This weeks DAWGTALK TOPIC OF THE WEEK is all about - knowing your dog!
This is an extremely interesting and important topic of discussion that is often times overlooked, neglected or even misinterpreted by the general population of dog owners and trainers. Thus resulting in humans choosing the inappropriate canine for their family and lifestyle which in turn can result in an array of behavioral issues, a lack of understanding and a poor lifestyle for all. Knowing and understanding your dog, (personality, breed, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes etc..) is of utmost importance for a strong, solid relationship with your beloved canine companion.
Just like humans, all dogs are individuals with different unique qualities and traits, all making up who they are, or aren't! Even dogs of the same age, breed, genetic make-up and bloodline will typically have different personality traits, energy levels, strengths , weaknesses etc.. - and this is why it is super important to evaluate your lifestyle and what you're truly looking for in a canine companion as well as doing your research on specific dog breeds!
Truly knowing who your dog is will not only help you tap into their natural instincts as an animal, but will also give you a better blueprint on how to communicate, train and fulfill your dogs individual needs, thus resulting in a strong, human canine bond which , (in my opinion) should be at the top of your list of goals for you and your dog !
Dogs were originally bred to work alongside humans to perform specific jobs and tasks. That being said , almost every single breed is designed (physically and mentally) to excel in certain areas of work and ultimately all breeds crave leadership and a willingness to please humans. This is where the famous saying "Mans best friend" came about, and it couldn't be more appropriate.
Over time, the need for "working dogs" has slowly diminished to a select few that we typically see now a days - such as Police K9's , Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs. In today's day and age , Dogs are much more family pets which has it's advantages and disadvantages when bringing a new "pet" into your home. Though many of the breed standards have shifted and evolved , there are still many canines out there with working lines or close to it that desperately crave to do a job or sport.
n - a stock of animals or plants within a species having a distinctive appearance, genetic make-up and typically having been developed by deliberate selection.
How many of you actually know your dogs breed and what that breed was originally designed for ? Lets take a look ! Click HERE to search your dogs breed and read a little bit about the history of the breed, the breed standard, their general personality traits and which areas they are known for excelling !
When looking to add a new pet to your home , there are a few things to consider before choosing . How active is your lifestyle ? How many hours out of the day are you home ? Do you have kids ? Other animals? Do you live in an apartment or on 10 acres of land? Do you have visitors over regularly ? Are you looking for a hiking buddy or a snuggle buddy ? Obviously, there are many more areas to look into but these are just a few generalized areas to consider.
EXAMPLE #1: John is 25 years old, lives in Upstate New York with the Adirondack Mountains as his backyard. He gets up every morning at 6am , throws his running shoes on and hits the trail for a nice long run or hike to start his day. John works from home and only leaves the house to head out into nature (hiking, camping) or to visit friends and family at their lake-house nearby ,where he participates in swimming, boating , volleyball matches and any fun , outdoor activity. John is looking for a canine companion and he really likes the English Bulldog, he thinks they are so cute, wrinkly and entertaining and he has always wanted one (and they totally are) But , what John doesn't know is that the bulldog is extremely heat sensitive, exercise sensitive , known to have health issues directly related to heat and exercise and generally they are pretty lazy and low-key., unlike John. This breed may be very cute, but they are not meant for the extremely active , go-go lifestyle that John lives. So, What would be a better choice for John? There are many breeds that will fit Johns lifestyle but just to narrow it down, Lets take a look at the Labrador Retriever. This breed of dog is known for their higher activity level, adventurous nature, love for the water, a high drive to play, a coat of fur that is adaptable to variations in weather - and a very friendly nature . These characteristics and traits will be a better match for John's lifestyle (running, hiking, swimming, camping) because the needs of the dog will be met organically, which will create an understanding , balanced , strong relationship between John and his new pal for years to come!
EXAMPLE #2: Becky and Bill are a recently retired 60 year old couple living in a small ranch in a wonderful little neighborhood . Becky really enjoys knitting, reading and gardening. Bill enjoys short walks to the park to find a nice shady spot to read the newspaper. Becky and Bill have recently been looking for a canine companion and their dream has always been to get the infamous Golden Retriever , since they are so well known for their friendly nature and devoted personality. What Becky and Bill don't know is that Golden Retrievers will need MUCH more than a small walk to the park or an afternoon watching mom read. They are very active dogs with a history of retrieving hunted game - they will need daily physical exercise as well as a mental game or challenge (fetch, Frisbee etc..) A Golden Retriever would not thrive in a home and lifestyle such as this and in return there will be an imbalance in fulfilling the dogs specific needs thus resulting in your couch torn apart and visitors being knocked over by your 70lb out of control dog (for example). So, a better choice for this couple ? Well, Remember the lazy, low-key, goofy Bulldog from Example #1 ? Bingo ! The Bulldog is more than happy to snuggle at your feet while you read a book or knit and enjoy short walks to the park to hang under a shade tree. This would be the more appropriate choice for this family , resulting in a happy, strong relationship of fulfillment.
So, a lot of you are probably looking at your adorable, unique dog that you so generously rescued from your local animal shelter whom could possibly be a number of different breeds all blended together and thinking "hmmm which breed do I search for?!, What does my dog need or crave?!" This is where it can get a little tricky BUT you can still get to know your dog just as well as if you got him/her from a reputable breeder, and it's extremely rewarding at the same time. If you've already rescued a dog and you are having challenges in your communication process or if you are unsure your dogs needs are being fulfilled, take a step back and think a little more into things. Does your dog seem to have a natural ability to catch a Frisbee mid air ? You may have an awesome agility or sport dog partner on your hands ! Does your dog completely ignore you when outside with his/her nose constantly on the ground ? Your dog may have natural hound instincts and could make a great Search and Rescue Dog ! These are obviously very generalized topics, but my main point here is , don't entirely try to change or "fix" your dog and their problem areas without tuning in and getting to know them entirely first . So instead of becoming frustrated at your beagle for ignoring your "come" command when it's time to come inside , implement some more scent games for your dog into his/her daily routine to engage in with you to create a positive outlet for his/her natural instincts which will , simultaneously, build your relationship one day at a time , leading to clearer communication and a better foundation to tackle the problematic areas that need improving .
If you've yet to adopt a dog but are thinking about heading to your local shelter, there are a few tips and things to consider to set you up for success. Upon going to the shelter to rescue a dog, you should absolutely evaluate and take into consideration the above topics (your lifestyle, activity level, work day etc..) When you arrive at the Shelter , there will be a canine behaviorist and elevator to guide you through your meet and greet process ( most shelters) with potential adoptable dogs. It is of utmost importance to be 100% honest and to give the canine behaviorists detailed information about your lifestyle, as this will determine the dogs they bring you to meet. It is also super important not to impulsively choose the first dog you meet , or the dog that you feel so incredibly bad for because of the horrific backstory you were told about neglect and abuse , this happens far too often and many dogs end up in the wrong hands due to initial guilt and poor human emotion and judgement at the shelter. Ultimately, you may not know the dogs exact breed, but , the canine behaviorists on duty (most times) will carefully get to know each dog that comes into the shelter (energy level, temperament, health concerns, tolerance to kids, dogs, cats etc..) which will determine the overall individual personality of the dog to match you and your lifestyle !
SPORT DOG ACTIVITIES, JOBS, FUN GAMES:
After you get to know your dog, there are a vast array of hobbies, sports and fun activities to choose from for you and your dog to add into your daily or weekly routine to keep your relationship fun, engaging and to fulfill the needs of your particular dog ! Below are a few activities with links describing each individual job, task or sport. Check them out ! Remember, not every dog is cut out for specific sports and hobbies so be sure to have an experienced professional evaluate your dog to choose the correct sport or hobby that will be the best fit!
Swimming/Dock Diving: https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/dock-diving/
Bike Riding: http://www.thedogoutdoors.com/dog-biking-tips.html
Search & Rescue: http://www.sardogsus.org/
Weight Pulling: https://bullymax.com/train-dog-weight-pull/