Is there a perfect breed?

2014-11-06 00:00

ONE of the most frequent questions put to me is: “Which breed of dog is best for me or my family?”

The answer to this question is not that easy. Different breed types have been produced over the centuries to be an asset, in some way, to the people with whom they will live. Environments differ, meaning various factors must be taken into consideration before choices are made.

For example, cold-climate dogs are not suitable for tropical conditions, and vice versa. Young children may be given a puppy when only a year old, in the belief the two different species will be close friends. Hound breeds such as bassets or Labra-

dors may be ideal, but unfortunately, due to the prevalence of crime in this country, certain breeds are chosen which may later, for example, be an issue with children, or senior citizens.

Breed compatibility is an issue raised regularly during problem behaviour consultations. Quite often I am told that initially, there was no need for a pet, but because the puppy, or adult dog was in such a poor state, an acquisition was made.

One of the sadder stories I hear occasionally is that, due to marital conflict, the decision was made to have children earlier than planned. When this did not resolve relationship issues, the next step was to bring home a puppy, or shelter dog. In such scenarios, decisions are mostly made when people are stressed, meaning choices will normally be flawed.

I tell people that in order to achieve success in human-canine relationships, they must make use of reliable sources during the information gathering period. This can be quite a challenge, especially when relying on the electronic or printed media.

Then, of course, there is the: “They said”, or, “I was told” factors, not to mention unscrupulous breeders and con artists. While conversing with puppy owners, perceptions are only based on the present age. Sometimes I have to point out two or three times in a short space of time that pets do not remain puppies. It is imperative to think ahead to the time when adulthood commences and ensure that when arriving at home we are not met by dogs that nip, jump, escape or fight. It may be that all the initial homework was done, but education was either neglected or the course presenter lacked adequate skills.

Unfortunately, impressions are created in a pet owner’s minds that puppy classes will prevent any untoward behaviour later on. It is disturbing to see how many of these ex puppy class pets are brought to me after developing unwanted behaviour patterns as early as six months of age. I explain to people critical imprinting is an aspect which is controlled by nature. To achieve this, however, it is incumbent on the pup’s owner to allow natural processes to be completed adequately. One of the most important subjects which must be addressed is that puppies know their owners to be consistent pack leaders.

Successful relationships with our dogs are not dependent on the “perfect or best breed”. Correct selection is extremely important, but there are also other issues which must be taken care of in a responsible and mature manner.

Thus breed is important, but it is one of numerous other factors we must consider in the whole equation.

Pets have to be prepared for a stable relationship and this requires knowledge. There is no quick fix button to press, for perfect results.

• Steve van Staden is a canine behaviour specialist and can be contacted via his website at Advice is only dispensed in face-to-face meetings with owners and their pets.

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