OK, so when I accepted the challenge of writing this article, the first thing that went through my mind was “Boy, oh boy, am I in trouble.” This is because, to be honest with you, I have always chosen female dogs. The reason is because I think they are smarter. Now, I am pretty sure that with a certain percentage of the male readers out there I will have my “man card” revoked. I am really sorry to speak poorly of my sex, but let’s face it guys, we are not all that complicated as far as creatures go.
Of the eight dogs I have owned in my life, six have been females and each of them seemed:
- More curious
- More willing to work independently
- Tended to be thinking all the time
- More attached to me
Now what if we look at each of these from the exact opposite viewpoint. What then would female dogs look like?
- Female dogs get into more trouble
- Female dogs never pay attention
- Female dogs are always interested in something else
- Female dogs are aloof to strangers
So the old saying “perception is reality” might just have a point. Don’t get me wrong. I do think there are some sexual behavior differences, and those will be more pronounced depending on whether the dog is intact and at what stage the dog is developmentally; but I really feel that there might be more at work here.
A General Look At Male Dogs Vs. Female Dogs
I have had to defend my answer about female dogs with folks for a long time and have actually done a little bit of my own research. Do you know what I have found based on my experiences? Well, more guys own female dogs and more females own male dogs. You know what else? The sex of dog you own has a direct effect on how smart, loving or intelligent you believe your dog is! You then generalize that idea to that particular sex of dog. I found the same answers with folks who chose dogs who were the same sex as the owner. In other words, I truly believe that we tend to surround ourselves with information that matches our beliefs and the choices we have made. Ironically, I did find one characteristic that was an exception to this rule when talking to dog owners — the age of the dog in question.
A Closer Look At Adolescent Dogs
This article is dealing with differences among male and female dogs during adolescence. Views differ on just when that life stage occurs. For discussion sake, let’s say it generally begins at 18 to 24 weeks and lasts until 2 to 3 years. People who own dogs in this developmental stage have much different views about their pooches than those of us living with older adult dogs.
Let’s face it. The adolescence stage in dogs is the period where most “problem behaviors” crop up. Hormones come rushing in and most folks would describe their dogs as “teenagers.” In fact, one study I found showed that almost half the dogs relinquished to shelters had two distinct traits in common: they were between the age of 5 months and 3 years, and almost half were intact.
So, yes, a male dog at 18 months might be more interested in sniffing and/or getting to other dogs and may tend to appear more loyal than his female counterpart. A female might be viewed as more protective and possibly more focused. It is safe to assume they will both be more difficult to live with during this time period; unless you are prepared and ready for these changes as they appear.
I am not saying there are not differences, because I am sure there are — but we don’t speak dog and they don’t speak English. All we can really rely on is observation; keeping in mind that people rarely can be unbiased when it comes to things close to us. We are exceptionally bad impartial observers.
Experiences Vary, And So Will Your Perception
So are females smarter, faster and more willing to work or are males more loyal, food-motivated and lazy? Well, the truest answer from me, a dog owner and trainer, is that for every hard-and-fast rule I have found on the differences between male and female dogs, there are just as many exceptions to that rule. I really feel that this entire topic is based on our past experiences, our histories with other dogs and where we are in our journey with a particular dog.
Dogs, like humans, are pretty simple creatures who only do what works. Dog trainers have known this for thousands of years. Replacing bad behaviors with more rewarding good behaviors can and will change behavior. It’s as simple as that. But when we get frustrated, lazy or deal with a difficult developmental period, we start labeling, defining and discussing the “why,” rather than just dealing with the “how to” of fixing a particular behavior.
So what is the biggest difference between male and female dogs in the adolescent developmental period? Simple — their owner! And I say this knowing I will pick a girl puppy for my next dog because I think they are smarter. Maybe someone ought to write an article on the stubbornness of humans.