Did you ever give any serious thought to the specifics of the breed of dog lounging at your feet?
If you’re like most, you probably know some general facts about the breed but nothing too in depth. Hopefully, you carefully considered the breed characteristics and behavior before you made the choice to bring you poochy pal home. If you didn’t, then you have by now painfully realized the big mistake of not doing so (probably at the expense of your furniture, eardrums and/or sanity).
Dogs were originally bred for very specific purposes and the amazing thing about selective breeding is that in a only a small number of generations you can breed for almost any trait. This worked very well for us humans early on when we bred dogs to help us in all kinds of ways.
Lazy hunters who didn’t feel like chasing the birds they shot down created Labrador Retrievers, Germans wanting to scare away bad guys crafted the Doberman Pinscher, the car-less Eskimos strapped Malamutes to a sled and the ancient Chinese bred the Pekingese as a wealthy status symbol and companion (theft of a Pekingese was actually punishable by death).
All dog breeds were designed to do very specific tasks and it wasn’t until about the middle of the twentieth century that we started bringing dogs of all breeds into our families to live primarily as companion animals.
You can take the dog out of his breed environment but you can’t take the breed out of the dog
Dog’s were designed to do certain tasks and breeding works very well so we get exactly what we want. Many dog breeds were bred to do a specific job and just because you don’t need or want them to do those jobs doesn’t mean that they can just let it go. Genetics are strong and no matter how hard you try, you will never train the desire to fulfill that genetic pull out of them.
What does this all mean to you and your dog? Well, it can explain many of his bizarre behaviors and make you realize that you have to consider the breed ramifications more than you are.
Your dog’s breed is something you should understand and play to – not fight.
We all know that your dog needs exercise and you now know that he also is a slave to his breeding no matter what you do. The best way to really keep both you and Fido happy is to combine exercise and breed desires into one big happy sandwich.
What is breed specific exercise
To best enrich your little furry friend’s life (and make him much better to live with) you can try to create some tasks to satisfy his need to do the things he was bred to do. Lets look at some specific examples of how you can do this.
Scent Hounds – Beagle, Coonhound, Foxhound, pretty much any hound
These guys were bred to use their nose to catch a smell, ignore us and then yell like hell when they find it, so any games that engage their nose is perfect. “Find it” is an easy game to play both indoors and out. Put your dog into a sit/stay and hide a Kong stuffed with some stinky food (frozen to make it even better) and place it in plain site a little ways away from your dog. Then say “Find it!” and release him. He’ll run over and eat his snack (if it’s frozen it will probably take him a little while). The next time you play it you put it just out of sight, and with each time you play you make it harder and harder to find. Eventually, he’ll be searching for 10-15 minutes using his sniffer to find his snack. Fun stuff for any scent hound.
Nosework classes are also great for these types of dogs.
Terriers – any and just about every kind
All terriers were given the job of hunting small critters and will take great pleasure in pouncing on all the wildlife in your backyard. Many of these guys were supposed to dig up small critters who tunneled underground so they can be prone to digging. Since they have a strong desire to dig, why not make a place for them to dig in your yard so they leave your flower garden as is. You can designate an area that is appropriate to dig and fill it with loose dirt or sand. Then bury cool toys and treats out there and let them dig ’til their hearts content.
Working Dogs – any dog that was bred to do some kind of physical job, like Bernese Mountain Dogs and Rottweiler
These guys don’t like to be unemployed and love to feel the satisfaction of a hard days work. One the easiest things you can do with them is to walk them with a back pack. The extra weight on their back gives them something to concentrate on a helps them feel like they’re useful. It also drains a lot more energy then a regular weight-free stroll.
Herding Dogs – Border Collies, Cattle Dogs and Sheep Dogs
The herding dog breeds really thrive on mental stimulation. Those that work on farms and tend to the herd are used to learning a lot of commands at a great distance. They have a strong NEED to learn and do great in obedience classes, tricks and learning complex tasks. Teach them anything and everything. And if you want to really satisfy their itch do an agility class with them. That combination of learning and exercise is just what Darwin ordered.
Living in the suburban world
Just about every single dog breed can be found somewhere in suburbia living as a companion animal and we have to keep in mind that although they don’t have to work, they still want to. And it’s up to us to make sure we not purely focusing on our needs and wants with our dogs, but paying attention to theirs.
Being aware of what you dog has been bred to do and then allowing them to have that outlet will ensure they will be healthy and happy. So research your breed and get creative in scratching those breed itches.
What breed specific exercise do you do with your dog? Let me know in the comments below.