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Old 01-27-2010, 04:40 AM
Arrowette Arrowette is offline
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Default Nature vs. nurture - or, how do I find another dog like my shelter dog?

I have had many dogs over my lifetime - almost a dozen, depending on how you count. My family rarely had fewer than 3 dogs. And I've fostered dogs and met many dogs through rescue. I have had a few Labrador Retrievers, an English Pointer, an AED, a Dachshund, a Lhasa Apso, a Border Collie Mix, a GSD, an English Mastiff, and a Golden Retriever. Some were from good breeders, some were from bad breeders, some were from shelters, some were from the side of the road. I have loved them all. But I have never had or met or seen a dog as great as the mixed or badly bred Labrador Retriever puppy I adopted from the humane society five years ago. Her litter was found in a dumpster in the Mississippi delta.

She has the perfect set of traits for me. I don't know where they come from. In many ways she is a typical Labrador Retriever - loves the woods, loves water, loves chewing things up. But in many ways she's not - she's extremely emotionally sensitive (I mean, to the nth degree; I've never seen a dog so emotionally sensitive. She tries to break up fights between other dogs. She gets upset and hides when a discussion with my husband over whether to keep the tomatoes in the fridge or on the counter gets a little heated, or when I stomp around because I can't find my keys. When another dog acts aggressively towards her, she frantically licks its face. She HATES conflict and is incredibly sensitive towards it). When not in the woods or by a lake, she is very calm; I can take her to any social situation without worrying that she'll annoy people. She is affectionate and friendly while also being socially reserved, if that makes sense. She's intelligent and has a LONG memory. She is very quick to absorb training or behaviors from people OR dogs, whether good or bad.

She's extremely loyal; she won't even get out of bed in the morning - or afternoon - until both of us have gotten out of bed. She won't stray from us any farther than she can see us off-leash; in fact, when we walk off-leash in the woods she'll whip around every 20 feet or so to make sure we're still visible. We never trained her to do that.

Physically, she looks like a Labrador Retriever but with a narrow face and very skinny legs. Her fur is a bit too long for an LR and it's a little wavy, and it holds water like nobody's business - takes HOURS to dry. She also "smiles" - crinkles her nose and bares her teeth like she's snarling when she's feeling happy or excited. Weighs 60 pounds.

So I am trying to figure out if it's her breed combination that made her this way or if it's a nurture thing. If it's a breed thing, I've researched pretty much every breed for the last year and I think I've figured out a couple of mix possibilities, but I'd like to hear other opinions. If it's a nurture thing, well, we totally spoiled that dog and took her with us EVERYWHERE for her first two years - I mean, we wouldn't eat at a restaurant that didn't include an outdoor patio and we took her to the office with us, we took her to all of our friends' parties and we only went to dog-friendly bars. And she was also a pitifully undersized runt of the litter, maybe half the size of her siblings? So I figure that may have something to do with it, since she's so emotionally dependent and biddable.

Anyway, I am thinking of the future and I can't imagine not having a dog like her in my life, and I'd be willing to consider both shelters/rescue and reputable breeders if I could only figure out how to find another dog like her. So if any of you guys have any ideas or Labrador Retriever experience and can add some insight, I'd dearly appreciate it.

A few pics:

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Old 01-27-2010, 06:12 AM
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Romy Romy is offline
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Location: Olympia, WA
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She is a total cutie! A lot of what you're describing sounds like her unique temperament. It may or may not be part of her breed heritage. When dogs are bred out of standard physically, their temperaments are often out of standard too.

If you want to find another dog with a similar temperament, you might try looking into adult rescues. With a puppy, their personality is going to be changing and settling into their adult temperament for the first two years of their life. It's much easier to see with an adult what you are working with.

A lot of the traits you're describing are pretty normal in sight hounds. Quiet, very sensitive, biddable, take anywhere kind of dogs. I don't know if your dog has any in her, or if their other traits would be a good fit for you, but that's the first thing that came to mind (it probably doesn't help that I live with two borzois, )
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Old 01-27-2010, 09:37 PM
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lizzybeth727 lizzybeth727 is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Central Texas
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So I am trying to figure out if it's her breed combination that made her this way or if it's a nurture thing.
I think it's more of a combination between "nurture" - how she was socialized so well as a puppy and the way you raised her - and her unique temperment. What you're describing does sound like some labs I know, but it also sounds like a lot of other dogs of other breeds that I've met as well.

If you're looking for another dog like her, your best bet would probably be to get an adult dog - as, like Romy said, their temperments are pretty much set - versus a puppy - whose temperment will probably go through changes throughout adolescence. Another option would be to find a reputable breeder.... If you like the personality of the parents, you will have more of a likelihood of getting a puppy that you like as well, especially if you make it clear to the breeder exactly what you're looking for.
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