Educate The Uneducated

There's a woman that jogs with her GSD every day by the Indiana K9 Learning Center. She puts a prong collar on her huge working dog and off they go. We had a nice visit over the fence the other day. I complimented her on her dog's manners. I stood about six feet from her when we initially met and he was relaxed and unconcerned. (And no, I didn't ask if I could pet him). That's when I find out what a mean owner she is.

Her large GSD carries a doggy style backpack with water in it and she's been told that's mean.

She stopped at a yard sale, bought some books, put them in the backpack and she was told that's mean.

She's been chastised for running her dog with her because running a dog is mean.

I'm not sure why someone would feel that a 100 pound working breed isn't capable of carrying 10 pounds of books but someone did. I'd say that person has never looked up what a GSD was bred for. It's bred for work!

I know a Canadian that has huge herds of sheep free ranging on hundreds of acres. He has two border collies that he sends out as a team to round them up and bring them in to be counted. They'd go out before the sun was up and by mid afternoon they'd have them gathered in a large pen for him. He'd do a head count, open the gate and off they'd go. Imagine the intelligence and duration those dogs have to do that seven days a week! Now take those dogs and put them in an apartment. Yowza!

How about the frustrated woman who brought her German Short Haired Pointer in for classes...AKC's website said the breed is "easy to train" so she got one. She's a white collar wife with a young son who lives in a suburban neighborhood. That breed may be easy to train for a hunter or someone that is experienced with independent, strong willed breeds but she was really struggling with him. His energy level, strong personality and tenacity is a requirement for the job he was bred to do but a typical owner will really struggle with this breed.

Can we all agree on something right here, right now? Every dog that is in a home, in a shelter, in the show ring, or anywhere else comes from someone that was breeding dogs for a purpose. It may be way back in the dog's pedigree but it's there. Hunting, fighting, chasing, pulling, retrieving, protecting, patrolling, killing...your dog laying at your feet right now has ancestors that did at least one of those tasks very, very well. Those instincts don't disappear when they walk through your front door and become your family pet.

There's a reason terriers are tough! Because you have to be a tenacious little shit to go down a hole after a rodent bigger than you knowing you're likely to get bitten.

There's a reason you can't get your beagle's nose off the ground during agility classes. Watch a youtube video of beagles in the field!

There's a reason your whippet wants to chase every squirrel in the yard. Watch a youtube video of sighthounds lure coursing!

There's a reason that cattle dogs go in low and nip anything moving. Watch a youtube video of them working cattle!

Here's the kicker...a cattle dog that goes in low and nips is probably the result of someone's responsible breeding. Same with the beagle, the whippet and the border collie. Those are desirable behaviors in each breed.

Understanding the propensity of certain behaviors in breeds and mixes will help owners understand where the behavior is coming from. It doesn't mean the dog gets a free pass for the behavior, but someone looking for an agility dog may not want to go with a bloodhound "because I just love their ears" or a herding breed "because I want a dog to lay around all weekend with."

All of us in the dog industry, including shelters and rescues, have a responsibility to the dogs we're in charge of and the people that want to add them to their family. We're responsible to educate the uneducated.

amanda hillegas