We live in an on-demand world. Whether it’s food delivered to our doorstep, shopping online at any hour, scrolling through dating prospects on our phone, or getting lost in the world of TikTok videos, we have endless information at our fingertips.
TikTok is where comedy lives, recipes are distributed, and life hacks get shared. There are myriad TikTok videos on our favourite topic, dogs! Dog TikToks range from cute puppy videos to impressive tricks to people sharing whatever advice they like, regardless of how qualified they are. One need not provide any credentials to post a TikTok, so while I think that some tips serve dog owners well, others make me cringe.
Few videos stood out from the crowd until I came across a video from Method K9, a training centre in Idaho. In the video, a woman named Stephanie Vichinsky explained how untrue the old saying “It’s all in how you raise them” is. While we all can agree that early training and socialization are crucial, genetics play a monumental role in domesticated dog personality and behaviour. It’s also on her Instagram page @MethodK9, and I think that you should definitely check it out.
Watching the video got me thinking about something I often see in puppy buyers that I call the “Golden Expectation”. When puppy buyers choose a breed based primarily on their looks, they often end up with a breed that surprises and sometimes disappoints them in temperament, personality, and energy level.
Many people grew up with a quintessential family dog, such as a Golden Retriever. When they impulse choose a new breed, they still have the expectations that their new furry best friend will suit their lifestyle just like their beloved Golden Retriever did. These new owners think the same love, care, and training will result in the same wonderful experience they shared with their childhood dog, except their new Rottweiler (or any other breed) isn’t a Golden Retriever in a different costume.
I use Golden Retrievers as the example because Goldens are popular, generally easy to train, eager to learn, focused on pleasing their owners, and friendly towards strangers and other dogs. For the most part, you could replace Golden Retriever with Labrador Retriever or Standard Poodle, but I simply like the way Golden fits with Expectations.
Why the disappointment?
The great thing about purebred dogs is their diversity. We have dogs that guard, keep rats out of barns, hunt lions, detect bombs, herd livestock, you name the task; with over 400 purebred dog breeds worldwide, there’s probably a purebred dog that does it. With all these different jobs come different bodies, coats, and minds.
Let’s especially focus on the minds of different purebred dogs. My Standard Poodle and my Dandie Dinmont Terriers are all fantastic pets. However, my Poodle’s mind is different than those of my Dandies. Poodles were developed as water retrievers in Germany who worked directly with hunters. Dandies were developed along the Scottish/English border to rid property of vermin, particularly foxes and badgers. Hunters developed Poodles to listen to them, follow their cues, collect the fowl and return it to them. Dandies were developed to think for themselves and follow their gut when it came to pulling a wild, live animal out of a den, as it would be hard for a Dandie to follow instructions coming from above the ground.
Could you imagine what a disaster it would be for a Dandie Dinmont Terrier to be following their nose and chasing every critter that moves in the woods, scaring away all the birds? Or a Poodle popping out of a badger’s den, asking their owner for instructions as to what to do next while attempting to pull a very angry animal out of a hole?
As my breeds were bred to perform different types of hunting, they have different personalities. My Poodle has a very eager-to-please personality and amazing manners. Our morning routine is that I let the dogs into my backyard and then go upstairs, prepare their breakfast and let them back inside to eat. Once I open the door, the Dandies tear past me at full speed, eager to get upstairs and not so patiently wait for me to put their bowls down. My Poodle comes in, greets me at the door and then follows me upstairs. I can let my Poodle off leash anywhere, and she will follow all my instructions without fail. With the Dandies and their determined attitude, I could never be sure if they would come back to me if any sight or smell was more interesting than returning to me.
There is a wide range of dog breeds I like and have owned. Although I love my Poodle for so many reasons, I love my Dandies for just as many and have learned never to expect my Dandies to act like a Poodle or vice versa. To do so would be an insult to those who created the breeds and to those dedicated breeders who have kept the breeds consistent and true to their purpose for centuries.
Before bringing a puppy home, one must be incredibly honest with themselves. Not only with how active you are and how much grooming you are willing to commit to, but also to which personalities you can live with happily. How much do you value your personal space? If you don’t want a Velcro dog, you don’t want a breed like a Doberman Pinscher who wants to be next to you all day long (and that includes the restroom).
You might prefer a more independent dog that checks in with you periodically throughout the day but then goes off and relaxes alone like a Terrier or a sighthound. Do you want a dog that is protective of its home and family like a Chow Chow? Or would you rather a dog that is the life of the party, like a Beagle?
The best way to “try out a purebred” is to meet adults of that breed and only decide on a breed if you absolutely love the adult versions of that breed, as most puppies are fairly similar in the cuteness and personality departments. An all-breed conformation dog show is a perfect place to meet many different breeds and chat with those who know them very well.
Going back to the Golden Expectation, if you love your current breed but are curious to try out a new breed, I would suggest looking into a breed somewhat similar in personality to the one you love already. A friend of mine has owned Salukis for many years and recently acquired a Borzoi he is delighted with. Another friend owns both German Wire-haired Pointers and Spinone Italiani with great success. On the other hand, if you once owned a dog and found them tough to live with, pinpoint what exactly bothered you and start looking for a breed that doesn’t tend to have those traits.
When choosing a breed, it is imperative to research why exactly the breed was created and then consider how those traits would fit into your lifestyle. I believe it’s foolish to believe “mine will be different” as if hundreds of years of breeding will come undone because you want it to.
So, look at the breed you are interested in. Look at what they were intended to do and how that will fit into your day-to-day life. For example, an Australian Cattle Dog is incredibly smart but won’t be happy without lots of exercise and daily brain work. A Japanese Chin is extremely devoted, but if you want a dog to tireless hike with you every weekend, the breed will let you down.
Before purchasing a new dog, do tons of research. The research doesn’t mean only visiting one website where you are reading about one breeder’s experience with the breed. Visit several and be wary of both the source and the tone. Are they telling you all about the breed? Or are they trying to quickly sell you a puppy?
Breed clubs and national kennel clubs, in my experience, have provided me with non-biased information. Talk to owners, talk to breeders, handlers and trainers who know the breed. Ask them to give you the good and the bad of the breed. Even the most invested breed enthusiast will tell you a part of living with their dogs that drives them a bit crazy. And, again, connect with adult versions of the breed and make sure that is what you want living in your home for the next 12-plus years. All the love, training and care won’t change the centuries of work that was put into creating and maintaining purebred dogs, so make sure you choose wisely. Beware of “Golden Expectations”.