What do dog breeds really say about a dog?
When people come to me about getting a dog, often they have a particular breed in mind. I ask why, and get a list of characteristics they think go with the breed, or what someone who has a dog of that breed told them, or maybe what they read about the breed.
I also have people tell me that the reason their dog has an issue is due to their breed.
So, here’s what I say: Breeds are like nationalities for people. It may mean that certain people/dogs look alike, but it doesn’t mean much, if anything, about their behavior.
People from all nationalities can have phobias, diseases, etc. that have nothing to do with what they look like or where they’re from. And dogs of every breed can be aggressive, anxious or shy.
Really the only reason to pick a breed is solely because of looks (and shedding, size, etc). There’s also a difference in skill sets. Retrievers, in general, retrieve better than ratters, and herders herd better than guard dogs. But all dogs can guard and fetch… at differing levels.
Here’s a good article with more info on how labeling dogs by breed actually hurts their ability to be adopted! Let alone it doesn’t really tell you anything about their personality.
Dogs, like people, have different skill sets. In fact, the only thing I like to use breed specific generalizations for is determining at what skills & games your dog will most likely excel.
Herding breeds will be good at focused sports and, of course, literally herding sheep & cattle. Other natural dog skills include retrieving, hunting, scent work, guard work and digging. Knowing what propensities your dog’s breed has will help you figure out what things he’ll enjoy doing most.
So, do your research on the breed(s) in your dog and see if you can’t bring out some of his ancestry by initiating games that use his special skill set.
Of course, you can teach almost any dog to fetch or run an obstacle course, so don’t stop at just his one specialty. The more he learns to do, the happier he’ll be! Just like humans, expanding our skill set is always good for a healthier, longer, more interesting life!
Thinking about a dog DNA test to determine your dog’s breed? Learn about their (lack of) accuracy here.
Need help finding the perfect dog? Click here to learn about our dog match-making service.