Having a Working Dog Breed as part of your Family comes with certain responsibilities.
Many admire the amazing “jobs” certain dog breeds are able to execute seemingly with ease. And how could one not?! The athletic abilities and mental capacities, especially of what are considered “working dogs”, are nothing short of impressive.
It’s not surprising that the desire to want to have one of those breeds become part of the family is something many dream of. Sadly, more often than not, quite a few of those breeds end up in shelters or are being passed from owner to owner. Why? Because those breeds are typically headstrong, very high drive and intelligent. They need to be in the right environment, receive proper guidance, the right exercise and ideally have a “job” to stay balanced and content.
A solid understanding of the specific breed and how to properly handle, communicate with and train it is crucial.
Unfortunately, a lot of times when I come across “dog gone bad” with certain breeds, it is due to rash decisions made by their humans. Often dogs are not chosen based on facts, research and careful consideration. Instead, many people are led by impulse. There may have been an unplanned “opportunity” to get or rescue a certain dog. Which is wonderful, but not of much use if it ends up being the wrong dog for the wrong home. Or it may be a breed that is currently “in fashion”. A breed that’s featured all across social media, showcasing it’s talents. That’s impressive and looks fun, so why not?! Or it’s a breed that has been a dream since childhood… Many, even though not ill-willed, bad reasons for why people end up with certain dog breeds.
However, not knowing what to expect exactly before deciding on a specific breed and the type of environment you are bringing the dog into, can lead to unwanted behaviors developing. Best case scenario, those are “just” disruptive. However, I most encounter cases of aggressive and/or destructive situations. Those are typically due to the neglect to compare owners & dog’s needs beforehand. Over time the differences can easily lead to an unhappy dog and unhappy parent. Circling back to the dog ending up in a new home or a shelter…
The bad name some breeds end up with, is sadly typically due to the wrong dog in the wrong hands, regardless of how well meant the intention. This obviously is true not just for working dogs. However, more often than not working dog breeds just naturally require more knowledge and dedication in order for it to result in a mutually fulfilling and peaceful relationship.
How much time, knowledge and money is involved in the training process and to keep your working dog active and happy is often greatly underestimated
While there are innate talents within those different breeds, it requires a lot of training and dedication to teach a dog it’s duties and to perfect them. That’s often a lot more than what people bargained for. Or what busy schedules these days allow. Not to mention, that it usually requires a somewhat significant financial investment as well.
Do your Homework!
Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not my intention to discourage anyone from looking into adding a working dog to the family. I just want to raise awareness as to how crucial it is to know exactly what you are getting yourself into and how well of a fit any certain breed may be in your specific situation and steer toward the most beneficial and desired outcome.
A few questions to consider might be the following:
- How demanding is your schedule? How much time do you have to devote to your dog? How many hours of the day would your dog be stuck at home per day?
- Do you have kids? How old are they and how would they interact? Is there anyone with special needs in your family, who should be considered?
- Do you have family that’s able and willing to be a part of the journey with your pup?
- Would you have the time and desire to spend time learning about your dog and training hands on?
- Do you have enough space to accommodate your dog’s needs?
- Are you prepared for your dog potentially requiring a more significant financial commitment (e. g. professional training, club and/or trial fees, travel expenses, veterinarian cost etc)?
- What are the breed’s known characteristics and what is the temperament?
- How well does the breed you are considering fit into the climate you live in? Huskies, for instance, and sleigh work are amazing in cold climates. Would you really want to force that breed to live in every day Florida heat? (…and don’t get me started on shaving dogs!)
- What are the general character traits and temperament of the breed you are looking into?
- What sources are you looking at to get your dog? Not taking into account the many downsides of getting dogs from stores, puppy mills and backyard breeders just in it for the money. For working dog breeds especially consider the source and how reputable it is. Lineage of your dog isn’t just about bragging rights, it’s about knowing your dog comes from healthy parents and breeders who are experts. A lot of times responsible and caring breeders will have quite a few stipulations attached to you getting & keeping one of their dogs and the price will reflect not just their dedication to what they do, but also as to how serious you are and if you are willing and able to make that investment.
- What type of options are available around you to train & “work” your dog? Specific dog clubs, professional trainers, working dog groups & organizations… What type of “work” is suitable for your breed and what would you have fun engaging in? Trust me, if you don’t like it, it won’t last long, even if your dog is having a blast… From dog sports, such as IPO (Schutzhund), French Ring Sport, Obedience, Agility, Dock Diving and the like, to actual jobs such as Hunting, Therapy, Herding or Protection. Just to name a few. New things to engage in emerge every day.
- Have you done some research and connected with people who own the breed you are considering? Nothing like first hand information and facts to base your final decision on.
I know it seems common sense to really consider all aspects of life and different breeds, before deciding what kind of four-legged member you want to add to your family. But having been in the dog training industry for over a decade, you’d be surprised at the stories and situations I’ve encountered.
In Conclusion: Having a working dog can be extremely fun and gratifying. It just needs to be a conscious and well thought-through decision.
If you’ve read this far, you are clearly someone who is considering what’s best for the dog and making that a priority. There are already way too many dogs in shelters and euthanasia a sad daily reality. We can all do our part to ensure we are not contributing negatively. Simply by making informed decisions and taking positive action. That goes for any kind of dog – rescued, pure bread, or mixed breeds.
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