It constantly amazes me how many different types of dogs there are out there. All of the wonderful varieties of dogs we have today come from having had characteristics and traits bred to meet specific needs, goals or preferences of their human counterparts.
Some breeds were created in order to alleviate human burdens. Examples of these include:
- Rottweilers were bred to herd livestock and pull carts laden with butchered meat and other products to market.
- Border Collies and Heelers are used to herd and organize sheep.
- German Shepherds find use as police dogs, due in part to their obedience and strong bite.
- Hound dogs have a wonderful nose and loud bark, making them the ideal hunting companion.
Selective breeding has also been utilized to create traits that stand up against different weather and geographical conditions.
- The Pomeranian became popular as a toy version of the Spitz breed of dogs – historically used to pull sleds – due to Queen Victoria’s penchant for breeding smaller and smaller sized dogs. The exhibition of her small red sable Pomeranian, Windsor’s Marco, caused the smaller type Pomeranian to become immediately popular, leading breeders to select only the smaller specimens for refinement.
- Originally bred in Germany, the Standard Poodle was used by duck hunters as a water retriever. Currently, the Poodle is being blended with other breeds in order to achieve a non-shedding, hypoallergenic coat. Some examples of these are: PomaPoo, Bernadoodle, Goldendoodle and Labradoodle (and, let’s be honest, the mixed breed does make the poodle hair look much cuter).
- The Newfoundland was bred to be used on fishing boats – their size and strength giving them the power to handle rough ocean waves and powerful tides. The Newfie’s thick, oily, double-layered coat helps to keep it warm even when working in icy cold seawater. In addition, Newfoundland dogs’ famous and often heroic water retrieving capabilities are made possible due to their large webbed feet, strong muscular build, rudder-like tail, and supreme swimming ability.
- The Afghan Hound was bred for speed to take down gazelles, wild hares, jackals, marmots, deer, and even snow leopards. Afghan Hounds have a long and narrow skull to enable a wider field of vision. To survive the harsh summers and bitterly cold winters of Afghanistan, the Afghan Hound is equipped with a long silky coat perfect for all seasons. This dog also has unusually high and wide hips, perfect for quickly changing directions and traveling over rocky mountain terrain in an efficient, timely manner.
And then we have the mutt. Whether you adopted your pet from the shelter or bought a random puppy on the side of the road, your pup has a mash-up of distinct characteristics. The great thing about owning a mutt is the unique personality formed by a blend of traits and DNA entirely different than any other dog out there. Because a mutt’s DNA is an amalgam of many different family lines, there is far less chance of seeing the amount of disease and injury common in pure bred dogs.
Growing up, my family paid hundreds – nearly thousands – of dollars for purebred Springer Spaniels. Despite being bred to find and retrieve pheasants shot down by hunters, one was gun shy and the other was far too spastic to ever leave the backyard. Out of all of our hunting dogs, the best was Freckles, a Springer/Lab/Brittany mix that was a result of our Labrador getting out one night.
The most important thing to remember – regardless of breed – is to fully research what you’re getting into. If you know the characteristics affiliated with particular breeds (example: heelers may nip or bite more often than other breeds), you can train and expect accordingly. This will increase effectiveness and efficiency, making your training experience more rewarding.