Choosing Janice and Leroy was easy for me. I had decided that Boxers were right for me (for more about how I came to that decision, see How Much Should a Purebred Great Dane Cost?), and I knew that I wanted to get into breeding. So I wasn’t hung up on the “do I want a boy or a girl” issue – I needed both! I was lucky to find two wonderful breeders (big shout out here to Alex and Moira!) whose dogs had produced litters around the same time.
I know, though, that for people who are looking for just one dog, or even wanting more than one but not interested in breeding, choosing dogs can be a male vs. female issue. Of course it’s just one factor when choosing dogs, but I know that many people have a preference one way or the other.
So, let’s talk about preferences when it comes to choosing dogs.
It’s not just male vs. female. Sometimes, honestly, I’m totally baffled by the way that people choose dogs. Male vs. female, small vs. large, brindle vs. patchwork, floppy-eared vs. pointy – there are so many different types of dogs to choose from, and why in the world do people choose one type of dog over another?
I was thinking about this down at the dog park the other day. Some choices seem perfectly obvious. I think of Joanne, who probably brings in more money from her investments in a week than I’ll see over the course of my lifetime (even if I move into a paper bag and eat Ramen noodles every day until I die), and her little bat-eared purse dog, Pierre, with his jewel-studded collar and leash. Fussy, rich Joanne, and fussy, spoiled little Pierre – they’re a natural match.
Then there’s Al, with his Saint Bernard, Otis. Big cuddly guy, and big cuddly dog. It makes sense.
And Neila, tougher than nails, with her Rottweilers. Again, perfectly sensible match.
But then, I see big, burly men with teacup Chihuahuas – a lot of big burly men with teacup Chihuahuas – and I wonder, when did these little dogs leave Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie and start hanging out with biker dudes?
And there’s the little girl I see every day, can’t be any older than 9, and tiny enough that you’d probably have to tie her down in a wind storm, with an English Mastiff that treats her so gently and obviously loves her to distraction. And the woman in full makeup and heels that comes around with a bouncy Labrador that just can’t wait to investigate mud puddles!
So, why do people choose certain types of dogs? I don’t even try to explain, when it comes to humans and dogs, most connections. But I do wonder about the propensity for a lot of humans to make a big distinction, when it comes to dogs, between male vs. female.
Probably because I do it myself.
Okay, here’s another one of those famous “Ash digressions.” Before I ended up with a breeding pair of Boxers, I definitely had prejudices. When it came to dogs, male vs. female wasn’t an issue for me – I loved the boys!
I think this probably has a lot to do with the fact that the dog I grew up with was a boy. In many ways, Jake was the standard to which all other dogs in my life are compared. He was perfect.
I was a bit of a solitary child, didn’t have a whole lot of friends, and some of my happiest memories involve coming home after school, grabbing a quick snack, and then heading out with Jake. We went everywhere – down by the river, through the forest, through the town, out past the scrap yard on the end of town – well, just everywhere. I’d talk to Jake the whole time. I’d tell him about what was going on in school, what I wanted to be when I grew up, my most recent crushes, my hopes and dreams. And I believed then that Jake listened and understood. I think I still believe that on some level.
Jake and I would come home exhausted, both of us ready for supper. My mother would ask, “What did you and Jake do today?” and like a typical kid, I’d just say “Oh, stuff.” Then Jake and I would head of to my room to wait for Mom to call us to supper. I’d giggle, and say “Mom’s so nosy, isn’t she, Jake?” and he’d give me a big doggie smile and nuzzle me, as much as to say “I know, she’s not much of a Mom, but she’s all we’ve got!”
So, for years, dogs being male vs. female was a total non-issue for me – I figured I’d always want a boy, just like Jake!
Jake has, of course, long since gone to the Rainbow Bridge. With other dogs, male vs. female has always been a consideration, thanks to the wonderful experience I had with him. How could I even consider a girl, when my boy was so perfect?
What if, though, I’d never had such a stellar experience with a male dog? What circumstances and conditions would lead me to make the right decision when it came to filling my life with dogs? Male vs. female? How would I decide?
Believe it or not, this is a question that psychologists have considered. There’s been a lot of research done on the subject, and honestly, no real answers. Most experts seem to theorize that there’s something in the shared psychology between humans and dogs that makes something just “fit,” triggering enhanced emotions on both sides of the equation. You might be looking for the same things in a dog that you would be looking for in a human “life companion,” which might explain to some degree why, when it comes to choosing a dog, men might generally be more inclined toward a female dog, and women more inclined toward a male.
Consider this poll taken in Australia in 2011. 600 single men and women were surveyed, and asked about what they were looking for in the perfect mate. They were also asked if they preferred dogs over humans. Most preferred dogs.
60% of women stated that they believed they would get more affection from a dog than from a man. 70% of women said that dogs were easier to get along with than men. 58% said that dogs were more trustworthy than men. 71% of women said that they wouldn’t consider a relationship with a man who didn’t like dogs.
Men who were surveyed said that they felt very comfortable showing affection to a dog. Cuddling a dog didn’t make them feel any less masculine – but cuddling another human would.
The survey also revealed that an amazing 97% of people admit to talking to their dogs! In fact, they felt more comfortable talking to their dogs than they did to other humans. The researchers theorized that this is very important for men, since they usually have more difficulty expressing emotion than women do. So, when it comes to dogs, is male vs. female an issue for men? Most of the men in the study said that they felt more comfortable holding, cuddling, and talking to a female dog than they did a male dog.
Note that they didn’t say they were uncomfortable interacting with a male dog – just that they preferred a female.
It’s simple – when it comes to dogs, male vs. female could very well make a difference. Women seem to choose dogs that embody the characteristics they wish they could find in human males. Men, however, seem to want an outlet – a way to express the strong feelings that they have, that are often suppressed by cultural demands (men don’t cry, men don’t cuddle, men have to man up!). So, when they’re looking for affection and validation, men turn toward female dogs. When women want love and support, they turn toward male dogs.
No, they probably don’t. Dogs will bond with anyone, and they don’t seem to care if the human they’re bonding with is male or female, or even if that human is what we consider to be “good.”
Remember, Hitler had a dog that loved him. And my friend Neila swears that if Robert Mugabe, the Yorkshire Ripper, and Kim Jong Un showed up at her house, her Rottweiler, Dallas, would be like “Oh, wow, guys, you came to visit! You are all so awesome! Come on in! Who’s gonna be my new best friend?”Dogs are easy.
I think what it means is that you should go with your heart when it comes to dogs. If male vs. female is important to you, choose what feels right. Your dog isn’t going to care what gender you are. If you have a preference, though, there’s nothing wrong with indulging it, provided that you don’t somehow miss out on the love of your life because you got too hung up, when it came to dogs, on male vs. female.
I wouldn’t trade Janice for ten boys. For that matter, I wouldn’t trade Leroy for ten girls. I just flat-out love dogs. Male vs. female doesn’t enter into it anymore. I loved Jake beyond words, but with the genius of hindsight, I know that I loved him because he was Jake. Not because he was a boy.
Gender really doesn’t matter. Find the dog that speaks to your heart, and then hold him (or her) close to it for as long as you are together.