Dog’s Eye View: ‘Why does my dog do that?’
A border collie is running loose on a little farm, chasing the horses. The owner says he’s just playing with them. She says, “That’s what border collies are bred for, what can I do?”
A terrier has chased a dog being walked down the street on leash. He wants to run the passerby out of the territory in front of his house and get a good tussle going. The owner of the terrier says, “What can I do? Terriers are bred to be feisty and everyone knows that you can’t train them.”
I hear these comments often as I’m certain you have, as well. We all seem to fancy certain breed types for specific reasons that speak to us emotionally and visually. We also love our mixed breed dogs for the characteristics we see in them that endear them to us.
We could say things that to describe or exemplify the unwanted behavior of just about any breed of dog or mixed breed and write it off as unfixable.
We humans have selectively bred dogs for years to assist us in our work and in our play. Some of the specific breed predispositions or characteristics are expressed to the extreme in various breeds of dogs and sometimes more or less intensely in individuals within that breed.
Herding dogs and border collies in particular are one breed that can express an almost compulsive need to stalk and herd other animals and sometimes people. This behavior is so strong in some individuals that they seem as if they’re never able to rest.
Left to his own devices, chasing horses can be a dangerous game. It’s our responsibility to teach this dog what to do in the presence of horses or other livestock.
He needs to learn to lie down on cue (in other words stop running) and not be allowed to hang out with the horses on his own.
Saying “That’s just what border collies do” is really just saying, “I haven’t helped him learn that his job is to work with me and not decide what to do on his own.”
Terriers as a breed type tend to be diggers, and may not be very tolerant of other dogs in close proximity. They can ramp up their excitement level quickly. I like to think of them as being very focused.
Once their mind is on something, it may take a bit of work to get them off of it. Saying that terriers can’t be trained isn’t true.
If you fancy these high energy dogs, be prepared to put in some extra work to help them learn the rules of the house. You may need to implement a consistent management regime to help these dogs be successful in your family.
If a specific breed or breed type steals your heart, make sure you’ve checked out what that dog is really like. See what he was bred to do. Would keeping him as a pet without any outlet for what genetically drives him be unfair? Could this be an opportunity for you to get out and learn a new sport/activity with your dog?
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 25 years of experience. She can be reached at http://www.totalteamworktraining.com.
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