Thursday, September 10, 2009

Qualities of a True Working Dog

In today's world of small, newly bred dog breeds like the Cock- a- poo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle), Puggle (Pug and Beagle), and Peekasso (Pekingnese and Lhasa Apso), Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle), there aren't too many true working dogs. The cities are full of popular, small to medium breeds dressed in hats and sweaters, or rolled around in strollers.

True working dogs are hard to come by, but when you see one, you will know it. They are focused on the work ahead, not distracted by the world around them. Three of the breeds, easily trained in K9 police work, Seeing Eye dogs, herding, and narcotics are the German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Border Collies. The photo on the right shows a military dog in Afghanistan preparing to be lifted by helicopter.
All of these working dog breeds are highly intelligent, loyal, have social temperaments, and are easily trained. Their lives are focused upon getting the job done. These dogs are in their glory working, rather than in the show ring.

The German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever are usually chosen to work in drug or explosive searching, police work, military, disasters, and search and rescue, not to mention they are terrific family dogs. The Border Collie's specialty is herding. They are extremely intelligent, and can figure out a course of action on their own, not needing human guidance for herding.

They have strong work ethics, and can work all day without tiring. They thrive on work.
Many of the miniature breeds are fidgety and nervous. You won't find this in the working breeds. They are intense, enthusiastic and dignified, never unpredictable. German Shepherds sometimes get a bad rep. People think the shepherd is aggressive and may possibly turn on its master. This is far from the truth. The German Shepherd dog is an excellent family dog. They are protective, but extremely loyal and friendly to family members. If trained socially as a puppy, this breed makes an excellent family pet.

These large working breeds should never be trained with physically harsh methods. The training can make or break a dog. The intelligent working dogs are trying to please and enjoy learning. There is no need for negative reinforcement, or abusive methods of using prong collars or choke chains. This type of training will only lead to an aggressive or submissive dog. The working dog looks forward to training exercises, enjoying the challenge and learning at the same time.

Jon Katz, author of "A Dog Year: Twelve Months Four Dogs and Me", said in a recent interview, "It’s been quite a revelation to see the power of the working dog, especially when the owner (me) goes to some lengths to give the dog an opportunity to work. You really see why dogs and people got together thousands of years ago, and why they have such a powerful relationship. Now, it makes me a bit sad to see all these proud gorgeous working dogs who never get to work."
German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Border Collies are happiest when working. These breeds should not be left to sit in a pen, inside an apartment or chained to a tree. They need stimulating work, exercise, and the satisfaction of helping the pack: humans.