When choosing a dog, there are several questions any future pet parents must ask themselves: “Do I have time in my busy schedule for daily walks?” or “Will my new dog get along with the children?” The next step usually involves looking for the type of dog you’d like to own. But how many people, when looking for a particular breed, ask why a dog was bred and what genetic traits that breed will inherit. These important questions are often neglected until the dog develops behaviour we humans would class as undesirable.
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
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.” Beagles whose howling can be heard for miles earn praise for a hunter and a criminal citation for the urban pet parent. Though simple ignorance is usually blamed for this paradox, the facts do not support that assumption. A person who buys an Alaskan Malamute invariably brags about the fact that they are used as sled dogs. This claim is usually left unfinished as their dog drags them briskly down the street like a sack of potatoes.
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. The animal is selected because of the slogans attached to it, not because of any actual knowledge of the breed. 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.
It’s all about awareness
Owning 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!