Two Questions About Dogs: One Nice, One Less So

We recently got two questions over the advice line about dog ownership and human behavior. One is bright, one is dark, and I’m hoping dog-owning and -knowing readers can help us figure them out.

My gentleman caller and I are adopting a dog in the next six months. Here are two questions:

I love German Shepherds and there are a lot of those mixes at the shelters (we’re only looking at shelters, so we know that these dogs are probably not purebreds). However, when I did dog research, most purebred German Shep rescue organizations require that their dogs go to people that have previously owned the breed. What? Is there some secret that I don’t know about? WHAT ARE THE DOG STEREOTYPES, TELL ME THEM. If we adopt a pup that Petfinder labels a “Great Pyr somethingsomething” or a “German Shep black lab” or a “collie whatever” am I dooming some lovely dog to suffering because I haven’t owned one before?

I am really drawn to the older dogs because everyone likes puppies and I am a sucker for the grownups. The dudefriend is concerned that if we adopt a five-year-old, it’ll die in another five years or so, and “not be worth it” because “we’ll be too sad” and therefore we should maximize our happiness and a dog’s happiness by getting a younger pup. He’s not always this utilitarian, but on this issue, I’m afraid that I will fall in love with an older dog and then he’ll actually be right. Smack some sense into one or both of us?

Advice from the Pintariat would make my (Sarah-Maclachlan-ASPCA-commercial-crying) heart sing.

My two cents is that with older dogs, you won’t have to deal with the time commitment that baby animals require (a part-time job, essentially), but then again you won’t be able to train them the way you would if you started “from scratch.” But then again — again — maybe other people are better at training dogs than you are, and there’s no shame in that, especially if you don’t have the time to dedicate to a puppy or puppy-training. But I’m not a dog expert. Readers? (Also, five years is plenty of time to love something. Love is love! Or am I naive?) (Also German Shepherds are gorgeous.)

And then this:

Something really bad happened. We were at my fiance’s parent’s house, and their male dog was acting really aggressive toward their new puppy. My fiance got angry and he kicked the dog. Hard. I was shocked and angry. After I composed myself I told him that that was an unacceptable way to treat ANY living thing, that it was a deal breaker for me and that if I ever saw him do something like that again we’re done. He apologized profusely and seemed genuinely sorry. I’m at a loss as to what to do now. I love this man — I genuinely believe he has a good heart, although clearly some anger issues. I would like to marry him and eventually have children but egads. What now?

That is not great. Although a lot depends on exactly how aggressive the older dog was acting toward the puppy — was the puppy’s health in danger, and did your fiance act instinctively, believing that his action was the only way to protect it? In that case, I think it could be excused as the lesser of two unfortunate scenarios. (If I had a baby, and an older person menaced it to a point where I thought it might suffer physical harm, I wouldn’t hesitate to strike out. But it’s a slippery slope.)

Still, though, I know what you mean, and it must have been really jarring. But the silver lining could be that he has a strong, potentially healthy protective instinct. Or it could be an extremely red flag. Readers? Dogs?