Hounds 'n' Harmony
Which Dog Should I Chose?
With so many different dog breeds to choose from, I often get asked the question “which dog should I choose”? This is sometimes followed by, I want one that is easy to train, won’t have any behaviour issues and one that the kids can play with. This is when I diplomatically point out that a dog is not a toy. At their very core they are an apex predator that will defend themselves if necessary, or if they believe it is their role to do so - but that’s a blog for another day.
The truth is, just like babies, all dogs are born pure and behaviour problem free, it’s the environment they live in and the interactions and signals from their owners that create the issues, albeit completely unintentional from the owner’s perspective. This is because we tend to forget that a dog is a completely different species to us, with their own unique language. We take a dog into our home, and we treat it like we would a child. We give it lots of love and attention and find it highly amusing when the dog starts telling us what to do, i.e., barking for its dinner, fetching its lead when it wants to go for a walk, pushing up against us when it wants some fuss, and what do we do? We tend to do what the dog asks, because we think it’s cute, or we are impressed by how clever the dog is, but this is what creates the behaviour problems.
Which breed should I avoid? Another thing I hear a lot of, is people attaching certain behaviours to certain breeds, saying it’s typical of ‘that breed’ to guard, or to have separation anxiety etc, but the truth is, IT’S NOT!! Whilst it’s true that some breeds need more exercise, stimulation, or have a higher prey drive than others, when it comes to excessive barking, guarding, separation anxiety, aggression, selective recall etc., these are not traits of a certain breed, these are behaviour problems that the owner has inadvertently created. Think about this for a moment: a puppy, regardless of its breed, comes to us knowing nothing more than the love and safety of its mother and the play and rivalry of its siblings. It is our responsibility as its new guardian to teach it rules, boundaries and how to behaviour in certain situations – just like we do we our children, and if we get in wrong, this is when undesirable behaviours start to develop. If you're thinking of getting a dog, firstly consider the following?
Time – Have you got the time? A puppy needs your full focus, especially in the first 3 months of settling in. Just like having a toddler, you must prepare to put your ‘normal’ life aside and concentrate on amalgamating the dog into your family.
Adjustments – You can no longer be spontaneous, you have to plan your outings and trips away, ensuring that you have someone to look after your dog - which can also be rather costly. Don’t think you can always rely on family either, whilst everyone is eager to help out when they are looking after a cute puppy, this soon changes as the dog gets older, and their behaviour starts to change. N.B. If you are booking your time away, you should book their care at the same time as places go very quickly!
Toilet Training – Puppies have lots of mishaps in the house to begin with, so are you ready for all the cleaning up? Toilet training involves standing around outside (often for long periods) until they have done their business and you can reward them. This can be multiple times a day.
Teething - Be prepared to have your skirtings and chair legs chewed, your shoes or socks stolen, and possibly other valuables destroyed. Even with a plethora of dog toys, they will always find something else to chew.
Training - Puppies need rules and boundaries. Basic training is key and puppy training classes provide a good start; however, this takes commitment and a lot of perseverance and patience.
Should I re-home a dog? Even if it is claimed to be ‘well behaved’, or even professionally trained, that does not mean the dog will stay that way, or even listen to you when you try to command him/her. It is, after all, in the delivery, the poise, and the signals of the one doing the commanding. Dog trainers are professionals for a reason.
Do you want a pet or a show/working dog? What sort of lifestyle do you have? For example, if you’re super active and want a dog that you can take running with you, then something like a bulldog wouldn’t be a suitable choice. Equally, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle then something like a Collie would not be a good choice either.
Should I get a rescue dog? Many people opt for a rescue dog, which is commendable, however we tend to get hung up on the dog’s past, imagining the suffering that the poor dog must have gone through and thinking it just needs a loving home and lots of attention. However, we actually need to focus on the dog’s future and what type of home/owner is best for the dog. Around 20% of rescue dogs are returned due to behavioural problems and some have deep routed behaviour issues that require an experienced owner, or one that is willing to work through these issues with the dog, which can take months of hard work, patience, and perseverance. Sometimes ‘love’, is simply not enough.
I fundamentally believe that any dog, regardless of its training or past experiences, has the potential (in the right home) to be an amazing companion. However, the match between owner and dog is incredibly important, so do think carefully before you commit.
If you have considered all of the above and believe that you have what it takes, then go for it, as you are about to embark on one on the most rewarding relationships you will ever have!
If you wish to know more about canine behaviour, please click on the following link: https://www.houndsnharmony.co.uk/canine-behaviour