Saturday, June 08, 2013

Let's Talk Dog Breeds

There's no denying that every dog lover probably has a favourite breed. Many become totally devoted to a breed and stick with it their entire lives. Mr. K, for example, would never own anything but a French Bulldog for the rest of his life if he could get away with it-oh and Siberian cats too of course. I personally don't have a preference: I love each of our dogs for their particular breed characteristics as much for their unique personalities. There are also some breeds I'd love to own one day as well, but would require a lot more room. We'd never fit a Bull Mastiff comfortably in this flat or a Great Dane. I'm a sucker for the large breeds. But what sparked this ramble about dog breeds was a couple of articles I've been reading about what dog breeds are child friendly. Some of the dogs on the list didn't surprise me, but some that were left off did.
The Labrador and Golden Retriever showed up on every single list that I've seen so far. I can understand that, but it's interesting that these breeds are listed as child friendly and tend to omit the high amounts of stimulation they need and destruction they can actually cause when puppies. Most of my experience with dogs is with Labradors. I grew up with one and all of my guide dogs have been Labradors, or in the case of Nala, a Labrador cross. They are fantastic dogs, but to read about them online you'd think they were the angel dogs of the dog world. Their temperament is fantastic, but they require a lot of training and because they are a bigger dog they can cause a lot of property damage. I think first time dog owners who end up with a Lab puppy are a bit shocked when their adorable bundle of Yellow/Black/Chocolate fur chews their way through a kitchen cupboard, a deck railing or even a house door. I have had Labs in my life who have done these things, one of whom went on to be one of the best guide dogs I am honoured to know.
I think my Mom was shocked when our Yellow Lab puppy chewed his way through their newly built deck; broke through every kind of tie down they could find; ripped a tree out by the roots; ate the arm off of a chair; and made his way systematically through my Barbie and dress shoe collection. That said, once he was trained, he was probably one of the best dogs around. He used to pull me on roller blades through the house and play fetch with me for hours. So many things were destroyed because we just didn't know what we were doing and got a Lab because they were supposed to be a good family dog. He was, but if my parents didn't have the patience they did, or perhaps they knew I'd just die if they gave him away, he may have ended up one of those Labs you see going up for adoption around age 1 or 2.
I cant' speak for Roscoe's puppy raisers because I've never actually spoken to them myself, but they told Mr. K horror stories of their future Leader Dog hopeful eating a rock and breaking a tooth; chewing his way through an island in their kitchen and many other Labbie puppy antics. Jetta's puppy raisers told me of how she used to steal socks and zoom around the house so fast that no one could catch her. She also never learned recall, despite anyone's best efforts. Basically, Labs are great family dogs, but be prepared to have to do some training: they don't just show up as a great family dog and can quickly get out of control if they aren't trained properly...just like any dog really. I think that label of being "a great family dog" allows them to get away with things other breeds can't, like jumping up when puppies for example, and then things quickly snowball. I've seen plenty of Labs who have been granted a "get out of jail free" card just because they are Labs.
There is a Black Lab that we run into quite often when out walking. He's a big boy; probably bigger than Roscoe and maybe even bigger than Glacier. He's not neutered and he drags his owner everywhere. He jumps on people and has gone after Roscoe and Otis in an unhappy manner. However, most passers by, including his owner, brushes his snarling off because he "is a Labrador and a good family dog." If anyone saw a German Shepherd or a Pitbull doing that kind of thing they'd have a fit. I'm not saying don't get a Lab, but rather, get to know some Lab puppies first. Maybe puppy sit one and then decide if a Labrador is for you. They are great dogs, but they take effort; probably more than the internet makes it out to be.
The one breed that I never see on those "best dogs for kids" lists is the French Bulldog and I am completely baffled as to why not. Now, you may be thinking:
"Jess you're being biased. You have a French Bulldog."
But, honestly, I'm not. I also have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and have owned Dachshunds and a Great Dane Lab in the past and out of all of the breeds that I have experience with, I would say that French Bulldogs are probably the best breed for pretty much anyone; unless you want your dog to go jogging with you, then perhaps you should stick to the Lab or Collie. However, if you live in an apartment, in a house, if you have children or are a retired person, the French Bulldog is for you. I think part of the reason they may not be as popular as some of the other breeds is because of their price, but every penny is worth it. To be more concise, here is a list of the pros and cons of having a Frenchie so you can decide for yourself.
1. They are actually much smarter than people think and although they have a Bulldoggie disposition of being stubborn sometimes, their need to please is much stronger than that Bulldoggieness and they are easily trained.
2. They are very easy to house train. They like to be clean and so learning to do their business outside happens quickly.
3. They are the best snugglers you could ever ask for. I'm not kidding. Under the covers, over the covers, on the couch, on the floor...wherever you may be you can be guaranteed your Frenchie will be with you.
4. Not a bad bone in their body. They can technically develop "little dog syndrome" if not socialised properly, but that can happen with any dog.
5. They want to be everyone's friend. Otis must greet everyone at the park and so gentle about it. Nothing phases him. He trots up to children in strollers, on bikes or walking and introduces himself. He likes every dog, as long as they are friendly to him and will even run around with the biggest or smallest dogs at the park. He's not picky.
6. They are pretty easy to groom. A Zoom Groom brush over his coat and a light combing to make him shiny and he's ready to go. You do have to wipe out his wrinkles for him and make sure his big bat-like ears stay debris free, oh and sometimes you may have to wipe his butt with a baby wipe, but he doesn't need fancy washes/brushes/perfumes Etc.
7. They don't need a lot of exercise. This could be a pro or con, depending on your lifestyle. Two to 3 20 minute walks a day is good enough for these little guys. That said, he also joins us on our hour long walk and does fine. They can also over heat due to their noses being short, so exercise should be monitored. If they are in a home with kids, parents should supervise play to ensure the dog isn't over heating.
9. They can drown very easily. Because the dog is so top heavy and their noses so short, Frenchies can drown in even small rain puddles. So, if you have a pool and the kids are in it, supervise your Frenchie.
10. They are a playful breed who likes to clown around and can easily be re-directed if misbehaving. If the dog is chewing on something it shouldn't, handing it a toy it can have usually works.
The most important thing is though, if you decide that a French Bulldog is for you, make sure you find a reputable breeder because if you don't, everything I just wrote won't count for anything. Good breeders breed for temperament and health first and foremost. Otis's breeder is fabulous and it shows in that Otis is incredibly sweet, comical, trainable and he didn't snort or over heat as easily as other Frenchies that we've encountered. Not every breed is a perfect fit for every life situation so I guess the most important thing is to research and actually meet specimens of the breed that you want. Just reading about them isn't good enough-we've learned that the hard way. The French Bulldog might not be for your family, but I thought it was about time that the Frenchie be added to the "best breeds for your kids" list somewhere.

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