Know The Background And You Will Understand The Behavior
Dog breeds separate into seven types called dog Groups. The dog breeds in each group share a similar instinct or life purpose. Dogs were bred for specific abilities and tendencies, however breeding over time diluted some instinctive traits. Nevertheless, before choosing a particular dog breed, knowing the background or Group of the breed will help you understand the dog’s behavior.
According to the American Kennel Club, a breed is “a line of dogs with similar ancestry”. Many original occupational traits are genetic. We rarely require our dogs to function in their ancient jobs, but we can provide activity that recognizes their heritage or dog breed Group, and satisfies instinctive interest, thus eliminating many behavioral problems.
The Sporting dog breed Group, Pointers, Retrievers, Spaniels and Setters, hunt by sight and smell, by ground or air. Setters and Spaniels are called “couchers” because they “couch,” or creep slowly along scenting birds. These dogs helped man sustain himself by scaring birds out of hiding (flushing) and retrieving those hunted. Among Spaniels (meaning “of Spain”) are Springers and Cockers. Springers hunt by “springing” or flushing game. 600 years ago, Cockers flushed woodcock in England. 400 years ago, nets (versus guns) were used in the hunt. Setters were trained to point the birds, then crouch or “set” to the ground while the net was thrown over the quarry.
Retrievers perform by flushing out game and retrieving it. Retrievers were bred to be hearty, strong dogs that could withstand freezing water and push through heavy vegetation on the hunt.
The Sporting dog breed Group is athletic and high-energy. A game of “throw the ball” can continue for hours. The dog breeds of this Group are steady in temperament, easygoing, friendly and like children. Born with a fetching instinct, they thrive on an active lifestyle. When included, they are happy-go-lucky and accepting of life’s chaos. The Sporting dogs are patient family pets, but long hours of isolation and lack of exercise fuels anxiety.
The Toy breeds were bred as companions or pets. No firm standard makes a dog a Toy. Dogs of equal size can be in different dog breed groups. The upper size for a Toy is 12 inches to the withers. The Toy breeds were bred down from larger dogs. Often the only thing small is their size. They are genetically programmed with traits of their larger ancestors — “big guy mentality” in a small Toy package.
The Terrier dog breed Group (Latin terra meaning of the earth) was bred to hunt by digging out or entering burrows (vermin hunters), or fight other animals for sport (fighters). Terriers are spirited, spunky, and enjoy human companionship. Terriers must be confined or leashed to prevent roaming or hunting. Extensive socialization ensures a friendly attitude toward other dogs and pets.
The Working Group is the larger dog breeds, task-oriented to be haulers and guards. While large, the Working Group dog breeds can adapt to any lifestyle with ease if you maintain their schedule, train them well and exercise them sufficiently. While country living is optimal, Working dogs adapt to apartment dwelling when given daily walks. The five types in the Working dog breed Group are:
- Sled dogs (e.g. Alaskan Malamute);
- Draft dogs (e.g. Bernese Mountain dog);
- Guard dogs (e.g. Akita);
- Personal Protection dogs (e.g. Doberman Pinscher);
- Rescue/Water dogs (e.g. Saint Bernard).
The Hounds hunt by sight (coursers) such as the Afghan, or by scent (trackers) such as the Bloodhound. The coursers depend on sharp eyes and fast legs to get their game. The fastest of all dogs belong in this dog breed group. The Saluki, a courser Hound, is considered the oldest and purest of all breeds. Able to run up to 40 miles per hour, the Saluki coursed gazelle in ancient Egypt. The Hounds’ pack mentality makes them extremely suitable for family life, and independent enough to entertain themselves. Coursers must be socialized early to household pets or they may confuse them for “lunch” as they race across your floors.
The Herding dog breed Group developed during the agricultural age when herding skills were prized by sheep and cattle herders. Herding dogs must be given an outlet for their impulses or they develop obsessive, patterned behaviors. Properly trained and exercised, these dogs are deeply loyal. When neutered, the males are not prone to roaming. The Herding Group includes Sheep Herders (e.g. Border Collie), and Cattle/Sheep Driving Dogs (e.g. Australian Cattle Dog).