Choices! Help me make one.

OK, so I really don’t need to make a choice right now. Because I still have 10 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days until I can get a dog. But who’s counting?!

But today I’m caught in a tri-lemma between three beautiful breeds: the Australian shepherd, the German shepherd, and the rough collie. I want all of these dogs, of course, but I can’t determine which one is best for our lifestyle and our household. Should we try to get a purebred puppy? Should we go through a breed rescue agency? Should we just get a mutt and be done with it? I’m trying to keep feelings out of this, but that’s a silly thing to try to do when faced with puppies.

These are the unproductive thoughts that are running through my head:

A handsome Aussie in black and white. Source: Flickr user lee

PUREBRED AUSSIE PROS:

  • Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
  • There are many reputable Aussie breeders in Virginia that I’ve already been in touch with and am still planning on visiting this summer and fall.
  • More solid health guarantees, if we go with one of these reputable breeders.
  • Even some temperament guarantees, if we can meet the parents.

PUREBRED AUSSIE CONS:

  • The world does not need more purebreds.
  • Expensive. We can afford one, but still: It’s a lot to pay for a companion/pet-quality dog.

RESCUE AUSSIE PROS:

  • You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!

RESCUE AUSSIE CONS:

  • There are rarely any purebred Aussies who need rescuing in this area. (Unless you count that handsome, small blue merle who came into CASPCA a week or so ago.)
  • You have less knowledge about the dog’s background and previous behavioral issues when adopting an adult.
  • This might be incorrect, but I feel like abandoned Aussies require a lot more rehab than other abandoned breeds. They’re usually surrendered for hyperactivity, sensitivity, or other behavioral problems, more so than other breeds (who are surrendered when owners die, move away, etc.).

General thoughts and concerns about getting an Aussie: Am I crazy to think that I could handle an Aussie? I know I grew up with one, but she didn’t have a very happy ending. My biggest fear right now is that our Aussie will be excessively barky and get us evicted from our new house. But I’ve always wanted an Aussie. This is my breed. These are my dogs. I would feel some betrayal to my life’s purpose if I didn’t get one. I know that’s totally ridiculous. Am I being too idealistic and not really thinking practically about whether I could handle this kind of dog? I need someone to tell me what to do.

A wise German shepherd. Source: Flickr, user idog~

PUREBRED GSD PROS:

  • Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
  • If you can find a reputable GSD breeder, you may be able to carefully avoid a lot of the genetic health issues that plague the breed.
  • Perhaps some additional temperament guarantees.

PUREBRED GSD CONS:

  • The world does not need more purebreds.
  • A lot of the Virginian GSD breeders strike me as kind of scary and really serious.
  • Most of the reputable Virginia GSD breeders I’ve seen are breeding dogs from European lines for schutzhund competitions.
  • For the reasons above, GSDs I’ve seen in Virginia are extremely expensive (much more than reputably-bred companion-type Aussies).

RESCUE GSD PROS:

  • You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
  • There are two active GSD rescue groups in Virginia that seem to have a steady supply of beautiful, healthy-looking dogs (and if they’re not healthy, they tell you so).

RESCUE GSD CONS:

  • You don’t know about the hidden health problems this dog may have. This is an especially big risk with a purebred GSD who came from who-knows-where.
  • Latent temperament or behavior problems are also more uncertain.
  • I’m inexperienced with this breed and I’m anxious about the task of rehabilitating an adult GSD.

General thoughts and concerns about getting a GSD: These dogs intimidate me, but I really want one. It’s probably not smart to go into a relationship with a dog when you’re predisposed to be intimidated by it. My life plan is to get a purebred Aussie puppy first, learn how to raise a dog in general, and then rescue an adult GSD. But is that a bad life plan? I don’t know. Should I just jump headfirst into it and adopt an adult GSD? I feel like a purebred GSD is out of our range right now. These dogs are the consummate canine athletes and brainiacs. They can do anything and I feel like they need to be taken very seriously to ensure a happy, well-adjusted life.

A tricolor rough collie. Source: Flickr, user helen246

PUREBRED COLLIE PROS:

  • Raising a beautiful puppy from the ground up.
  • Similar advantages of having a reputable breeder who has avoided passing on Collie Eye Anomaly and other serious genetic defects.
  • Better guarantees of a pup’s temperament if the parents are available.

PUREBRED COLLIE CONS:

  • The world does not need more purebreds.
  • There is only one collie breeder that I can find in Virginia and one in Maryland. They do not breed often and puppies are often very hard to come by.
  • Due to the increasing rarity of the breed, puppies will be quite expensive.

RESCUE COLLIE PROS:

  • You’re rescuing a dog who really needs a home!
  • I was thrilled to find a great collie rescue agency in Virginia. They have a lovely selection of young and adult dogs who need homes.
  • Less expensive and more readily available than a purebred puppy.

RESCUE COLLIE CONS:

  • Fear of hereditary disorders or serious health defects showing up later in life.
  • As with the other rescues, less certainty about the dog’s background and temperament.

General thoughts and concerns about getting a collie: Is it cruel to own a rough collie in the southeast? Will the dog die of heat stroke with all that hair? I think this is why I’d be inclined to get a female, if only for the lesser mane. (I did see a rough collie in Charlottesville once, though, and he looked happy.) I know even less about rough collies than I do about GSDs, having never interacted with one in person, but I’m taken with them in general appearance and temperament. They’re like the bubbly, more low-key herding dogs. The retrievers of the shepherds, if you will (and I will). I’m so generally naive about this breed that I’m not sure if it would be wise to have my first dog be a collie. But they sound very user-friendly and adaptable, much more than even an Aussie, perhaps.

OK! Help me make a decision. Go! I only have 10 months to make up my mind!

Breed Love: Rough collie

Rough Collie named Jack
Rough collie. Source: Flickr user LesPaulSupreme

What little girl hasn’t dreamed of having her own Lassie? OK, so I haven’t stopped dreaming. I love rough collies. I love watching them move. Whenever I see one, I can barely resist the temptation to run up and throw my arms around its neck and bury my face in its incredible mane. I restrain myself–but only with the greatest exertion of willpower.

Thanks to “Lassie,” collies experienced an enormous popularity spike in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, for almost all breeds, popularity comes at a price. For collies, it was quite a big one. Irresponsible breeders who jumped on the popularity bandwagon nearly destroyed this breed by reproducing dogs with Collie Eye Anomaly and bad hips. Today, these congenital defects still run rampant in the breed lineage. The popularity of the rough collie has diminished steadily since its heyday in the 50s and 60s and today, these big, beautiful dogs are somewhat uncommon–even though anyone could identify one on the street and call it “Lassie.”

My mom’s family was one of the many American families who jumped on the collie bandwagon. When she was young, her parents brought home a rough collie puppy they named Missy. Mom spoke fondly of Missy, but her stories indicate that Missy was somewhat neglected and developed a worrisome stereotypy in the back yard. As soon as Missy went outside, she would run for hours along the fence in the exact same loop. Mercifully, my grandparents realized Missy was going insane and they gave her to nearby farmers, where she lived a hopefully happy and long life.

Our Rough Collie, Sadie
A rough collie puppy. Source: Flickr user Gary_Troughton

That sad story aside, I’d definitely consider a rough collie if the opportunity presented itself. I am very wary about the breed’s remaining health challenges, but I would pursue a collie rescue or puppy if that is what we decide is best for us. There are many appealing traits of the rough collie. Unlike most reserved herding breeds, collies are very friendly and outgoing. They’re intelligent and loyal. And almost always totally gorgeous. I should stop thinking about this right now. I’m really tempted to keep looking at these collie rescue groups (linked below) and all of the beautiful dogs who need homes…

Rough collie links: