Little Dogs Vs Big Dogs
Many times I encounter people that wanted to get a dog for the first time or for the kids and decided on a small dog without actually researching the breed. Both the American Kennel Club http://www.akc.org/ and the United Kingdom Kennel club wttp://www.ukcdogs.com have web sites that allow you to look up a breed and see breed traits and temperament traits as well as breed standards. (How big they will get, how much they will weigh, exercise and grooming requirements etc.). It’s important to know what job your particular breed has been bred to do. I oftentimes am called about a Terrier or a Dachshund digging up the yard or a German Shepard not letting new people on the compound or near the family, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds that corral running kids and nip at their heels. Guess what? Those are all behaviors that reflect directly on the use of the dog in earlier times. Terriers were bred to rid a farm of vermin, so they hunt, dig and go to ground. (actually enter burrows underground to catch and kill the unwanted critters) German Shepherds and Rottweilers were guarding dogs and can be territorial. The Australian Shepherds and Border Collies were dogs that herded livestock by rounding them up and nipping at their feet to ‘steer’ them in the wanted direction. It’s hard to fight genetics, so before you choose a dog, do your research. It will help you get the correct dog for you, your family and your lifestyle.
I am going to generalize a bit here in the next few paragraphs, so please do not email me tell me that I am biased or don’t like certain types of dogs. This is just to get people thinking and researching before they commit to a dog.
Many Terriers or Terrier mixes found in the small moppy dogs here do not make good “first” dogs for the principal reason that Terriers were bred to work independently. They go to ground without a human telling them what to do, they are tenacious, physically tough and have a high tolerance for pain. Many Terriers have very little impulse control, if the thought crosses their mind, they are already in action. They are independent thinkers! Also, most things look like prey to Terriers, they never look in the mirror and see that they are small dogs. They will take on game animals and the Rottweiler next door without giving either a second thought, they can also be quite noisy. Good early warning systems, but hard to find the off button and they tend to bark whenever they encounter anything new, this can be frustrating for people new to dogs and without any training experience.
Most retrieving and gun dogs were bred for impulse control and cooperation. These dogs have been bred to hold and carry objects (retrieving birds while hunting) They will frequently meet you at the door or gate carrying something, could be a toy, stick or a shoe! They tend to love the water (maybe not the wisest choice if you are fussy about your pool or fishpond) Most hunters hunt in groups, so friendly behavior towards humans and other dogs is desirable. Guns dogs were not bred to guard, so likely your Lab or Golden will lick an intruder to death instead of biting!
Herding dogs have been selected and bred for gathering and driving traits. This is great if you have livestock to move but not so great if you have small children and their friends being herded and nipped at the heels and legs while riding bikes and running in the yard. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are likely to exhibit these behaviors. They make great companions and are extremely smart and easy to teach. They do need mental as well as physical exercise, so not great if you have little time to spend training or working with your dog or you are not able to provide adequate exercise.