Breed and Behavior

Most of our dogs have a mix of breeds. Not only does this mix up any characteristics of a particular breed, but it's surprisingly difficult to guess a dog's breed accurately based on appearance. Research has shown that even those who work professionally with animals make accurate breed assessments only about 30% of the time. (To learn more about this research, click here.)

Moreover, breed rarely tells you anything about a dog’s personality and temperament. Often adopters want a certain breed of dog because that specific breed is known to have certain personality characteristics. Historically, working dogs were bred for certain roles and functions, like herding, and dogs of the same breed did exhibit very similar behavioral traits. For certain purebreds, breed can be informative. But over the years, the number of working dogs has decreased while companion dogs have become more popular. With that change breeders began focusing more on dogs' appearances than behavior, and over time the personality traits associated with a specific breed became more varied. Today, looking at a dog's breed is no longer our best method for predicting personality.

What’s most important is that we match the personality of a dog to an adopter’s needs and lifestyle.  Our adoption counselors are experts at this, as thousands of happy matches attest. All dogs at the San Francisco SPCA are given a behavioral test and then grouped into one of many personality categories, like Social Butterfly or Delicate Flower. This is a much more accurate way to predict a dog's demeanor, and we've found that it greatly assists adopters in finding their perfect match.

Want to learn more about which type of dog would be best for you? Come visit us and talk with our adoption counselors! Click here for shelter hours and location.