You’ve decided to get a dog, great! But have you decided on a breed yet? Before you decide to get a breed of dog based on the look or image, you need to think about what the breed was originally bred for. For instance, can you handle a Terrier digging in your garden, or an Australian Cattle Dog chasing other animals? Here’s how to choose an appropriate breed.
Megan, a purebred Australian Cattle Dog, was taken to an animal shelter at 12 years of age because her behaviour was completely unacceptable. She was on ‘death row’ for the ‘crime’ of chasing livestock – a task that she was genetically designed to do. In the world of canines, this scenario is common. Many dogs are unfairly classified as behavioural ‘misfits’ when they reveal the qualities they were designed to carry out. Terriers who dig holes, Beagles who howl at the moon, and Retrievers who catch birds are all good examples of dogs who are condemned for displaying perfectly normal, but often unacceptable behaviour.
Prized and despised
Ironically, most of these behaviours are prized and despised by humans. A Terrier, living on a farm, who kills small animals, is highly valued while the same breed of dog, living in the city, embracing the same actions, may be branded as ‘vicious’.
The real culprit in this dilemma is probably not ignorance, but fantasy. A common reason for choosing a particular breed is not the reality of the animal’s behavioural traits, but the image it will project to others.
Most often, basing the selection of a dog based on reputation leads to problems. The regal looking Mastiff may eventually weigh in the region of 170 pounds, and splatter long tendrils of drool on the walls and sofas while casually eyeing the neighbour’s cat as his next meal. The Border Collie, without daily opportunities to chase sheep, may keep himself amused with irregular activities such as chasing shadows or nipping the heels of small children. Each animal will offer perfectly normal behaviour that represents the reality behind his image. The unprepared pet parent will be frustrated and disappointed that the dog does not live up to unrealistic expectations.
Factors to consider
Selecting a dog based on real, rather than imagined, qualities is the first step toward building a successful relationship. There are factors that every pet parent should consider, such as matching the breed of dog to your lifestyle. Think about your lifestyle objectively, considering physical aspects such as space, and emotional aspects such as how you will keep your dog mentally stimulated.
Research the type of pet you want before you buy or adopt. Speak to other pet parents and breeders. Go back to the history books and study the purpose of the breed to understand the genetic traits you may have to put up with in the future. If there is a local club or organisation for the breed you want, see if you can attend a meeting or get to know some of the members.
It’s all about awareness
Parenting a pet is all about awareness, so as a future pet parent, it is your duty to find out about the dog you are going to own. This does not mean you should put up with dangerous behaviour from your dog, but it does mean that by being aware of their breeding and personality traits, you can keep them on the straight and narrow. So next time you find your Terrier digging a hole in your garden, don’t punish him, find something else to occupy his mind, and remember it’s in his genes!