What Does Your Dog Tell People About You?

Golden Retriever Puppy with Nylabone at work

I'm supposed to tell people something about who you are? That's a lot to expect from a puppy, isn't it?

Dogs are like bumper stickers. They reveal to other people something we want them to know about us.

We’re all familiar with the dark side of people using dogs to say something about themselves: spoiled, rich girls who carry status dogs in beaded bags or urban toughs with a well-muscled dog on the end of a chain.

But even those of us who truly love and try to understand dogs have an agenda. I discovered this about myself when I adopted* Honey. [*Even my word choice reveals something about me. I can’t bring myself to say I “bought” a dog.]

Every time I talk to someone about Honey, I explain that she’s my very first pure bred dog. After all, I’m not the kind of person who pays a breeder for a dog bred to some arbitrary and highfalutin appearance standard.

I’m the kinda gal who brings home the beautiful dog with “potential” from the shelter.

I’m the person who retrains poorly socialized dogs and manages leash reactivity.

I’m certainly not the kind of person who brings home an easy and adorable puppy anyone would be glad to have and do my best not to ruin her.

Honey’s presence in my home makes me question my very nature. I have to ask myself, what kind of person am I if I have a nearly-perfect dog from a hobby breeder?

What kind of person are you if you have a dainty dog and a muscular, athletic dog? Do you like surprising people? Or are you just open to loving lots of different dogs?

Does having a young, fit dog looking for lots of exercise and mental stimulation mean that you are also young and fit? Or that you’d like to be?

And people who pour their hearts out to bully dogs–how much do they just love goofy, cuddle pups and how much do they love defying expectations of the people around them who think certain dogs are only fighters and never lovers?

Black, mixed breed shelter dog

Now that's the kind of dog Pam brings home. Beautiful? Check. Leash puller? Check. Barks & lunges at other dogs? Check. Nine years older than every other dog at the shelter? Check.

What about you? Does your dog say something about you to other people–either intentionally or by accident?

Or does your dog defy what you thought you knew about yourself like Honey does for me?

And what do you think other people assume about you when they see you with your dog?

This is a blog hop. Hop on.


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  1. Holy cow. Those are some seriously loaded questions. I’m not sure I even know what my dogs say about me. I do know that I have always been attracted to the ones that seem to be the lost one, the least likely to be rehabilitated. I’m not sure if that means I have a hero complex or just a sympathetic heart. For me, it’s about giving a chance to the dogs people think are unsalvageable and giving them a life full of love and fun and learning. That satisfies me. To see them happy.

    In all honesty, I think “adopting” honey says a lot about you. You are inquisitive, always questioning and seeking new info. You love to learn, but also have such a learned mind that you can provide insight and advice to people that they might not otherwise see or know (I’m saying you are wise.). It also says you are an observer and interested in seeing what happens when a puppy is given a safe and happy home.

    Well, at least these are all the qualities I so much enjoy in you! :)

    • Aw, thanks Mel.

      I think my post and your post today complement each other. [And if you haven’t visited Mel over at No Dog About It, click on her name to go directly to her blog. She wrote a great post about who is the right person to adopt a puppy mill dog.]

      The desire to see a dog come out of her shell and learn how to use more of her potential says a lot about you. It sounds like Daisy shows the world that you’re someone who likes to help a dog “blossom.”

      • Thanks for the shout out and kind words Pamela. I kind of have a soft spot for the damaged ones. Even at the shelter I was always attracted to the lost causes. I think it’s called “see their potential”. :)

  2. I agree with Mel, this is tough. I don’t think anyone could know you and also judge you for choosing to bring a well-bred puppy into your home. You are the kind of person that should be raising a puppy. Someone with experience and knowledge who has so much to give. Most puppies aren’t so lucky.

    Before Shiva I was attracted to the Honey-type dogs. Labs, retrievers, dogs that were energetic but also easy going. Dogs that were fun but laidback. And then we brought insanity into our house and it appears there is no going back. When I visit the local shelter, it’s the wacky dogs that appeal to me the most. The Staff mixes with the crazed look in their eyes. The dogs that I know could be so awesome if only given the chance to learn. The dogs that take work. Perhaps because I know how rewarding they can be now. What this says about me I don’t know. I’d still like to give a lazy dog a try one of these days.

    • I think everyone deserves to have an “easy” dog at least once in their lives. Honey is my easy dog.

      I bet Shiva has taught you a lot about yourself. And it sounds like working with her has shown you just many amazing skills you’ve developed over the past couple years with her. I hear a little pride coming through your words when you write about wacky dogs that “could be so awesome if only given the chance to learn.” And I mean that in a very good way.

      Shiva has probably tested you and you’ve come out stronger and smarter. And you should be very proud of that. I think Shiva is an awesome dog. And you are an amazing trainer.

  3. I had always thought that when I got my first dog, it would be a middle aged male directly from a shelter. A big scent hound of some kind. Instead, I “failed fostering” and kept a little 7 month old mixed breed female (who first came to live with
    me at 10 weeks old) who looks like a minature golden retriever. I love her to death – but I don’t think she’s my heart dog (is that awful of me to say?!). She’s totally easy and always has been.

    People assume that she’s purebred and that I bought her, and I have to stop myself from correcting them – because they honestly don’t care! It’s my “issue”.

    Your example of the bully breeds hit home. I live them, my family and friends do not. If they were legal in my province, I will admit I have dreamed about adopting one and proving them all wrong!

    I really enjoyed this post… Are you on Twitter? Would love to share it there.

    • Your story makes me wonder if you picked the dog or the dog picked you?

      And I wouldn’t feel about about not considering your current dog your “heart dog.” You have enough love in your heart, I’m sure, for many different dogs and many different relationships.

      Just followed you on Twitter and reposted your excellent post on the danger of hot cars to dogs. You can find me at S_Wagging.

  4. With four dogs, I am sure people think I am simply insane.

  5. Since Darby doesn’t look like any other known breed on the planet (even the vet has asked us what he is), it’s pretty obvious he didn’t come from a breeder. I think when people see him they would probably think the following about us: That we adopted or found our pup somewhere; that we’re not terribly committed to obedience class; and that we don’t have nearly enough grooming tools :)

  6. You know, i’m not exactly sure what my girls say about me. Coonhounds aren’t really popular here. At least not their breeds. Those who do have them are typically hunters who keep their dogs in outdoor kennels. And 90% of the people who come up to talk to me about my dogs are men in their 60’s and older who want to talk about the coonhounds they grew up with. Seriously, if I were looking for an older man, my dogs are the perfect ones to set me up!

    Now, I have a coonhound bumper sticker and coonhound specialty license plate. Which tells people I have two very spoiled dogs whose owner is a bit obsessed about coonhounds. Which is perfectly fine by me!

  7. What great questions! I guess I’d have to think about what our dogs said about us before and after we’d become familiar with the breed.

    I thought what they’d say about us was that we were kind, compassionate people who were willing to take a dog who’d had a different start in life and had a laid back attitude towards life!

    What I know about it now is that it says that we are gluttons for punishment who will wait on our dogs hand and foot, give up seeing the doctor so our dogs can see the vet, and are willing to spoil our high-maintenance dogs! lol Honestly, I worry less about what people think of us because of our dogs than a lot of other things. I hope that they like our dogs, but if they don’t, we probably weren’t going to be great friends anyway!

  8. Well, I know what a lot of people still seem to think about the Doberman, so a lot of people, when they see me walking Elka, anticipate me having a dog who will suddenly become out of control and overprotective and eat their children.

    What I WANT my dog to say about me: The Doberman is a very smart breed that hates to be bored; I’ve tested smartly, and hate to be bored, and am a collector of esoteric facts and varying interests. The Doberman is confident and inquisitive and fit (we all have fitness dreams, n’est-ce pas?), and funny, with a definite sense of humor. The Doberman wants to keep close to to people she loves.

    Really, of the pair of us, my dog isn’t mean. I am.

    • Funny Jen. I would think exactly the opposite of most people. I love Dobermans. My cousins had them while I was growing up and found them to be not only smart, but very sweet dogs. I’m usually the one going towards one, now away from one. :)

  9. I had to think on this question overnight and still haven’t got an answer. But you have got some great comments already:)

    Perhaps the fact that I’ve got a mutt who was rescued and a re-homed Greyhound shows I don’t really care what people think? Although having a Greyhound is becoming a bit of a status symbol in some parts of the country now! Not where I live though:) Hopefully it shows that I like to help where and how I can. If I could have more Greyhounds without compromising the life we 3 have together then I would. I’d love to rescue more dogs too but don’t for the same reason. The best that I can do is try and let as many people as possible know what adaptable, versatile, easy, wonderful pets Greyhounds make:)

    People who see Frankie at his worst probably think I’m a glutton for punishment and enjoy a challenge! People who see him at his best probably think I’m a wonderful trainer, lol.

    Another great question, Pamela:) I just read your post about why you decided to get a pure bred dog this time and I think your reasons were totally justified and you’re obviously happy with your choice! I do sometimes dream of getting a puppy and starting from scratch but think I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for that to happen after Frankie and Beryl go!

  10. Great question Pamela. Other than the fact we have 6 dogs and most think we are crazy, I am a very shy, nervous introvert and my dogs are the exact opposite. I think they show a ruthless lack of fear I would like to have and they are all a bunch of proud bad asses. :) If people saw me with my dogs they would probably think that I am outrageously confident and secure in myself and would be surprised to know different. But since I avoid people at most cost, nobody really sees me with my dogs and I just try to connect with that inner strength they have that helps me feel secure with myself.

    So does that mean I have an inner bad ass inside of me trying to come out?? BOL!!

  11. Well, if Toby is like my bumper sticker, people would think I’m super friendly and affectionate, but freak out in large crowds, unless I’m getting all the attention. Not totally accurate.

  12. Oh, I shudder to think what my dogs would say about me! I thought human:dog relationships were akin to a relationship with a psychiatrist?! No telling on mommy, kids… :)

  13. Um, well…let’s see… Hmm… (That’s a lot of deep thought in that post.)

    So my first dog was a shy young adult Basset/lab X rescue. I immediately wanted her because she was “hiding” in the back of her kennel and everyone else was ignoring her. I totally went to bat for the “shy” girl. Didn’t really care what anyone thought of me; I just had to save that dog. The fact that she was such an “odd” looking dog (black lab with basset legs) was a bonus.
    Okay, so after 15 years with dear Molly, we were ready to get a dog who was going to be more predictable in temperament and who would thrive in our home. It’s a looong story, but I’m certain I was meant to have a Cardigan Corgi (quirky shepherd/dachsund X-looking dog with LARGE personality). Oh, and they attract lots of attention wherever we go… and I could talk about them all day to a stranger (I am obviously an introverted ham, aka: odd). Oh, and I chose the puppy with the “very serious” (according to AKC) cosmetic fault (Jon Farleigh – long hair) because he was wonderful (but also deep down, I wanted to rub him in the faces of those who believe fluffs are defective).

    I guess all of this might say a thing or two about me. :) Some psychology student should do a thesis on this subject; maybe there’s some underlying therapeutic benefit. :)

  14. I felt a little shiver when I read this, as though you were writing about me. We are the bully-breed types. We love them above all others and almost have a hard time understanding why anybody would want a different dog. Not really, but very nearly almost. For me, you hit the nail on the head — I like challenging assumptions and proving that things area not always as they seem. I also love the underdog — whether that dog happens to be a dog, a person, or something else entirely. Show me the most misunderstood, the most forsaken, the most discarded, and I will show you my unending love.

  15. I think adopting a dog and getting a dog from a responsible breeder are both good choices. My dog is extremely shy, and I wish I could’ve had her early puppyhood to socialize her and get her comfortable with new things and new situations (we got her at four months old). I don’t think her previous owners were neglectful or abusive, but they did have six kids, and they surrendered her because they didn’t have time for a puppy, so I’m sure she wasn’t socialized all that well. I wouldn’t trade her for the world, but I totally understand the desire to stack the deck, and it’s not wrong. People who breed dogs responsibly are trying to maintain and improve the breed, and generally not turning a profit. (I have a blog crush on Joanna at Ruffly Speaking, who breeds cardigans and fosters rescue dogs.)

    What does my dog say about me? That’s a good question. She’s a sweet, goofy, very cuddly and affectionate shar-pei mix (my guess is shar-pei/pit, but who knows).

    I hope what she says about me is that I’m nurturing and caring…someone who wants a snuggly love dog and who is willing to put in the time and effort to help a shy, nervous dog get more comfortable with her world. Another thing I hope she says about me is that I don’t judge a book by its cover and when I’m confronted with issues, I do my homework. The first time someone guessed “pit bull” as part of Diamond’s mix, my instant thought was, no she’s not. No way, can’t be. And then I realized that I knew very little about pit bulls beyond media hype, and educated myself.

  16. We always joke that our dog is just like us. She will run up to say hello to someone but then step sideways when they try to pet her and she doesn’t like big crowds. She’s friendly and outgoing, but likes her space šŸ˜‰ She is relaxed and easy going around the house, but always ready for fun!

    I don’t remember thinking much about the breed when we got Cali, but I have thought about it LOTS since. We have fostered and love Goldens, and I have always wanted a Bernese Mtn. Dog. I guess I love big goofy loveable dogs – not sure what that says about me!!

  17. While sitting at the vet one day, waiting our turn, I saw a dude at the counter waiting for his dog. He was tall and dressed in gangsta rap clothing– really looked like someone who you’d cross the street to avoid. I was sure some menacing bully breed would come out that door. Instead, the groomer came out and handed him– a fluffy little bichon. I almost died. Talk about a mismatch!

    My own dog was an accident. He was on Petfinder for six months before we gave up and kept him. He’s still anxious, too big, and sheds too much. And I wouldn’t trade him now, two years later, for anything. But my next dog will be small, female, and non-shedding.