words, care about something else other then my small world and it’s problems. So, my favorite breed? That indefinable mix of dog that pops up out of nowhere needing help, and then in turn loves you forever with gratitude unbounded. But for a pure bred, a close second is my beagle!

    • Karen January 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Some of my favorite dogs have been mutts. And I couldn’t agree more — there’s nothing like a four-footed to take us two-footeds out of our heads and put us squarely back into our hearts! : )

  5. Deb January 16, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    I think this is a really good place to start. I am 6 dogs old and all were mutts, mostly of the cocker-poo-schnauzer-terrier persuasion.

    My current dog is a cat. Except for hissing at the vacuum she is otherwise dog-like.

    • Karen Shanley January 17, 2016 at 11:34 am - Reply

      Deb, a dog-like cat is the perfect pet for when you want or need a little more freedom of movement.

  6. Holly January 16, 2016 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    I am 11 dogs old of my own personal dogs, but probably should add in the numerous fosters and gazillions of students. Between all of them I think I’ve dealt with every group in the purebreds and oodles of mixes. I even traveled from PA to Virginia to pick up a foster for a rescue group once. Rodney was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and a lovebug. Physically a very tough dog, but a marshmallow inside.

    My personal dogs are all herding breeds. GSD, Pem Corgi and Australian Cattle Dog. All slightly different, all somewhat similar. The ACD is just scary smart, but she’s a tightly wired individual. The Corgis are a tiny bit independent and the GSD….so loyal it caused her some anxiety in the beginning.

  7. altadenahiker January 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Well, yes. But however many dogs, I’d like to know how long each lived. In other words, how well did the person care for the 1 or 200 dogs in his or her charge.

    • Karen Shanley January 17, 2016 at 11:34 am - Reply

      Altadenahiker, I absolutely agree. Yes, there are many important considerations and questions that need to be asked to get an understanding of where someone is with their dog raising and responsibility. This is just a starting point.

  8. Elizabeth January 16, 2016 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Counting the dogs I grew up with, or belonged to grandparents and thus I spent time with them as well, there were 13. Most were mutts. Other breeds: Dachshund, rat terrier, corgi, beagle, Chihuahua, Blue Heeler (often called Australian Cattle Dog). Our current dog, now 15 1/2 yrs old is 1/8th Border Collie and 7/8ths Blue Heeler. She is far and above the best pet we have ever had. She came to us at 5 1/2 weeks old so to her we are her family and I am not sure she even knows she is a dog. She has always loved us without reservation, been VERY obedient and trys so hard to please. She needed lots of attention as a pup and young dog, but we had children at home who gave her plenty. She loved to do tricks and could jump VERY high and catch things like frisbees, etc. She could run like the wind. She would ALWAYS come when called…and NEVER would leave the yard, even if someone left the gate to the back yard open for days!! I have seen another dog coming to begin a fight with her and my husband command her to “go into the house” and she would obey…instantly!! We did very little to train her. We had other dogs when we got her and they taught her to use the pet door to the backyard, so she only had maybe 5 accidents in the house from the day we got her, until just this last year or so. (She is almost blind and deaf…so gets confused some). She has entertained us and made us laugh like crazy…during some very dark days, I do not know what we would have done without her!!

    We had a dachshund that must have been retarded…and we gave him away, happily, after a year. Untrainable. Was good to the kids, but forget house training. The Chihuahua was ours after my mil died. I would not have chosen her. Never was fully housetrained…we just kept her in a little kennel at night and left a pet door open all day…which she used about 75% of the time. She lived to 14…we had her for half those years. Anything we have had with terrier in it was stubborn and not very easy to train either.

    The only drawback to a Blue Heeler is they are high energy and if you do not have children for them to play with, they do best in the country with a job to do. I have never seen any other breed that wants to please like they do however. My dad has had many and bred many down through the years. He had many people tell him that it was the smartest and best dog they ever had and worth every single cent. We have always “free fed” her and she does not overeat. With each Blue Heeler we had there was one incident when they had to learn who was the boss…and never another problem. They seem to understand the order of things, even within the family. If they know what you want them to do; they will do it, even if you are not around. The one we have currently…you can leave a whole plate of your food on the seat of a chair, even go into another room…she will not touch it. She asks…and waits for you to give her what you want her to have. Talking to her is all that was necessary to teach her this. (How many dogs do this??) I could write a book about her and this breed!!

    Elizabeth

    • Karen Shanley January 17, 2016 at 11:33 am - Reply

      My brother has a Blue Heeler (they’re more frequently called Australian Cattle Dogs in the north.) She’s a great dog. Yes, definitely high energy — so needs either kids, a job, or other dogs to keep her in good spirits. They are frightfully smart — but I’ve never met a herding dog who wasn’t. That’s why I love the herding breeds so much. You can just talk to them and they get it. I have whole conversations with Kiera.

      I also agree on the small dogs and terriers — harder to house train, and terriers definitely need consistency and persistence in training to get it.

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