Learn why your dog behaves as it does

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

Doggie Do'sBy Linda Shipman

Why study breed characteristics? A simple answer is that hard-wired genetic influences, developed over hundreds of years, will dictate your dog's behavior. Wouldn't you rather know before you bring that mixed or purebred dog home what to expect regarding size, temperament, grooming and exercise?

Herding breeds all share the amazing ability to control other animals' movement. Rarely in contact with farm animals anymore, they may transfer this instinctual talent to herding their family, especially children, into a physically closer group.

These breeds come in many sizes. They range from the diminutive Shetland sheepdog and corgi, who stand knee level or lower, to the largest herders, the Bouvier and briard, who reach mid-thigh. Mid-sized breeds in this group are the German shepherd, Australian shepherd, and border collie.

Adjectives used to describe these breeds include: intelligent, active, alert, self-confident, loyal, hardy, affectionate, easy to train and devoted to and protective of family.

All these breeds are sturdy, active dogs built to work all day in the fields. They therefore need regular, vigorous exercise.

In respect to grooming, the Australian cattle dog is known as a wash-and-wear dog. The puli, with its corded coat, old English sheepdog and bearded collie require a fair amount of grooming. The rest of the breeds in this group normally need to be brushed once or twice weekly, with an occasional bath.

Terrier breeds were originally developed to bolt or worry rodents, otter, fox and badger. Their feisty personalities are best suited to strong-willed, pro-active owners who know how to reinforce their authority, because most terriers still retain an attitude of looking for an argument.

The Airedale is the largest of the terrier breeds at 22 inches and 25 to 40 pounds, followed closely by the kerry blue, Irish and wheaten, but most of these breeds are knee height or under and weigh less than 25 pounds. The Norfolk, cairn and west Highland breeds are the smallest in the group at around 10 inches.

Terrier breeds are often described as: spirited, intelligent, affectionate, energetic, playful, self-assured, courageous, good-tempered, independent, good with children and loyal.

Short-legged terriers were bred to hunt in packs, so most do well with others in their pack. Normally, they would not start a fight, but they also should not back down from one. The long-legged terriers were bred more for guarding and often do not get along with other dogs.

Some of the terrier breeds have easy-to-care-for smooth coats. Many of the terrier breeds have crisp, wiry coats that need a special type of grooming every few months called 'stripping,' and/or a regular visit to the groomer for a pet-quality trim. All should be brushed or combed out weekly, with occasional baths.

Terriers need a moderate amount of exercise daily.

Toy breeds include small sporting, hound and terrier type dogs, which is why generalizations about temperament cannot be made for this group. They are bred to be lap dogs and entertaining companions.

Common adjectives used to describe toy breeds are: alert, loyal, affectionate, happy, playful and entertaining.

Because of their small size, they do not need a great deal of exercise, though a daily walk is recommended. Most toy breeds are 8 to 15 pounds and 8 to 15 inches tall, though the tiny Chihuahua, Maltese, Yorkie and Pomeranian usually weigh less than 6 pounds.

The longer-haired breeds need once- or twice-weekly brushings and may need ears and feet trimmed occasionally.

The non-sporting breeds are a varied group, with a collection of diverse temperaments and looks. Size, exercise and grooming depend on the individual breed. This group includes the American Eskimo dog, bichon frise, Boston terrier, bulldog, shar-pei, chow-chow, dalmatian, French bulldog, Lhasa apso, poodle and schipperke.

Remember individual dogs may vary slightly from the above descriptions. For information on any breed group and specific breeds within it, see: http://www.akc.org/breeds/recbreeds/group.cfm.

Desmond Morris' "Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of Over 1,000 Dog Breeds" is available in our libraries as a further resource.

The American Kennel Club offers a worksheet for choosing the breed best suited to your lifestyle at http://www.akc.org/love/dip/publiced/worksheet_bestbreed.pdf.

Another Web-based breed selection tool is http://www.ivillage.com/pets/tools/breedselector/.


Mark your calendars, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, the Dog Task Force will hold a public meeting in the Hickel Room at Centennial Hall. Juneau citizens can comment on the task force's final recommendations. You can see these recommendations at http://www.juneau.org/parkrec or look at a copy available at any of the three branches of the public library.

Written comments will continue to be accepted through Sept. 24. Citizens can send comments by e-mail to Parks_Rec@ci.juneau.ak.us or through its Web site at www.juneau.org/parksrec or by writing to the City and Borough of Juneau, Parks and Recreation, 155 S. Seward St., Juneau, AK 99801.

A final meeting will be scheduled for sometime in October.

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