Affectionate Puppies and the Not So Affectionate

Some dogs, like people, are more affectionate than others and some breeds are notorious for expressing their affection more openly than others.  Most people, especially those who have grown up with dogs, consider this one of the primary reasons for having a dog.  They feel free expressing this love as well as being the object of it. Unconditional love and loyalty are also frequently cited as reasons for having a dog.

Notoriously Affectionate Breeds

What breeds are considered the most affectionate? The top 5 are generally considered to be the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Bichon Frise,  the Doberman and the Brittany Spaniel. But keep in mind that every dog is different.  Although I have never known a Golden Retriever that wasn’t affectionate, I am sure there are some out there! The same goes for Labs. But generally speaking I would say that if you are looking to be adored, these breeds and mixes of these breeds are pretty good bets.

Notoriously Aloof Breeds

On the other hand, there are some breeds that may be more  likely to disappoint if you are looking for adulation. Breeds that are known for their independence are often seen as being somewhat aloof and reserved. The Saluki, Finnish Spitz and Chow for instance are often considered reserved.  Do your breed homework and know the euphemisms. “Standoff-ish”, “observant with strangers”, “vigilant of strangers”, may all be ways of saying that this breed is aloof. In some circumstances this is fine and even desirable. If you are looking for a family dog, though, it may not be a good fit.

But rather than talk about breeds that are or aren’t affectionate, let’s talk about selecting a puppy from a litter that will likely be affectionate.

Socialize, Socialize, Socialize

I can’t say it enough. Early socialization and an enriched environment are key to well adjusted, happy puppies. And well adjusted, happy puppies are often affectionate and a pleasure to be around. There are critical stages in a puppy’s development during which he needs to be  socialized. If those opportunities are missed it may become very difficult for a puppy to mature into an emotionally healthy dog. It is not impossible, but it is less likely. There are dogs that have suffered terrible neglect and even mistreatment and have gone on to be happy healthy guys. No one really knows why some dogs are profoundly affected by these conditions and others not. I am not suggesting that you not consider a puppy that has had a bad start, just that you be aware.

Look at the Litter

If you have the opportunity to see a litter when they are seven or eight weeks old, you will see distinct personalities.  Puppies that have been raised indoors with plenty of human interaction will be well socialized. Puppies that are raised in homes, as opposed to kennels, tend to be handled and cuddled more often and are naturally exposed to a wide variety of noises. If a puppy of seven or eight weeks of age is showing signs of fearfulness or shyness, the chances are this is a personality trait that is likely to persist. In fact, fearfulness is one of the most highly inherited personality traits. Instead, look for that puppy who carries his head high and his tail wagging. Watch how he interacts with his littermates. Look for the one who is playful and stay away from the one who is always overbearing towards his siblings or skulks away from you. After you have observed him with his littermates hug him and cradle him in your lap and see if he calms down.  If he is totally resistant to the idea of being held, this may indicate a problem in the future.  Most puppies will settle down for a short time in your lap and hopefully relax and enjoy the cuddling. This is a good sign.

And Have Fun

No matter at what age you get your dog, or of what heritage, your dog is very likely to have a strong bond with you and your family. In fact, of the many dogs I have had in my life, the most bonded ones have been the dogs that came into my life when they were more mature, some well into middle age. To promote healthy bonding, do fun things with your dog. Go on one-dog outings, play ball, go to a dog park and train. Positive training especially leads to healthy bonding. The better mannered your dog is, the more you and your freinds and family will enjoy being around him. The more you enjoy being around him the more he will come to be a valued member of the family.

If you have a velcro dog that stays with you wherever you go, do you see this as a problem? Would you change it somehow if you could? And if you have a very aloof and independent dog, do you see that as a problem?

Image Credit: Noël Zia Lee on flickr

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2 Responses to “Affectionate Puppies and the Not So Affectionate”

  1. Tina Harper 23. May, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Excellent blog Elizabeth! All too often I have dogs in class that people get as puppies, and picked the “shy one” because it tugged at their heart strings. Only they find a few weeks after taking the puppy home that the younger members of the family are disappointed with the new puppy because it doesn’t want to be played with, loved on and is even possibly scared of the kids. Unfortunately I have to sometimes break the news to the family that this is sometimes part of the dog’s personality that, with training and work, can get better but will never go away.

    I have also had the opposite in classes as well – the family picks the most aggressive, playful puppy from the litter. Choosing the right personality (which is another blog entry you touch on) is critical to your success with your dog – having the right fit makes training easier and overall interaction with your new family member more enjoyable!

  2. Elizabeth Deitz 24. May, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Thanks Tina! You’ve touched on two hot topics – temperament and training. There are just some traits that are difficult if not impossible to change, fearfulness being one of them. There are others as well. Sensitivity to sound is another that springs to mind. Although one can try to desensitize a dog who is sound sensitive, it is probably impossible to eliminate a strong response to sound if a dog is innately highly reactive. Training can certainly help one manage these sorts of pups but the fact is, dogs with these traits were often just born that way. Patricia McConnell does a great job discussing this issue.

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