By Bev Cobley for BDWS
What is in a dog?
When choosing a puppy or a rescue it is important to understand the genetics that make up the dog, after all s/he is hopefully going to be with you a long time. One of the biggest mistakes that folk make is to go on looks only…but all pups are cute and all rescues behind those bars have a ‘take me home’ look. The more research you do on the breeds you like the look of the more you will understand what needs you will have to provide.
Dogs are grouped into ‘types’. The Kennel Club (UK) has 7 groups:
By clicking on each link you will get an idea of the different ‘flavours’ in the available pot and then if you think about crossbreeds…well I reckon you can follow where I am going with the millions of possibilities.
So why is it important?
We will start with the hound…
Lets take a dog everyone recognises…The Beagle…we like beagles they are a suitable size for the average home, they are loyal and loving, they like other dogs and children, they have an appealing ‘love me’ look, they are very very bright and good at problem solving and logical in their approach to life, they take little to no grooming, the don’t need huge amounts of food, they have a good health record with few genetic health problems if bought from a good breeder. (The most common health problems are epilepsy, allergies, cherry eyes, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia and back problems).
So ‘what’s the problem with beagles then?’
Man developed the relationship with dogs for a very specific reason…to help get food.
By repeatedly selecting desirable characteristics and traits to suit the purpose at hand, the breeder, whether the caveman, the farmer, the hounds-man etc., fixed drives and instincts within the dog to suit the individual needs and as an example these small hounds, like all dogs, eventually were refined and bred to do a job of work and that work was hunting; either for prey to put on the table or to hunt out prey that was preying on the prey; such as foxes.
So…you may ask… I don’t want to hunt with my beagle…what’s the problem?
Well you might not want to but the beagle will
They have a built in program that tells them every time they go out of the door they are going on a hunt. A hound of this type needs hours of training for a fluent recall and leash walking without pulling. Once on a scent then you wont exist (see the accompanying hunting document in the blog). They can scent a fox 5 miles away…think about this…fancy a five-mile run to get your dog back? I joke not, every beagle I have been called in to help sort out, has been a ‘bog off’ dog. If we don’t substitute this drive with something else then the dog gets bored, stir crazy etc and that means anxiety and possible destruction issues. They are a pack dog, they like company. They are very high drive and therefore are viewed by humans as ‘demanding’ and because of the hunt instinct they are called ‘stubborn and disobedient’, I prefer to use the words ‘hard to cue’ … they are hunters and hunters need to ‘communicate’ so they ‘howl’ and are generally very vocal.
So to sum up…easy to feed, groom, socialise…loyal and affectionate with good health record…but need hours of training and stimulation and preferably have company for most of the day…and can be very noisy, not good if you have non dog lovers for neighbours. The next time you see a fat beagle you will understand why…rarely gets let of the lead!!
In the next chapter we will look at one of the most popular choices of family pet and working dog…from the gundog group…the Labrador.