Are you similar to your breed’s fans?

I am perpetually interested in how certain personality types gravitate toward certain breeds or breed types.

For instance, I have always loved dogs in the herding group most. I love their look, their intensity, their intelligence and drive to work with people. I grew up with a beautiful Australian shepherd, and I dream sometimes about getting an English shepherd. But I also have a soft spot for sighthounds and spaniels.

Through no clear intention of my own, I have become a “German shepherd person,” now raising two shepherds and having fostered six. (*German shepherds are technically in the herding group, according to the AKC, but many shepherds these days have lost that herding instinct. But there is a growing trend of getting working-line shepherds back into livestock herding, which I find very interesting.)

© Mike Hale (Flickr). Creative Commons license.
© Mike Hale (Flickr). Creative Commons license.

And yet I feel very different from the typical German shepherd person. Allow me to stereotype, will you?

The typical German shepherd person

  • ascribes to traditional, dominance-based training
  • often has a military or law enforcement background
  • is concerned with being “the alpha” or the “pack leader”
  • has no problem with shock collars, prong collars, and choke chains
  • finds schutzhund very appealing
  • is likely a gun owner
  • finds “toughness” and even mild aggression to be a virtue

Clearly, not everyone who has a shepherd fits most or even one of these stereotypes, but I find these traits to be more true of shepherd people than of other groups aligned with other breeds.

This person loves his or her shepherd as much as I love mine, and the generalizations are not meant to discount that but rather to say I often feel very, very temperamentally different from the typical German shepherd owner.

I am not tough, and I am not impressed by machismo. I do not and never will own a gun. I follow the science-based philosophies of positive reinforcement training and would never use a shock collar on my dog or on any dog. I do not think my dogs are trying to “dominate” me, a concept I find simultaneously laughable and dangerous.

For these reasons, I stay off the German shepherd message boards and have honestly distanced myself from a lot of our dogs’ rescue representatives, most of whom have bought into a shock-collar “training” franchise and encourage adopters to put their shepherds through their expensive programs, which promise fast results for “problem” dogs by the widespread use of e-collars. I’m OK with being an outsider.

My idea of a good night: wine, "Breaking Bad," and a shepherd sleeping in my lap. #draco #gsd
Draco, one of our fosters, and me.

It makes me curious, though, about other breeds, so I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the stereotypes of people with your dog’s breed? Do you fit those generalizations? 


5 thoughts on “Are you similar to your breed’s fans?

  1. I never really thought about this concept in this sort of way. I’ve thought about how funny it is that owners often are similar to their dog’s personality, even if they adopt the dog late in the dog’s life (thus they didn’t get to “mold” that dog’s personality to be similar to their own). But I never considered how personality stereotypes people conform to might somehow relate to the dog breeds they prefer. I’ve never really had a specific breed of dog that I absolutely adore above all others, but I remember thinking Doberman were very cool dogs when I was younger. Rotties are another breed I have always enjoyed, along with Boxers. My family mostly adopted “mutts” over the years and as an adult, true to form, I took in a Husky-Pitbull (Pitsky?) puppy that an acquaintance bought before he really was responsible enough or even in a situation that allowed him to own a pet.

    Thinking about all these breed types I have to say I am a lot like you. I don’t match the typical “tough breed” dog owner stereotype. I fall pretty far left on most spectrums (I used to get called a hippy quite often), pretty well read my way through childhood and the teenage years. I listen to a wide variety of musical genres, don’t drink or go to parties and never really did. I definitely have never sold drugs or guns. Joining the army or a sports team was never even a consideration for me.

    However, I have always found myself living a life very different to what people expect to hear about. Most people who end up being significant in my life have eventually confessed that they totally misjudged my personality at first and realize now how wrong they were. This is something I think if true of the “tough breed” dogs. None of those breeds fit their stereotype unless they have been forced into that mold by a very persistent owner. So maybe that is where the attraction lies: we are both seen as one thing by the world, but our loved ones know differently.

    Sorry for the wall of a comment. Apparently, your post really got me thinking.

  2. Loved this post, Abby, and I’m so glad you’re back to blogging here. I have a Weimaraner and I don’t know if I fit the typical stereotype. I’m a runner and enjoy hiking and camping and being outdoors so in that sense, I might fit a stereotype. I also feel like a lot of Weim owners tend to use prong/choke collars and e-collars (for hunting/fieldwork), which I am comfortable doing in addition to more “positive” options. I’m not a hunter or a gun owner but my dog’s name is Remington and he may turn me a hunter, we’ll see! 🙂

  3. My new dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer mix, Roscoe, is different from other dogs I’ve had. His bark (and bay), is very loud, but he’s discriminating as to when he barks. He’s thin, so people say we both need to gain weight. His breed mix is clearly one with a thin torso. I’m starting to think we are a lot alike!

  4. Interesting post. I don’t fit the stereotype said generalizations either. I’ve had two German shepherds and I prefer intelligent, large, loving and protective dogs. I grew up in a house that breed Rottweilers and worked in an animal hospital for several years, so I love all breeds, yet large is best suited for me. No guns or shock collars necessary.

  5. Maybe it’s because pit bulls aren’t a ‘breed,’ but I don’t personally feel like there is a particular ‘type’ of owner for these dogs. Certainly, there are stereotypes, but I don’t see much of that in reality. There are pitties who have problems & are anxious and there are others who are social butterflies & model citizens. Some love other dogs, some hate other dogs, some just prefer their space… some just need the opportunity to learn how to like other dogs! I like this question and the conversation it encourages. Maybe I’m wrong, but I guess I fit into the pit bull type group because it is so versatile… it takes all types!

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