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Dogs Are My Patronus

Veterinary Scientist blogging about dog training and ownership and general animal welfare. 


Natalia Alexandrov

…how energetic are you

Some weeks ago, an inside joke erupted, lamenting the lack of a unified dog energy scale. About twice a week I’ll get a message asking me for information about a random breed, wondering if they were “high energy” or not, and whether they are a good breed for a “first time dog owner”. 

But see, here’s the thing. A dog’s energy is completely relative to your definition of high and low energy. I have a dog that some people might consider “high energy”–a working line Belgian Shepherd. 

I am a fairly active person. I enjoy long walks and hiking, roller blading down the bike trail, tossing a frisbee and ball, and spending time with my dog coming up with new and bizarre things for us to try out. In my opinion, my dog is just right. I don’t consider her high maintenance or “high energy”, because her energy level directly fits with my lifestyle. She’s extremely biddable and her energy is very easily channeled into things I like to do. She has excellent stamina, but she is very calm and focused. 

Our labradors, on the other hand, while considered an “eager to please” and “happy” breed, are very high strung. They get so excited about working with their humans that they work themselves up into a frenzy and it’s difficult to get them to calm down enough to focus on what it is I actually want them to do. Unless it’s retrieving. They excel at that, and are extremely focused during retrieval training. I consider our labradors high maintenance, high energy dogs, and our time together does not run as smoothly and focused as it does with Daenerys. Labradors are not my breed of choice, as I consider them too high energy for my standards. 

Both breeds are working dogs with high levels of energy, but they have a different kind of energy, and depending on what it is you want to do with them and what it is you enjoy doing during your pass time, you will either consider the Belgian Shepherd high maintenance, or the Labrador, or even both. 

Not all drive is equal, not all energy is equal, not all working dogs are equal. A person who may have never owned a dog before in their life might find a Belgian Malinois the perfect companion perfectly suited to their lifestyle. They may say, “what’s so hard about raising a malinois?” or even, “he’s not high energy at all!” But they would also be the kind of person who spends all day on their feet with their dog glued by their side. 

A border collie isn’t a “hard to please” dog to a sheep farmer, and a labrador isn’t a “high strung” dog to a hunter. 

Your first question shouldn’t be how energetic the dog is, but rather, how energetic you are. Realistically assessing your lifestyle and accommodations will help you better put the dog’s energy level and personality into perspective and make the right decision. Don’t condense it down to “golden retriever, the lazy couch potato family dog” (seriously the only person who might consider a golden retriever a couch potato is a serial marathon runner) and “border collie the menace to society”.