I often find myself at the park or a local pet-friendly store training with my dog. Every so often a little crowd forms and when we’re done I get a lot of questions. I enjoy the questions for the most part and have no issues educating the public, but what I can’t stand to hear is “Where do I get one like her?” You see, my dog is not a great pet, heck my dog is an absolutely awful pet…but that’s not why I got her. She is a 24/7 working dog, in other words she is on and ready to work all the time. This allows her to have really flashy obedience, follow tracks all day, and excel at protection work. However this also means that if I don’t give her something to do she is going to find something on her own…and that never ends well.
Sadly in this country, and especially the midwest, it seems much more common for people to choose a dog because they like how it looks or what I hear all too often “We’ve always had one”. If you had a lab puppy when you lived on a 600 acre farm and then you try to live with one with a tiny backyard in the city you’re going to find out very quickly that it isn’t going to work out the same. Which gets me to my main point here…most people want a pet.
Most people need a good pet. That is why they got a dog in the first place and what they want for their life. For those of you that are unfamiliar there are 7 different groups in AKC. While this doesn’t encompass all of the breeds, mine included, this is a good place to start for the point I’m getting at. Among the most popular breeds in the U.S. are the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Boxer, Rottweiler, Dachshund, and Bulldog. Now, on that list, the only one of those breeds really designed to make a good pet is the Bulldog. Don’t get me wrong, even if everyone chose the right breed to suit their activity level and lifestyle there would still be those that don’t fit into their breed standard. However, what I see each and every day are people surprised their lab puppy likes to chew on things, shocked their shepherd puppy nips, and wondering why they can’t get their dachshund to stop chasing little animals.
This is where the problems creep in and where I start to get on my soap box. If you want a pet, there are tons of dogs out there that were specifically bred to be good pets. There are also tons of dogs out there specifically bred to have endless energy and drive to work all day, every day, all the time.
When people call to tell me that they just don’t understand why their working dog puppy won’t just settle down I have to admit I cringe a little. The fact that you don’t understand the basics of what your dog is genetically coded for frightens me. While it is very possibly to train these dogs and teach them rules and manners the fact of the matter is they would be much happier with a job. We can teach them not to run around like crazed animals, but they will often still have the urge to do so.
Working dogs, terriers, herding dogs, hunting dogs, all were bred to do specific tasks. While many show breeders have toned down the original versions of these dogs, many of them still have the desire to run, chase, bite, dig, growl, bark, pull, howl, etc. You cannot blame the dog for wanting to do what its instincts tell it to do.
When you go to pick out your next dog remember to compare that dog’s attributes with your lifestyle. Also remember to carefully select not only the breed, but if you are buying a puppy thoroughly screen your breeder. Just because a breeder has a nice website or has done some health screenings does not make them reputable.