There is no question that dogs of a given breed often exhibit stereotypical behavior. The problem with stereotypes, of course, is that while they are useful for describing general tendencies, they are quite inadequate to the task of describing individuals. You know what they say about snowflakes that “no two are alike;” well, the same is true for dogs. I’ve owned three Airedales, and although they had certain traits in common they were also quite different. Merlin was a pretty serious dog with a strong sense of protectiveness that came in handy more than once. Zachary, my second, had an extensive vocabulary, and I often spoke to him in complete sentences. Dazz, our present Airedale loves everybody; we call him “the party dog.” In general, Airedales have a reputation for being both tough and very funny. For this reason they are both a challenge and a joy.
So with the above caveats about generalizing in mind, here are some stereotypes that I have formulated over the years. German Shepherds have serious opinions and you’d do well not to presume on their amiability until you get to know them. Labrador Retrievers are great all around family dogs— especially the black ones. Golden Retrievers are amiable but vary widely in energy level: everything from bouncing off the walls to barely having a pulse. Bichons are hardest to housebreak with (dis?)honorable mention going to Havanese. Pit Bulls’ reputation for toughness and dog aggression is deserved but they can be wonderfully sweet—even with other dogs. Rotweillers’ bad rap is mostly on account of the males. Dalmatians are rarely temperamentally sound with some lovely exceptions. Ditto Setters—especially the Irish. Seventy percent of a Beagle’s brain is hardwired to his nose but he’s almost 100 percent loveable. Herding dogs can be nippy— and smart— and obsessive. Terriers are tough— and terrific. Shi Tzu’s are honorary terriers. Cocker Spaniels are the bane of groomers and melt their owners’ hearts by batting their eyelashes. Poodles have a deserved reputation for smarts but a good part of that is because they actually care about their owner’s wishes.
And the best dog breed of all? Is your favorite! For me it’s Airedales. We like what we like and all rationalizing aside, it’s pretty darned subjective.