25
May 10

Talking Tough Truth...all breeds are not the same!

There are a few subjects that dog training books seem afraid to touch, but because we live in a world where our rights as dog owners seem to be diminishing every day, we need to start addressing tough subjects.

Are all dogs the same? Of course not, if they were, they would be a boring species! Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and different types of dogs were developed for different purposes, resulting in the purebred dogs we know today. Even within a breed of purebred dogs, we find varieties (working Labrador Retrievers versus show line Labradors, for example) and within those varieties we find multiple types of canine temperaments. Each dog is unique, an individual.

That said, there are some general things to look for within types of dogs, some characteristics that the majority of individuals within a certain breed type are likely to possess. For example, most herding dogs like to chase things. Most guardian breeds will be protective. Most sled dog breeds will love running above all else in life. The majority of retrievers will retrieve--but not all of them will, as just putting the word “retriever” in a name does not automatically put the retrieving instinct into the dog! The majority of Hounds love to put their nose to the ground (or in the air) and track a scent. I absolutely LOVE Beagles, because I have fostered so many sweet ones, but many people do not realize that Beagles and Golden Retrievers have consistently been in the top ten list for dominance related dog bites.  Not fatal attacks, but biting people because of dominance and resource guarding behavior, so they should be trained at an early age who the leader of the pack happens to be!

Just as each type of dog presents characteristics we find valuable, each type of dog may also present behaviors that we find challenging. A guardian breed that has not been socialized correctly at a young age and has not been under the protection of a strong human leader, may become non-discriminating and unable to tell friend from foe. A herding dog not kept in a secure fenced yard will probably chase children on bicycles and nip at little heels and bottoms when children are at play. A dog bred to run, such as a Siberian Husky, will be prone to bolt out the door and take off running away from their owner. A dog bred to hunt tougher animals, such as a Dogo Argentino (bred to take down a wild boar) may be problematic around livestock, and a breed like an American Pit Bull Terrier, developed to have fighting ability, may not understand that his owner expects him to be social with other dogs. Even a smaller terrier may be more likely than other types of dogs to chase, capture and even kill cats or other small animals, because of their original purpose of killing rodents.

How do we deal with breed characteristics that have become problematic? Basically, we deal with them the same way we deal with any other canine behavior that we find distasteful. First, we manage the environment to reduce or eliminate triggers for the behavior. The herding dog is not allowed to run loose where he could chase cars or bite children on bicycles. The guardian dog is not allowed to freely manage his own territory: instead he must understand that ultimately his owners are in control of the territory. In addition to managing the environment, we must put our dogs, particularly dogs with working abilities, under our control and leadership at all times.

What does this mean? Having a dog under control means they should respond to basic obedience commands, even in the presence of distractions, and they should not be allowed to run off-leash. An exception might be a dog with a steady temperament who is remote collar trained, as he should be safe in many off-leash environments as long as he is with his owner. However a dog allowed to roam, or left outside all the time with only underground fencing between him and the outside world is a prescription for trouble.

If you own a high energy dog, such as a Border Collie, a sled dog breed or a young Retriever, it will be necessary to be inventive and find ways for the dog to expend his energy, otherwise the dog simply will not have enough impulse control to be well-behaved. In addition to the suggestions listed in earlier chapters, keep in mind that chewing on a safe chew toy, such as a stuffed Kong™ is a great way for your dog to release energy when he must be left alone for any period of time. Daily exercise should include a walk of at least thirty minutes (and can be on the treadmill if weather is inclement). Work schedule does not allow long daily walks? Then hire a dog walker to come in while you are at work and exercise your dog.

Any discussion about specific breed problems would not be complete without mention of the American Pit Bull Terrier, and other breeds that are often lumped into the category of “Pit Bull”. Throughout the US, this type of dog is well-loved by pet owners who value their loyalty and intelligence. Unfortunately, not everyone who owns this type of dog is a responsible dog owner and it is primarily this type of dog and the Rottweiller that have been involved in incidents that have public lawmakers determined to enact breed specific legislation.

The solution to the heartbreaking problem of people being injured by dogs is not enactment of breed specific legislation, but instead is the enforcement of laws revolving around responsible dog ownership, regardless of breed. In the area where I presently live, there are no leash laws. How can we expect any breed of dog to run loose, totally without human leadership, and not cause damage to people and property? Instead of putting laws on the books outlawing specific types of dogs, localities should put laws on the books that require dog owners to have control of their dogs at all times, and these laws should be enforced. Most animal control departments are terribly understaffed, yet local lawmakers will spend hours of their time debating whether or not to outlaw a specific breed. Why not direct time and energy instead into enforcing leash and licensing laws, and educating the public about how to properly house and care for a dog?

Unfortunately, it is not just lack of understanding and appropriate training that causes some dogs to be “problem children”. Sometimes the root is genetic. If people continue to breed dogs with profit as the bottom line, then there will continue to be canines in the world that exhibit behavioral issues simply they should not have been bred in the first place (due to poor temperament of the parents) or because they were sold to whomever could pay the asking price, versus being carefully placed into the proper home that would be best for that particular dog. Breeding needs to be taken seriously and pups placed carefully, with contracts insuring that the breeder will take the dog back if it ever needs to be re-homed. Yes, this is a difficult promise to make--that is why only a select group of individuals are capable of being responsible dog breeders.

Regardless of whether you are breeding, or fostering and placing dogs….remember, God put that dog in your hands for a reason. His life is, literally, in your hands, so please, guard it carefully.

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