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Canine Behavior/Pet personality


"Hello, my mother recently adopted a dog from the SPCA in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She was found in a box on the side of the road with a broken leg. She is fostering the dog back to health and is deciding if adoption is right for her. We do not know the dog's history. According to the vet she is approximately 4 months old. Her breed is unknown but they believe she is a pitbull/Boston terrier mix. We previously had a chocolate lab but had to put her down due to old age. We are unfamiliar with the temperament of this type of breed. My mom is also hesitant because my sister is pregnant and is due in a few months. We also have a 12 year old ShiTzu at home who is quite grumpy and seems to be having some anxiety about the new puppy. However, when our new puppy sees our other dog she just wants to play. She does chew quite a bit but we make sure to always have toys on hand so she does now chew on the furniture. I am just wondering if you could provide some insight as to the type of behavior we should expect from this type of breed. Thank you so much! Christina"

I have no way of knowing what hybrid this is.  The veterinarian has his assumptions based upon his own experience and often those assumptions are wrong.  A puppy of four months (and this CAN be determined via dentition) is difficult to gauge (hybrid) since physical characteristics have yet to fully emerge (most neonates resemble in breed).  Unless there's a distinct hydrocephalic appearance (classic "pushed in" nose and facial structure), type of hybrid is difficult to determine without a photograph (and perhaps even with one).  To say it is a Pit Bull/Boston Terrier mix is stretching it, at least.  First: unlikely these breeds would randomly mix; second, markings of many American Pit Bulls (and their first generation hybrids) are similar to the markings of many breeds (brindle, parti, black/white, etc.)  Second: size at four months determines potential breed mix.  A larger breed (if bred to a much smaller, more petite boned breed) would produce a larger puppy than any Boston Terrier would.

If she was found in a box at the side of the road with a broken leg (as reported), this puppy has suffered serious abuse and was discarded with the attention of letting her die.  How this abuse will affect her behavior in future is not something I can determine and even basic temperament is something I cannot determine since I cannot see her.

You say your Mom "adopted her" from the SPCA.  Not sure what that means.  Is SPCA in Canada a kill facility or a no-kill shelter?  Has she already made the commitment to "adopt" or is she a true "foster care" situation?

The older dog is behaving normally toward this new addition, doing what she must in social hierarchy.  These two should be able to work out a relationship between them without too much interference or anxiety on your end, providing there's no developing aggression (one toward the other, either one, for that matter) as the puppy matures into adolescence.  As to whether or not this "foster" dog will be "safe" around an infant: impossible for me to say.  I can't verify if your OWN dog would be "safe" around an infant.  Dogs and babies don't mix.  Any dog must be observed quite closely around any infant/toddler/young child and cannot be left alone with that child.  All children must be taught to respect the dog in the household and must be supervised during interaction.

I suggest you perform a basic temperament test on the new puppy:

I suggest you visit Dr. Ian Dunbar's free, online Sirius Puppy Training:

At his site,, you will find articles pertaining to bite inhibition, basic manners, house training, etc., as well as links to videos (be sure you are watching HIS videos) on how to address problems.  

This puppy will also need a puppy kindergarten class.  Here is what to look for in one of these:

A great deal of dog behavior can be adjusted and remediated by proper understanding and positive reinforcement training.  Socialization must be done and any fear responses addressed quite carefully (counter conditioned).  Why not take a look at the above resources, do the temperament evaluation, and report back using followup feature.  With more information I may be able to help further but I can't predict the future.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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