Dog Breeds: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

23 Aug

By popular (and by popular we mean ours because really, we’re the popular ones here. Don’t get uppity) request we’ve brought back our Dog Breed pros and cons. These are just a general look at breeds we’re familiar with and some things you may not be aware of.  We’ll share the good, the bad and the downright nasty. We’re entirely aware that breed traits are by no means universal. Every dog is an individual, however breeds being breeds there are some traits we feel you should be aware of in choosing your next canine companion.  If you don’t like sweeping generalizations, then you should probably back away slowly from our blog.   For our first installment of what we hope will be a regular feature, we’ll cover the Sheltie, Malinois, and Border Collie a.k.a. The Herder Cabal.

Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

Looking for an incredibly intelligent, loyal, and eager to please dog?  The Sheltie definitely fits that bill.   They make both excellent family pets as well as performance dogs and will certainly turn heads when you walk down the street.  However, if you rage whenever you hear a dog bark, you might want to reconsider bringing home a Sheltie.

Other breeds typically owned : More Shelties… Occasionally you may get a branch out into Border Collies or Aussies but Shelties are the potato chip herder. Usually you won’t find just one.

BusyBee’s mutant (read: way larger than standard) childhood Sheltie, Dusty.


-Shelties are incredibly intelligent and easily trainable and as such excel in obedience, agility, and other dog sports.

-They are one of the easiest breeds in terms of personality. They don’t just want to please you, they need to please you with a burning passions that at times borders on the scary. They’re often the starter performance breed and generally an excellent choice for that purpose.

-It will often seem like they’ve trained themselves mostly due to a deep personal dignity that most Shelties value. They take what you say seriously and to heart.

-They really are pretty. While most of us are familiar with either the merles or the sables, bi-colors also occur with some regularity in performance litters. Their fluffy coats, sweet faces and striking color patterns make them a perennial favorite.

-Personality plus. Shelties do it all with flair. They know what they want, and it’s their goal to get you to help them achieve it.

-They want to do things with you. If you want an interactive companion, these guys are up for anything except maybe swimming.


-The joys of a double coat.  These are dogs that require regular grooming and will literally blow enough coat to create a whole new dog.

-People will forever refer to your Sheltie as a “mini-Lassie”.  Learn to deal with it.

-Prone to anxiety (Separation and general).

-They bark. A lot. This is not a breed who is at all retiring. They don’t just like the sound of their own voice, they love it.

-Shelties are sensitive, probably more so than a lot of other herding breeds. They will get their feelings hurt easily and generally aren’t incredibly tolerant to mistreatment… basically subjecting them to an untrained toddler is unfair and probably won’t end well.


-Barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark… Did we mention they bark?

-They will try to herd everything if left to their own devices. Herding involves teeth. Hope you weren’t attached to your pants.


Belgian Malinois

Do you have a need for speed and a worrying lack of concern for your personal safety? A Malinois may be for you, or actually, it probably won’t be. It’s not you, it’s them. Really, these are a terrible ‘pet’ breed in general and we cringe when we see them owned by the rank novice dog person. This breed does best when owned by an experienced (and we mean real experience not ‘I took a class at <Bloated pet chain>’ experienced), active, consistent owner who loves to train and work their dogs as a primary hobby. They are not a breed for the casual enthusiast.

Other Breeds Typically Owned: Other Belgians, both Corgis and Australian Cattle Dogs in the herding breeds. You will occasionally see a terrier (Border or Jack Russel usually) because you might as well round out the madhouse.

I may have eaten the bolts in the shed… maybe.


-If you need a dog with endless energy and drive you don’t need to look much further than a Mal. There’s a reason they’re the top choice for many working dog venues including but not limited to: law enforcement, customs, detection, military and the bite sports. They are incredibly easy to motivate.

 -They really can be a stunning looking dog. While in the US they are considered separate from the other Belgian varieties their shared genetic heritage causes some gorgeous coat variation within single bloodlines.

-They are endlessly devoted and loyal to their people or person. They desperately want to be with their families and would be completely content to share a skin with you.  They want to be right in your pocket and will make  it happen if they can.

-They are extremely smart and learn incredibly quickly.

-They are very protective. Naturally somewhat suspicious of strangers, the Belgian varieties on the whole can be viewed with some caution by strangers.


-Their neediness can transition to severe separation anxiety.

-If not instilled early their busy-ness in the house can become problematic. While it’s a myth Malinois don’t have an “off-switch” it does need to be taught and enforced regularly.

-Their protective instincts can become a problem very quickly. You may accidentally turn your new best friend into your only friend.

-They’re mouthy. They love to play but are rather prone to forgetting that their humans can’t tolerate teeth on their skin like another Malinois can. Those jaws are incredibly strong and as a rule they love to alligator snap and prance. If you had to watch your pants with shelties, watch your femur with Malinois.

-While smart, Malinois are not a ‘thinker’ as it were. Their first instinct is always going to be “do” rather than ‘pause and reflect’. They can be difficult to train in that respect as well as putting their own safety at risk. Obedience and extensive training is not optional on this breed.


-They are high energy. Really, we’re not kidding. Their energy is boundless, exhausting and it needs an outlet. If you don’t give them one, they will make one and we can almost promise you, you won’t like it.

-They’re the sport/macho dog du jour right now. Unfortunately their versatility and outright power has gathered some notice from people who really can’t handle and shouldn’t have the breed. Many many misguided novices wander into the breed completely unprepared for what they’re up against when transitioning from one of the more easy-going breeds, thinking that their new high-powered canine will help them win.

-Pathological shyness occurs in some lines with regularity.

-We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know how but somehow they will hurt you or themselves accidentally. They are not a graceful breed.

Strange Breed Quirks:

– There’s something referred to as the Malinois Head Stand. It’s usually against your body as the dog shoves their head into you to the point of nearly falling over on themselves.

-Teeth snapping during play alarms some people but it’s just how they play. Alligator snapping and prancing is totally normal and typical.


Border Collie

The kind of people that do well with Border Collies are incredibly active and if not smarter… at least as smart as the dog. A Border Collie is not a dog for someone that wants to hang inside and go on occasional hike. They are a full time commitment that will amuse themselves if not supervised.

Other Breeds Typically Owned: Other Border collies, Papillons, occasionally an ancient Sheltie or a jerky terrier (Typically Jack Russell or Jack Russell mix).

You wil bend to my will, giant naked sheep.

The Good

-Nothing’s smarter than a border collie, according to that obnoxious little list that comes out every year. No one can argue that Border Collies don’t have weird savant style intelligence.

– A well bred Border Collie is a striking dog, whether merle, red, blonde or black and white… they are certainly appealing dogs.

-Athletic. Do I even need to go on? There is a reason you see so many Border Collies in performance sports, They’re fast and they’re accurate.


-That’s a lot of energy. A Border Collie is a dog that keeps going and going and going. We know this is something a lot of Border Collies treasure in the breed but we find it hard to believe that they never wish for an off switch.

-Obsessive. A Border Collie is a dog bred for generations to keep things in order. Things being sheep. Most Border Collie owners don’t have a couple hundred sheep to keep their dogs occupied so the dog’s obsessions often turn compulsive. They herd flashes of light, they herd cats, they herd leaves blowing across the lawn.


-Holy crap, can you say breed politics?!? There isn’t a breeder in the US that you can buy a dog from that won’t have the other half of the Border Collie community snickering and gossiping behind closed doors. Barbie collies, working line, sport bred… it’s enough to have your head spinning.

-Border Collies can be… snappish. It’s less an aggression issue and more a control or fear issue, especially in the badly bred ones. That tendency combined with speed and intelligence often leads to a dog that can bite before anyone knows what is going on.

Thoughts?  Share below!

94 Responses to “Dog Breeds: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

  1. Samm I AMm August 12, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    We must have the angel of shelties. Skittles is all of what you said (started with the separation anxiety after the death of his female companion died 4 months ago) and he is 7 now. He wants to play, helps get the eggs from the coop, doesn’t chase the chickens, did the pigs until they got bigger than he is, loves to ‘hang out’ no matter where we are, travels well, doesn’t bark like most but when it is necessary, protective of us, absolute love bug and is generally chilled. He HATES swimming and is very sweet most of the time with our cats, preferring to chase only one of the cats (declawed) when the mood strikes (which isn’t often) and absolutely adores our 18 year old mega toed all four paws claws WELL intact. He is a member of Sheltie Foodaholics, but he is not overweight (because I keep him in shape) and he has the cutest little prance when he is proud of himself! Best dog we have ever had.

  2. sandakat March 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    Totally agree about the Malinois. (Fondly known as Malociraptors). I knew one that had been a stellar Search and Rescue dog but once she was retired, at nearly 10 years old, she couldn’t rest. She would pace for hours. It was sad. She just couldn’t adapt to being simply a pet.

  3. miss cellany September 8, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    I must be insane then. My first dog was a border collie, we lived in an apartment in the city and went out every weekend for a hike and then lunch at a restaurant. During the week it was just leash walks, fetch on my roof terrace and trick training. He was perfect in the house, definitely did have an off switch.

    My second dog is a malinois cross (possibly with some border collie in there too… or perhaps brittany) – she also has an off switch and is living in the city in a small apartment with me. Her protective instincts are certainly over the top (sometimes even a new object sets her off into protective mode – apparently the toaster is an extremely dangerous mortal enemy) and she is very aloof with strangers (doesn’t appreciate being touched by them at all) but is ridiculously affectionate with family and friends (rolls around on her back on their feet whining and wriggling and trying to solicit belly rubs). I’m constantly training her to be more tolerant of strangers, kids, other dogs etc as she can get guardy and aggressive with the slightest provocation – luckily she’s very food and toy motivated and takes to training well. I definitely won’t be getting another Mal or mal mix though, border collies are FAR easier and much smarter (also I don’t like being headbutted or muzzle punched in the nose very much).

    • Peter Denies September 15, 2016 at 11:58 am #

      This is a very good guide for people like me. I am thrilled to read this article and will look forward to see more from you.

  4. Brook H October 13, 2016 at 3:15 am #

    I really like this guide, but everyone has to remember that it is all about how much you are willing to commit. I am a small 16 year old girl who honestly didn’t excercise much. But now, I have a Belgian Malinois (from the shelter so not purebred I imagine) who I have been told that I am handling well. It takes time and money, and I get angry, but we work through it. I love him endlessly, he is my entire universe and I am able to handle the energy and the nipping (he has nearly stopped due to training) and as long as you never give up and get help from people more experienced than you, you can do it.

  5. Brook H October 13, 2016 at 3:15 am #

    I really like this guide, but everyone has to remember that it is all about how much you are willing to commit. I am a small 16 year old girl who honestly didn’t excercise much and has never owned a dog before. But now, I have a Belgian Malinois (from the shelter so not purebred I imagine) who I have been told that I am handling well. It takes time and money, and I get angry, but we work through it. I love him endlessly, he is my entire universe and I am able to handle the energy and the nipping (he has nearly stopped due to training) and as long as you never give up and get help from people more experienced than you, you can do it.

  6. Bitterblue December 1, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    On the one side you are absolutely true about malinois but for me there is not better breed. I know lot of border collies ( we are doing agility ) and I must say I will definitely not have one. I really do not like their characters (they are for me like children with hyperactive problems – they can not focus on one simple task). My malinois is far more attentive … but it can be also my personal judgement …. I would like to have kelpie someday …. but malinois will be always by my side …. my family breed them for more then 20 years so I need to have that nippy demons with me forever

  7. elizabeth pinkerton December 11, 2016 at 1:28 am #

    It would be great if you looked at the other Bassets in the Basset family. I have a Basset Fauve de Bretagne. Fauves were accepted into showing in the USA last year I think. Such lovely soft hounds, don’t have the longer ears or dribble problems, but are still scent hounds. Happy to have as much or as little exercise you give them and very family friendly.
    Very people centred but still able to hunt alone or in packs.
    The only real negative is the hound nose, every thing is forgotten once a scent is found so like a beagle not an off lead dog. Just need good fencing and training on recall especially.

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