Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Does Gender Matter When Adopting a Dog?

By Langley Cornwell

There are general differences between male and female dogs, but the honest answer to the question of whether gender matters when adopting a dog is: it depends. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, popular among dog breeders, trainers and veterinarians, which answers the gender question like this - If you want a good dog, get a male. If you want a great dog, get a female and cross your fingers. That common adage is not terribly helpful but completely true.

The Dog Pedigree Database, Your Dog magazine and other resources state that the breed, upbringing, personality, training, handling and parentage are more important considerations when choosing a canine companion than the sex of the dog. You should clearly asses your lifestyle, your current (and future) household conditions and your expectations of a pet before making any decisions. Once you’re sure of your desires, study different breeds to develop a list of appropriate dog types. Remember that shelters are full of dogs that will meet your criteria. Expand your search to include breed specific rescues as well. It’s true that you won’t know a shelter or rescue dog’s parentage, but you will be given an opportunity to assess their personality. The training and handling is completely up to you.

The only thing that dog experts seem to agree on is that personality differences between individual dogs makes a bigger difference than the gender of the dog. Because there are slight agreed upon differences, this overview will be helpful in guiding your final decision. Please remember, however, that these are general terms. While a male or female dog may exhibit a specific trait, this doesn’t mean that all males or all females act that particular way.

With that in mind, here are the differences that seem to exist between male and female dogs.


Male dogs desire a great deal of attention; they crave affection and human interaction. Females tend to be more independent and require alone time. That’s not to say that female dogs are not loving. They are, but once they get their fill of affection they may go off and find a quiet spot. Male dogs, on the other hand, usually soak up all the attention their human is willing to offer and still want more. 


Female dogs generally possess the ability to focus, which makes them easier to train as a pet. Male dogs can become easily distracted; they tend to remain playful and puppy-like their entire lives. It is interesting, however, that although male dogs require more training time and patience from the handler, they customarily dominate in competitive dog shows.   

Good with Kids?

Most dogs can become a gentle and loving companion for a child. Because male dogs remain so goofy themselves, however, some believe they may see children as playmates and get too frisky with them. Alternatively, female dogs may instinctively be more nurturing and protective of kids.

An important note – don’t leave any under school age child alone with a dog. Regardless of how close the child and the dog are, regardless of how gentle the dog is, don’t do it. Supervise young children when they play with animals.

Good with other dogs?

This is an area where gender matters the most. Dog behaviorists and trainers agree that if you already have one dog in the family and intend to get another, the best choice is for the next pet to be of the opposite sex. It’s common for dogs of the same sex to fight.


When looking for a family pet, there is not much difference between a male dog and a female dog. Here are the exceptions:

If you plan to breed your dog, get a female. 

If you want to show your dog, get a male.

If you like your own alone time, get a female.

If you want to be followed around all the time, get a male.

If you already have a dog, get a dog of the opposite sex.

Other than these cases, male or female doesn’t really matter. The most important consideration is the sense of connection you feel with an individual dog.

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. Those are some great suggestions. For some reason, I have always had female dogs. I have no idea why. I just like their personalities better. But all this does make sense.

  2. Just as Marg, I always like female dogs and it happens that I always have them at home.

  3. This is interesting! I didn't really have a preference either way, I think Finn chose me!

  4. I have a female and a male border collie, and am planning on keeping a puppy from my female's litter. Would sex matter then?

  5. @Anonymous, thanks for the interesting question. When you add a third dog to a pack with one female and one male, you’ll have two dogs of the same sex in the pack. One of those dogs will have to establish dominance. So yes, it is possible to keep a puppy from your border collie’s litter and it doesn’t matter which sex you chose. What does matter is that you are aware of and prepared for the natural process that will take place as the dog work out their hierarchy.


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