Choosing a dog is not just about looks: Dog Behaviour is inherent in the Dog Breed



In fact, centuries of breeding dictate dog behaviour. Do you want a dog that herds your cats into the corner, or would you prefer one who fetches them gently to you when required?

So you reckon you know which dog breed you want but don't know which dog behaviour to expect? Or you already have a dog and you want to get into his mind and understand him better? See this - many dog behaviour problems come from the fact that a dog is a victim of his genetic make-up. If his mum and his dad were, say, Springer Spaniels, then he is a Springer Spaniel, and no amount of training is going to turn him into a terrier or a sheepdog.


Boundless enthusiasm!



If it's a big beautiful bouncy Golden Retriever that you like the look of, then you have to look at a Golden Retriever's characteristics and general dog behaviour and decide whether this is really what you want in your home. Are you happy, for instance, to have an incurably happy dog? (That one is fairly easy unless you are of a sad, reflective nature when maybe something more angst-ridden might be what you want.)

Do you want that big wavy tail clearing all the cups off your coffee table, knocking over lamps and small children? Do you want a creature of boundless energy - whose family has been bred for generations to tramp over moors and heathland for 10 hours at a stretch?

How are you going to harness this energy? Do you want to be greeted by it at 7 in the morning? Can you give him the outdoor life that he craves? And have you ever seen the expression of bliss on the face of a Golden Retriever wallowing in a mudbath? ...have you got a garden hose?

A little research into the dog breed you fancy will pay off, even when it's a rescue dog you want to give a home to - something about his looks will give away the dog breeds in his make-up, and give you a clue to the dog behaviour you can expect.


Could you live with a herding breed?



There are those who say that because of their natural dog behaviour, Border Collies, for instance, should only go into a home where they are going to work - be it herding sheep, or the other thing that Border Collies excel at: Competitive Obedience and Agility.

The Border Collie learns so quickly that if you don't teach them things fast enough, they'll teach them to themselves - often with disastrous results (chasing cars, herding you every time the doorbell or phone ring, not allowing visitors to leave the premises ... these are just some examples of the herding gene finding its own expression in bad dog behaviour).

But teach a Border Collie the right way and you have a sparkling companion who cannot be bettered in the Obedience Ring. His behaviour is so good that he can even be used as a Guide Dog for the Blind.

Now I know plenty of Border Collies who would need to have their blind masters equipped with rollerskates to keep up with them! But once the material is there - and the dominant dog behaviour of the Border Collie is that hes very trainable - then you can work with it.

One of the great passions of the Border Collie is chasing frisbees and balls. A shepherd friend who competed at the International Sheepdog Trials told me his very best dogs had all been football-crazy!


Horses for Courses - or Breeds for Behaviour



The Whippet is a dog that could mislead the unwary. You would think that as a Whippet has been bred as a racing dog, a sighthound, it would be unreliable, perhaps distant - its lean, hard body an indication of a lean, hard soul within, leading perhaps to stubborn or self-willed dog behaviour. Oh, how wrong you would be!

Anyone who has a Whippet will assure you that they are the most affectionate, cuddly animals possible. The elegant close-coated body and those beautiful, come-hither eyes make them a most attractive dog to have in the home. As a tunnelling breed, they like to tunnel into your arms, your bed, your soul.

They will sleep for approximately 23 hours a day if allowed, and when the opportunity arises will produce a brief but awe-inspiring exhibition of speed and agility. No food is safe left anywhere - in fact this could be how they get their name: "If you leave any food out, they'll Whippet!"


It's a Lifestyle Choice ...



The dog behaviour is so much part of the dog breed, that choosing a dog becomes choosing a lifestyle. Why, they'll even respond to different toys, and choose to sleep in different styles of dog bed.

Different dog breeds in the same household will exhibit different dog behaviour, and this is one of the joys of owning - or should I say, sharing your life with - several dogs. This is advanced stuff, though: stick to one dog to start with, and never get two puppies at the same time ... but more of that in Puppy Training.

I have learnt much of what I know of dog behaviour through a) living with the beasties, and b) reading about them. There are such excellent books available on the subject of dog behaviour now. Not only do they have fascinating content, but most are a good read.

Try these:

Don't Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor, renowned clickertrainer and dolphin trainer

The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

Why does my dog ...? by John Fisher, founder of the APDT

What is My Dog Thinking? by Gwen Bailey, founder of Puppy School

The Dog's Mind by Bruce Fogle