Lyn Fleet What do you really have at the end of your lead? If you don’t know what your dog was originally bred to do, you won’t be able to tell what is perfectly normal behaviour or what is out of the ordinary. Sadly, many people do more research when they are buying a new car, TV or even vertical blinds, than when they are choosing a dog. It doesn’t take long before they discover that they’ve bought more than they bargained for.
A Jack Russell Terrier will clear your garden of rats! Photo by Lyn Fleet
If you have chosen a dog for the way it looks you could be in for a big surprise. For instance, a Husky is a hard working sled dog with stamina and endurance qualities. If you just wanted an attractive and cuddly couch potato, you are in for a huge reality check! A Jack Russell on the other hand has hair trigger reaction times and is a natural born killer; ideal if you have rats in the garden. How embarrassing would it be, if your terrier dashed into the lounge shaking something in its mouth and presented your visitor with your ‘dead bra’? Dogs have been selectively bred over generations to perform specific jobs. These days, the majority of dogs are bought as pets but they still have the instincts to carry out those tasks. This can mean that you have a highly qualified dog without hope of gainful employment! Many behaviours that are thought of as ‘naughty’ are actually hard wired into the dog and it is impossible for him to change; without an suitable outlet for his skills, he can become very frustrated and thoroughly miserable. Some breeds are very tactile and love nothing more than a cuddle. Other breeds are not ‘touchy feely’ and show disinterest at the offer of close physical contact. Some owners take this as a personal slight and they think their dog doesn’t love them. Just as some couples will walk down the street hand in hand while other couples feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection. If you haven’t already done so, you must spend some time at the local library or on the internet researching what you dog was bred to do. It will give you some amazing insights into why they are behaving as they do. And now for some shameless anthropomorphising!!
Terriers (e.g. West Highland White Terrier & Jack Russell Terrier)
Love squeaky toys to ‘kill ‘and they hate to be treated like babies. They are a big dog in a little parcel! They can be vocal especially when they get excited. If they were people they would… enjoy a pint with their mates down the pub and be ready to square up to someone who is ten times their height and weight!
Guarding breeds (e.g. Rottweiler)
Rottweiler by Alex Wightman
Need somewhere to guard! In other words, a place to call home. If they were people they would be… security guards with a heavy torch and a massive bunch of keys dangling from their belt. They love meeting up with other security guards and boast how many thugs they have put in hospital this week. They know the dirtiest jokes and are terrible for wolf whistling.
Herding breeds (e.g. German Shepherd & Border Collie)
German Shepherd Dog Photograph by Cheryl Murphy
Love to be involved in everything the family does and it is imperative they are kept mentally active as well as physically fit. They have a tendency to be worriers. If they were people they would be… a friend in need, always ready to help at a moment’s notice. They would keep an eye on their elderly neighbours and expect nothing in return other than feeling they’ve made a positive difference. They could turn their hand to anything: make a fabulous spag bol, do a spot of DIY, change a fuse or assemble flat pack furniture.
Retrievers & Spaniels (e.g. Labrador Retriever & Cocker Spaniel)
Labrador retriever Photograph by Cheryl Murphy
Love anything and everything, especially getting dirty and carrying things in their mouths. They love being part of the family. If they were people they would be… the retired Colonel who sits with a pipe and a newspaper. He has a twinkle in his eye and a wicked chuckle. He’ll regale you with horrific tales of war and death but still make you think it was the best time he ever had. However, they mustn’t be allowed to go first in the queue for the free buffet or everyone else will go hungry.
Asian breeds (e.g. Japanese Akita & Chinese Shar Pei)
They should be respected and appreciated. They have a tendency to seem aloof and self-important and don’t enjoy too much physical contact. They are fearlessly loyal but not demonstrative in their affection. The strong and silent type. If they were people they would be… senior management. They would not be prepared to get out of bed for less than a top salary, an office overlooking the river and their own car parking space. They’ll be firm but fair but they do not suffer fools gladly.
Toys breeds – companion dogs (e.g. Bichon Frise, Pug & Chihuahua)
They need a loving owner who dotes on them as much as they dote on their owner. If they have taught their owners to give them attention on demand, they can be yappy if ignored. If they were people they would be… ‘dumb blondes’ with a PhD in particle physics. They would never dream of setting foot in charity shop and they wouldn’t be seen dead in last year’s diamante necklace. They pretend to be very fragile but really they are as tough as old boots.
Nordic breeds (e.g. Husky & Malamute)
You need to be a fit owner that can walk and walk and walk. Come back when called? Walk nicely on a lead? Of course they can, if you are prepared to put in the time and effort required. If you aren’t why did you buy one? If they were people they would be… the joker in the pack. They won’t understand why you didn’t find their little wheeze funny. They have their own agenda and hope you share it; if you don’t, that’s fine by them.
Scent Hounds (e.g. Beagle & Bassett Hound)
They love long walks with lots of scents to follow. They know what they want and go for it, no matter what. Once their nose is in gear their ears shut down. If they were people they would be… quantum physicists who are incredibly cerebral until something more basic attracts their attention. They can enjoy very deep discussions until someone suggests a game of cards and you’ll get no more sense out of them until they’ve won every hand and cleared the table of money.
Bull Breeds (e.g. Staffordshire Bull Terrier & Bull Mastiff)
Staffie Photograph by Cheryl Murphy
They love tug of war and any other games at pits them physically against the challenger. They were bred to be physically and mentally determined which is why using the macho ‘show ‘em who’s boss approach is completely counterproductive as it stores up problems for later which will be entirely you own fault. If they were people they would be… slow to anger but terrible once roused. The might be thought of as easy-going and a bit of a push-over until someone pushes them too far; then their retribution is swift and extreme.
Sight hounds (e.g. Saluki, Greyhound & Lurcher)
They crave warmth and comfort; a sofa near a burning log fire. They have incredible short bursts of energy, but don’t expect stamina. If they were people they would be… cat walk models. Very aware of their image and self worth. Would call an acquaintance ‘dahling’ and promise to ‘do lunch one day ‘and then forget all about calling them. With their own family they are intensely loyal. ****** In summary, find out what your dog was bred to do. Use your imagination and find ways of working with their breed characteristics, not trying to squash their talents and enthusiasm. I’m a loyal friend, good cook and enjoy writing. Whereas you may excel at sport, sing in a rock band and make you own clothes. It doesn’t mean I am a lesser person; I am just different when compared to you!