I often wonder why breeders haven’t given much thought to breeding the ideal pet dog.
A breed of dog that doesn’t require much mental stimulation, is happy with long or short walks, and is better adapted to longer periods alone than any of our current breeds.
Because so far there isn’t a breed of dog that is able to fit this role well – at least not on purpose anyway. And as a result, there are a lot of bored dogs in homes up and down the country. And bored dogs can create a lot of mischief!
Because your dogs heritage is important to its mental well-being. The genetic information that makes them who they are, comes from generations of careful (hopefully!) breeding.
That genetic information creates certain behaviours and traits specific to the breed you’ve chosen. For example collies enjoy chasing, gun dogs like carrying things in their mouths, spaniels have a lot of energy for working all day on a shoot, guarding breeds are more wary and inclined to be suspicious of strangers. The list goes on and on.
It’s pretty amazing what is possible in breeding terms. But the problem is that very few of the original functions we bred for in these wonderful breeds, are still required in todays day and age.
To put it into human terms, imagine for a moment how hard it would be if an Olympic swimmer wasn’t able to swim regularly, a math genius had to work in a basic administrative role or a dog trainer didn’t get to work with dogs everyday – she’d get pretty grumpy, pretty quickly I can assure you 😉
So am I suggesting you go and buy a flock of sheep for your collie or get your gun licence and flat cap to work your retriever? No don’t panic, I don’t think that will be necessary
But what I would suggest to every potential owner (and some current owners too!) is to delve deep into the history and heritage of the breed they choose, and think carefully about the lifestyle that is being offered to a new puppy or adult dog. And with that research, come up with ways for your dog to diffuse some of that natural, intrinsic mental energy that is written into their DNA on a daily basis.
For dogs it isn’t about having to do their original function, but it is about respecting the fact that they have good brains that were designed to problem-solve. So as my collie dogs will tell you, they’re happy swopping sheep for agility equipment, gun dogs are happy to retrieve remote controls instead of dead birds, and terriers can put their persistence towards challenges involving toys and tugging. It’s about being inventive and channeling the brilliance that is in every dog into useful and helpful ways.