One Dog To Rule Them All?

Can one dog be everything, do everything, that all other dogs can do? Uh, no…

Labrador Retrievers make great family dogs
Labrador Retrievers make great family dogs

I encounter potential students, from time to time, who want their dog to do tasks or live a lifestyle that is not suited to that dog. Some listen, some don’t. Here are some examples.

I get emails from people who complain that their puppies, usually of some type of protection breed, are too friendly, and they want me to make their dogs “vicious”. In other words, they are expecting their 4 month old puppies to be fully trained and capable man stopping dogs. I have to explain to them, “Babies do not protect anything. If your dog is a puppy, your dog is too young to protect anything. Watch a show on animal behavior. Does the adult bear protect the cub, or does the cub protect the adult bear? Do we put 5 year old children in the military, or adult men? Puppies, like young children, have not acquired the ability to distrust strangers. It comes on naturally as they age. Ever seen a child just walk up to any person, any stranger, as if they were a friend? They grow out of this as they get older. Parents then have to protect children from strangers because kids are naive.”

I get inquiries from people who want their dogs to go against their breed types. I remember a call from a man in Scottsdale that wanted his Irish Wolfhounds to be completely and instantly obedient to his commands in any situation, at any distance. I explained to him the IW breed is not that type of dog. Check out the number of high level obedience titles of various breeds. Guess how many IW’s have gotten such titles in the past 50 years? It just doesn’t happen. He didn’t want to hear it, he curtly said his goodbye, and hung up the phone. (As a side note, there are trainers that promise they can train any dog to do anything. Beware!)

Back to protection dogs, I’ve had inquiries from people who wanted their tiny dogs to protect them. I remember a woman who had a Shih Tzu that wanted her dog to protect her from strangers. I had to explain that a 15 pound dog wasn’t capable of doing that.

The bottom line is that no dog is equally capable of doing what any other dog is capable of, any more than one person is capable of equally doing what any other person is capable of doing. A greyhound is going to run faster than a Chihuahua. A pointer is going to be a better bird hunting dog than a bloodhound. A Kelpie is going to do better in hot weather than a Bouvier. This mixed bred dog isn’t going to be the same as the next one. Even within a breed, such as German Shepherds, not every one is equally capable of becoming a police K9, and not every Golden Retriever is equally capable of becoming a guide for the blind. Old dogs can’t be expected to do things that young dogs can do. And so on. You get the point.

What I recommend is to select a dog that will best fit your lifestyle, location, and any tasks you want your dog to perform. Get to know your dog. Be realistic. You will probably end up doing something inhumane to your dog if you try to push your dog past what your dog is capable of, and you will make yourself miserable trying.

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