DOG’S EYE VIEW: The same breed but not the same dog
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
In my last article, I wrote about a young couple that purchased a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. They had several pet cats, and the adolescent puppy was chasing and corning them, making life miserable for everyone. One of the things I wondered about was why did they choose this particular breed of dog? Even though these dogs can make good pets, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred to hunt, corner and hold lions at bay. They require a lot of work and commitment.
This caused me to think about other similar situations. What is our perception of what dogs are bred to do, and how does that affect our journey with them?
My husband and I have owned several different breeds over the years, including a Dalmatian, miniature schnauzer, Siberian huskies, Irish terriers, border collies, Welsh corgis and a bull terrier. I tend to gravitate to the terrier breeds. They are what make my heart jump immediately when I see them.
Terriers have a special breeding history that can make them feisty and willing to work on their own. They are usually highly motivated to dig and chase small and, sometimes, large animals. They’re smart, too, but keeping their attention can make working with them challenging. I understand this and accept that challenge.
I’ve had easy, compliant terriers and some that I had to stay on top of, behaviorally, their whole life. My female Irish terrier, Muggs, was easy going and soft in nature. Her half brother, Finn, was a whole different story. I loved them both.
Movie dogs, such as Rin Tin Tin the German shepherd and Lassie the collie, can so strongly affect our choice of dogs that we just go out and get one because of how they are portrayed on the silver screen. Even these dogs that look the same as their movie counterpart can come to us with a whole variety of behaviors for which we were not prepared. Remember, too, movie star dogs are trained by professionals.
In recent years, our wonderful herding breeds have become very popular. My thinking is everyone wants a smart dog, and especially now, with so many high energy sports available to pet owners, the border collie, Australian shepherd and Australian cattle dog have risen in popularity.
With the increasingly conscientious and active human population, we tend to think, mostly, that it’s the energy level of these dogs that needs to be expended. What we might forget is these breeds need a lot of brain work, too. Some individuals of the same breed may express a stronger desire to herd and bite at heels than another. Some may have a stronger drive to herd humans around in the absence of livestock.
One story I will never forget is of a couple that had a golden retriever that was so perfect in every way they referred to her as a saint. When this dog passed away, they immediately got another golden retriever. Sadly, this dog was entirely different in temperament and personality. They stuck by this other dog, but the journey was not an easy one for them.
Are we willing to accept the fact that any dog of the same breed type may not be exactly what we expected? They’re all unique in their own way.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with over 30 years of experience.
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