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Dog's Personality - Not What You Expected?

by Bailey Coldwell


When we pick out a new dog, we have certain expectations of who that dog will become. Sometimes our dogs end up having different personalities than what we had hoped for. We wanted a cuddly dog and we got an independent dog. We wanted a dog that is confident and we got a reactive dog. We wanted a dog that would produce exceptional puppies and we got a dog that has attributes that shouldn’t be passed along. We wanted a dog who would climb mountains with us and we got a dog that would rather snooze on the couch. It is okay and normal to feel a bit disappointed by this, but we can still find ways to adjust our mindset and accept our dog for who they are.  



I have a six year old labrador, Caliope, since she was 8 weeks old. I had spent months researching the best breeders for what I had in mind. I ended up traveling 13 hours, one way, to the breeder I had spent weeks chatting to. I wanted Caliope to grow up and be a therapy dog or a breeder dog for a service dog organization. Her genetics are steller. Her health is top notch. As a dog trainer, I practiced many hours of proper socialization with her. I did everything I could to teach her to want interactions with everyone and be able to love every new environment.


Fast forward to my adult dog, does she love getting pets?

Sometimes. 


Does she love being inside new places? 

Sometimes.


Does she love engaging with people . . . on her terms? 

Absolutely! 


Does she love sniffing, running, hiking, and playing outside?

Absolutely! 


As she got older, she learned to tolerate many people and many environments. She is not terrified of indoor public spaces and she has never bitten anymore. But she also is not thriving and ecstatic to be in certain situations. 


Could I have forced her to become a therapy dog, following my original goal? 

Probably. 


Would she have been as happy as she is now? 

Absolutely not. 


As I am writing this, my mini poodle is doing everything he can to snuggle on my lap, even though he is almost falling off the couch. Caliope is on the couch as well, but about as far away from me as she can be. She never likes to fall asleep on my bed with me, but will always be snuggled on my bed with me in the morning when I wake up. She likes her space, but loves attention on her terms. In public buildings, she is happy to pick out a new favorite chew. But she doesn’t always want to get physical attention from strangers, so I don’t make her. She is happiest when she gets to be my adventure buddy, zooming through the woods and splashing through mud. 


Sometimes we have goals for our dogs that simply don’t end up being aligned with who the dog is. We forget that they aren’t robots. I like to try to have flexible goals. When I used to train service dogs, I would tell people “we are hoping he becomes a service dog” instead of “he is going to be a service dog”. Sometimes, the job does not work out for the dog. Sometimes it is due to health issues, being reactive, or the dog simply doesn’t enjoy the work they are assigned to. Sometimes the dog is just still a puppy and needs more time to mature (remember, dogs are considered ‘puppies’ until two years of age and it can take rescue dogs months to adjust to their new homes). 


Maybe you are getting a new puppy with the expectation of them to be just like your childhood dog. Sure, you might be able to find some similar attributes. Go into it without trying to create a clone of your previous dog. 


We, of course, still want to positively train them and get them socialized properly. We want to have dreams and goals for them. We just also want to be accepting of who they become and find ways to connect with them anyway. We might have to be creative to find activities that they love doing and put an emphasis on that. Determine what the natural instincts of your puppy are and use those as a starting point. 


Do you have a dog belonging to a sporting group? Find retrieval games that your dog and you can enjoy together. 


Do you have a dog belonging to a herding group? Find an appropriate object they can push around and do so with them. 


You also want to consider the energy level of the dog. If you are an outdoorsy household and have more time to spend with your dog, consider a higher energy dog. If you want a calm lap dog for your grandmother, you should get a dog that has a lower energy level and, likely, an adult dog (even lower maintenance adult dogs, can still be high energy puppies).


We can do our best to determine the personality of the dog by looking at genetics and breed. But also think of it this way: 


Do siblings always have the same personalities? 


Do best friends always have the same personalities? 


Do partners always have the same personalities? 


The likely answer to these questions is no. They might be similar in ways, but they also have a world of differences. We can still find meaningful ways to connect with one another. 


You aren’t crazy for feeling disappointed. Don’t beat yourself up for your choice in your dog and your past experiences with your dog. You can always look back and think about all of the things you could have done differently. Instead, try to focus on the dog they have become. Find ways to bond and interact, despite it being different than your original intentions. 








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One of the most helpful posts I have read. Thank you.

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Great story, thank you for talking about this .. I have a 2 1/2 year old sheepadoodle and I always had the thoughts of taking him everywhere with me , patio dinners, families houses, the lake ,, but come to find out he likes places that are calm and somewhat quieter . He’s not much for crowds or crowded places and when at other peoples homes doesn’t seem to ever really get comfortable or relax he’s very anxious he is also afraid of some random loud noises so on that note things didn’t go as I had envisioned and I trained 24/7 and I’m still training .

This is just who is is ,, but he is a sweet loving…

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Hello. Max, our first dog, is 10 months old. He is a sweet, lovable, energetic Cavapoo. But he is an aggressive chewer! We have tried the dog deterrent sprays, saying off, and putting him in the cage (when we can catch him..ha ha).Our furniture and carpet has holes everywhere! I've spent lots of money on chew toys. He has chewed through the nyla bones! My husband and I work p/t so we are often around.


What are we doing wrong? Or, what should we do to correct his behavior?


Thank you for any suggestions.

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Did you have a chance to observe Caliope much before you took her home? Was there any hint of her personality early or was it something she grew into over time?

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mvbossart
mvbossart
Apr 02

I love this and it is timely! I am training my dog to have service dog behavior! Which works most of the time but she also loves to play outside or hang out in the backyard chewing a stick! She just turned a year in March- so still a puppy for sure!

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