That’s the fun part really; I like it anyway. Which is why I’ve considered all of Dogdom and may continue to try different breeds, which is ultimately the only way to know them. I do believe it’s important to be clear about what one wants and doesn’t want in a dog however; and not to kid yourself about the basic nature of a breed. Often the tendency is to underestimate the heritable, the innate instincts of a given breed, and over estimate the influence the rearing will have.
“ It’s all in how you raise em”
Mmm……Not so much. I’m here to tell you there is no point in fighting up hill battles. Dogs at the end of the day are much simpler, more instinctively bound creatures than people want to believe. ( A denial projected perhaps ?) Not to say that nurture cannot hold significant sway, in dogs, or elsewhere. But there is little to be gained in fighting Mother Nature, and much to benefit in putting her wind at your back.
Take a hard look at what a breed was originally created to do. They tend to fall into fairly basic categories; hunt, guard, herd; very basic themes. The subtleties also are important to consider. For example, a dog bred to stretch a hog or fight it to the death trying and a dog bred to follow a scent, point, and retrieve a bird with a soft mouth are very different beasts- hunters though they may both be.
Another thing to consider is that breeder’s priorities and standards vary wildly. There is not a breed in the world in which all examples are the same; there are different lines, and even within those, temperaments from any given litter can vary dramatically. All breeds contain a few stars, and many more losers.
Generalizations are just that, but here a stunning one we can make with certainty.
There is not an AKC recognized breed that has not been physically and temperamentally compromised as a whole for the work it was intended. In fact most breeds in the AKC if they have been bred for anything, have likely been bred in deference to the show rings misguided notions, or a pet market that does not need or even want the instincts that originally defined the breed.
In an effort to provide a more useful way to define a breed, I’ve come up with my own system composed of a series of characteristics and a numeric score from one to ten, by which various breeds can be more easily compared one to another. All the breeds I work with have been rated; you can click on the links below to see those. And as we add new breeds we will evaluate them by the same metric.
Boerboels 1 to 10
Dogos 1 to 10
Danes 1 to 10
Kangals 1 to 10
What follows is a list of the ten characteristics I’ve chosen and a brief definition of the terms.
Temperament: The basic nature of a dog in the broadest strokes; as such we can forget about numbers and write poetry, have a little fun with it.
Intelligence: Difficult to quantify even in dogs; there have been studies done, but they are much debated. It’s difficult to structure a test that separates “intelligence” from temperamental sensibilities like “biddability” or “independence,“ Turns out, even in dogs, intelligence is a tricky matter.
Biddability: Often confused with intelligence, this is the genetic desire to please the owner, obey, etc. A biddable dog is programmed to be tuned to it’s human person, and want to please it, a devoted solider, a yes dog. It makes a dog trainable, but it's not necessarily "intelligence" so much as obedience.
Independence: The genetic tendency to think independently and behave accordingly, for all practical terms the opposite of bid-able….and generally associated with disobedient. Many folks invested in breeds that tend to be that way, livestock guardians for example, will argue that they were selectively “bred” for independence because they had to think for themselves.
Perhaps… I would argue that independent is the nature of the wolf and as such the default setting of any “breed” or group of dogs which has not been bred otherwise. I.E. it is not “natural” for any creature to put your interests ahead of its own. So we might just as easily call “independent” the default canine setting. Street dogs the world over think for themselves.
Gravity: The degree or tendency of a dog/breed to stay near its owner. A trait that often correlates with bid-ability
Roaming: The tendency to wander/explore alone. The opposite of gravity, a trait that tends to correlate with independence.
Prey drive: The instinct to hunt/kill other animals
Dog aggression: The instinct to fight dogs specifically, and not necessarily the same thing as prey-drive.
Human aggression: Suspicion of strangers, and/or inclination to defend persons and property. Ultimately the willingness to stand up to man.
Drive: the need to do something, energy level, focus.
It’s also worth mentioning that there exists a sort of one-up-manship amongst breeders, particularly where the breed in question may be formidable I.E.
“ Not for everyone”.
Often times breeders make a big show of stating all the dangers, pit falls, reasons you should not own these breeds…. on their web sites, where their peers can read it. So as they certainly can claim the moral high ground many “responsible” breeders seem to vie for. They are not just selling puppies, nooooo. Whether they actually let any of that rhetoric slow their hands reaching for the cash is another matter entirely, and beside the point anyway. Just know that the truth of a breed is often shaded one way or another for various reasons, by various persons, at various times.
The breed descriptions themselves do tend to shine, usually cause they’re written by people selling. But if you’ve ever read a bunch one after the next you will see they start to sound…. very much alike. Which is perhaps reasonable, because at the end of the day, they are all…….dawgs. And people in dogs do tend to make more of the differences than those not likewise obsessed.
“ naturally protective”
when one could also fairly describe them as the most man aggressive dogs in the world…..but one never reads that.
The spin on any given breed is a reality unto itself. But it’s particularly heavy on the rare breeds, where the lack of first hand experience, lends it more plausibility. There are good books out there about the basic differences in dog breeds, and the canine family tree ( love some references for the link page here ) you can get the basics anywhere. You can get the romantic, poetic, possibly fictional stuff from other web sites. Therefore I find it more useful to try and tell people what they might not otherwise hear about a given breed. When you have done your reading and you’re all fired up about your breed of choice, call me. I’ll tell ya what they don’t, even if I’m selling em.
Perhaps the most important thing is to be honest about what you’re looking for in a dog. Whether it’s a guardian, something you need to do a job, or a companion. Whether it’s a lawn ornament, conversation starter, chick magnet, or some combination there in. Whether it’s a matter of such profound personal significance that one couldn’t find the words. Or whether it’s something you never gave much thought to. Ultimately it’s nobody's business but yours, so there should be no need to kid yourself….right ?
The question is what do you need from your breed?
What do you want from your breed?
What don’t you want from your breed?
What are you willing to sacrifice to have a given breed?
And might you not be better off with a mix more suited to your specific wants and needs ?
If your needs are not that specialized ( most people’s really are not ) and a healthy dog is high on your “want” list, you may do well to consider a cross. Countless people shell out big money every day for “purebred” dogs that are more likely to be disasters in terms of health, and vet bills, than a mixed breed, or even a mutt.
The statistics are in within the scientific community, and they don’t bode well for an extremely high percentage of purebred dogs. Most people, regardless of what breed they ultimately select, get emotionally attached. If the dog develops problems they often feel compelled to donate to their veterinarian’s children’s college funds sums that could have replaced the dogs several times over. Just one of many things for the tenderhearted to keep in mind when considering the options.