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Friday, November 16, 2012

Know the breed tendencies before adopting

Knowing stereotypical behavior can help when choosing a pet.

I love it when clients brag about their pets. I love it when they are proud of them and tell everyone in our office how great they are and what they do that makes them so great.

Dogs are supposed to make our lives more enjoyable, and most of the time, they do. If you are looking to make a four-legged addition to the family, either by adding a pet or adopting your first dog, it is wise to know what breed will make a good fit.

Two of the more popular breeds around here are the herding breeds such as German shepherds and border collies. They are bred for working long days and seem to have inexhaustible energy.

These dogs require a lot of exercise and are happiest when trained for a purpose. Whether it is herding sheep (or more likely children) or service activities, giving herding breeds a job is essential to keeping them satisfied and limiting destructive behavior. Whatever activity you choose, it is a good idea to give them multiple training exercises daily in addition to offering them food-filled puzzle toys to satisfy their need for mental activity.

Beagles and other hound dogs were bred to follow a scent and lead hunters over long distances. These dogs are known for an independent, single-minded behavior, which can be frustrating to owners if the dog is not exercised enough. Fortunately, hound dogs are extremely food-driven, so reward-based training can be highly effective. (Be careful because they also are prone to obesity.)

You can use their great sense of smell and create fun games with treats to hunt in the yard. But be aware that commands can fall on deaf ears if a hound dog picks up a smell; these breeds often get lost following a scent if not confined to a fenced area.

Terrier breeds can be tricky if not raised and socialized at a young age. Terriers were bred to chase small rodents down holes and to fight and kill them if they fought back. Regardless of size, a terrier has a typical Napoleon Complex and rarely meets another animal it doesn't think it can handle. Even though most are not instinctually animal-friendly, their natural behaviors can be redirected by training them to chase toys, not neighborhood pets.

Golden and Labrador retrievers have been the most popular breeds for a long time, likely because of their passive temperament, which blends in with almost any family lifestyle. Bred to retrieve and return prey to a hunter, they can be annoying with their constant urge to retrieve things such as socks, rocks or any stray household item you don't want them to have.

They are notorious for being destructive if left alone and if under-exercised. Fortunately, they are very easy to train in almost any activity or sport. It is a good idea to give them plenty of toys and make them easily accessible so they know where to find objects they are allowed to grab, chew and slobber up.

Guardian dogs such as Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers were bred to protect homes and the people who live with them. They are loyal, smart and have a strong sense of territory. They are patient in their watch and can be suspicious of outsiders. It is necessary to have adult supervision if friends, especially children, are visiting,

Guardian dogs make fabulous pets that will naturally protect their home and family members with their own lives. While their watchdog instincts will remain intact, socialization at a young age will make them less suspicious of outsiders.

Pounds are full of pit bull and pit bull-mixed breeds. Unfortunately, they have a mostly unwarranted reputation as an aggressive breed. Their natural jaw strength and relentless personality have made them attractive to illegal activities and despicable people who participate in them.

Pit bull breeds are naturally human-friendly, gentle dogs that make great family pets and love children. However these "bully breeds" can be dog and cat aggressive so supervision is needed when introduced to other pets.

Most of this undesirable behavior can be avoided if they are socialized early and often or raised with other pets. They are very energetic and extremely strong, so owners must be able to physically handle them during training.

There are tons of breeds and mixed breeds out there; this is just a short overview of the types of breeds, and their sterotypical personalities, that are most commonly found in local shelters.

If possible, seek some advice from a professional before adopting. There are more than 100 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club so do some research to find the breed that will fit your lifestyle.

My three dogs make my life more enjoyable. I did not choose all my pets; some of them found us. But knowing their breed and typical personality made it easier to allow them to join our family. Hopefully, you will be able to enlighten your life by giving a needy dog a family.

We can't wait to hear your stories about how great they are.

Dr. Brian Weitzman practices at Smith Mountain Lake Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 297-9188 or smlahospital@aol.com.