Breedspecific behaviors

Whether you have a designer dog — a dog of mixed origin — or a purebred, he comes with breed-specific behaviors, such as hunting or herding, among others. These behaviors, in turn, have been further refined. Some dogs hunt large game, others hunt small game, and yet others hunt birds. Some hunt close by, and others hunt far away. Some herd and guard, and others just herd; some were developed to herd cows, and others, sheep. You get the picture.

There are many different breeds of dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC), the main governing body of dogdom, recognizes 153 different breeds, but many others aren't recognized.

These breeds are divided into seven groups, largely based on behavioral similarities. Some of these breeds are fairly close cousins, whereas others are as different as night and day. (There's also a Miscellaneous Class for newly accepted breeds.)

For example, Group VII, the Herding Group, includes the Belgian Malinois, the Belgian Sheepdog, and the Belgian Tervuren, which are closely related. It also includes the two Welsh Corgis, the Cardigan, and the Pembroke, which have no resemblance to any of the other dogs in that group but in turn are related to one another. The most obvious difference between the two is that the

Cardigan has a tail, and the Pembroke's tail is docked. Appearance aside, what all the dogs in that group share in common is the instinct to herd. In addition, many of them share the instinct to guard. The German Shepherd, for example, is a member of that group.

Table 9-1 shows the various groups.

Table 9-1 American Kennel Club Dog Groups


Type of Dog

Group I

Sporting dogs — Pointers, Retrievers, Setters,

and Spaniels

Group II


Group III

Working dogs — includes sled and draft dogs,

water dogs, and guard dogs

Group IV


Group V

Toys — from Affenpinscher to Yorkshire Terrier

Group VI

Nonsporting dogs — sort of a catchall category for

those that don't fit into any of the other groups

Group VII Herding dogs — those that herd, some of which also guard

Because the dogs in a given group, with the exception of Group VI, are there because of common behavioral traits, you can get a pretty good idea of what's going to be easy for your dog and what's going to be hard. Most terriers, for example, are lively little dogs because they were bred to go after little furry things that live in holes in the ground. (See Figure 9-1.) Shetland Sheepdogs like to round up kids, because they were bred to herd. Pointers are bred to finger the game, Retrievers to bring it back, Spaniels to flush it, and so on, each one with its own special talents.

Because dogs were bred to work with or under the direction of man, these talents help with your training efforts. But sometimes the dog's instinct to do what he was bred for is what gets him into trouble today. Put another way, you may not want him hunting or herding or whatever. So some of your training efforts are spent in redirecting these behaviors. Whenever you run into a roadblock in your training, ask yourself, "Is that what this dog was bred to do?" If not, it will take him more time to learn that particular exercise, and you have to be patient.

Figure 9-1:

The Parson Russell Terrier is a small, lively dog.

Figure 9-1:

The Parson Russell Terrier is a small, lively dog.

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