Breeding is probably the single most determining natural factor that influences a dog’s behavior throughout his life. A dog’s breed determines his instincts and his behavior his entire life. Dog trainers are constantly bombarded with pleas from desperate owners of shepherding dogs–make him stop chasing the children! Or from golden retrievers–get him out of our pool! Or from chihuahuas–can you please teach him not to bark?! (Yes, we can teach him WHEN to bark and how to hush and how to control himself in every other instance). None of these behaviors are a surprise to trainers, and they shouldn’t surprise owners either. It is imperative that owners select companion animals based on likely behavior and energy levels. A Belgian Malinois is not going to be a suitable apartment dog any more than a shih-tsu is likely to be a good rock climbing partner. Mixed breed puppies can have some generalizations made about their likely future behaviors based on their parents, or appearance. Husky mixes can be expected to need a lot of exercise, Catahoula mixes can be expected to be fierce and determined animals, terriers can be expected to be tough and energetic.
Planning for any new family member will take time and effort. The energy required for planning for a new dog can be minimized by selecting a dog whose genetic predispositions suit your lifestyle best. If you’re uncertain, consult the internet, your vet, any trainer, a respectable breeder, a shelter manager, or a rescue operator. If you are interested in a breed, call a breed specific rescue and ask about the breed’s downsides. Breeders tend to be more optimistic about the type of dog they breed and may gloss over their faults where a rescue manager will be very straightforward about the kinds of problems the breed may experience. If you want a purebred puppy, you can then do research on which breeders are attempting to improve the breed. If you are less particular, rescues often have older puppies, mixed puppies, or well-trained adult pets who need a companion as badly as do you. Shelters have every kind of pure and mixed breed dog of every age imaginable.
No matter which breed or mix you choose, it is important to incorporate training appropriate to the age, temper, breed, and energy level of the dog you selected. If you have chosen a dog who has more energy than your lifestyle can accommodate, it may be wise to find a boarded training program that can teach him how to control his exuberance. (WITH POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AND REDIRECTION) Continuing classes in specific sports or regular boarded training with a trusted trainer can maximize your time with your dog. You both get to learn new skills and your dog will benefit from the exercise. Likewise, a calmer dog may enjoy learning a new task to practice with his high-energy owner.
If you know all of this already and you’re just reading in a desperate bid to think of something to teach your dog, here are a few ideas:
- Beginner obedience
- Advanced trick training
- Dock diving
- Lure coursing
- Competition obedience
- Advanced heelwork
- Rally obedience
- Water rescue
- Weight pulling
Dogs have been bred for centuries to please their humans. While they are infinitely happy to do what we ask, we must first teach them, through training, how to understand our communications. So if you’ve adopted, bought, or rescued your first blue heeler, don’t be surprised if he nips at your heels until he understands what he SHOULD be doing. He’s just doing what he was bred to do.