House Pet Disaster – Why Breed Matters!
In the last few decades to me it seems like dog knowledge in general is being lost, including why breed matters when choosing the next dog. We live in a time where it is ridiculously easy to get hands on nearly any breed anyone could want, from many different sources.
Buying from a breeder, buying from puppy mill sites that ship on demand, buying from a breed specific rescue or shelter, there is plenty of choice. While in most places it’s not quite as easy as going down to the store and picking one up, the barriers for entry are still very low.
Even cost is a non issue in certain areas. This year I have already seen county animal shelters (not locally) having such overcrowding issues that adult dogs are being sold for $50. All of this makes it easy to make an uninformed choice and later suffer the consequences.
Breed - Not Just the Physical
Breed is much more than just what a dog looks like on the outside. Dogs are not created equal and will be very different from each other depending on what breed they are. A good example of this would be if you compared a Beagle and a Labrador. Both hunting dogs, yet totally different in how they work and the tasks they are expected to do. A Beagle that acts like a Labrador would not be considered a good Beagle, and visa versa. This is just a tiny facet of why breed matters.
Before we dive to deeply into that, let’s talk a bit about why there are breeds in the first place. For a long time we have used dogs to work alongside us in various ways. Hunting, guarding, herding, vermin control, companionship, all breeds have different roles. The best hunters were bred to each other, eventually forming a breed. The best guard dogs as well, and so on, until we end up with breeds that we have today. All breeds have their origins and history.
This is very important to remember because it’s been virtually no time at all since the majority of why anyone had a dog was for working purposes of some sort. Within the last century our world has drastically changed and the roles of our dogs have changed as well, but the genetics haven’t. There simply hasn’t been enough time for them to do so.
What this means is that there often are cases where dogs are in situations that they can’t possibly thrive in because of biological needs not being met. A yard can never replace a Border Collie’s need to herd, any more than an apartment could satisfy a Belgian Malinois fully. That little Jack Russell Terrier might be awfully cute, but if they aren’t fulfilled, you’re in for a rough time where it won’t matter how cute they are.
Difficult Traits for Modern Lifestyles
The very qualities that make a breed what they are often are what make some breeds very challenging for owners. The things that make Blue Heeler a great cattle dog are exactly the kind of qualities that don’t make them great house pets. This breed is tough, hard working, and meant to not only nip the heels of cattle when necessary, but even have the courage to square off head to head with one if necessary.
Just because there are no cattle to herd and work does not mean that these dogs suddenly decide to hang up their genetics and become couch potatoes. Their genetics instead tells them to find things to do, something, anything that fills the missing void of their work. This might be window watching and barking at everything that moves outside, chasing lights/shadows, trying to bite tires, aggression and possession of items, chasing and nipping people, ball obsessions, all these and more can manifest to fill the lack that the dog will feel.
A few daily walks and access to a yard would not be enough to fulfill this kind of dog’s needs. And that can be said of many breeds. What the dog’s genetics are saying, and what the dog was bred for historically should both be respected and acknowledged. Disregarding these things are one of the top reasons for rehoming dogs right alongside of a lack of training.
Why breed matters is something that I really wish more dog owners gave deeper thought to before getting their dog. There are breeds that are great fits for any possible lifestyle. Dogs that can thrive in quiet and slow households, dogs that are great adventure companions, dogs that run on rocket fuel and thrive in a dog sports environment.
The looks of a dog don’t matter one bit if that dog can’t live in harmony with their family and be thriving. Dogs are not created equal.
Picking Your Next Dog
The first step in this process is to really think about what is important to you with your next dog. Size is an obvious consideration, and the next one should be energy requirements, then maybe coat type. That should narrow your selection enough to actually have a handful of breeds to take a closer look at.
The next step is to do diligent research into the breed’s history. Where did they come from? What kind of work were they used for? This should give you clear clues to what kind of innate and permanent qualities a dog might have that you would have to make lifestyle changes for. Breeds that are meant to be working livestock typically do not make good house pets because the level of stimulation they require often is extremely high. Without consistent and effective ways to fulfill their raison d’etre, they will suffer from behavior problems.
It is much better to deal with a little bit of dissatisfaction because a dog doesn’t look exactly the way that you wanted them to, than to go through the stress of watching behavior problems develop, have a critical event happen, and have to choose between seriously intensive training or rehoming the dog. I assure you that pain is not worth it, and I witness owners going through this situation much more often than I’d like.
There is no reason to subject yourself to that when it’s easier to pick a pup that will fit into your household smoothly and thrive in the environment you’ve provided for them. Make things easy for your future self! Consider why breed matters and take some care in choosing your next family pet.