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How Important To You Is Your Breed's Original Purpose?

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mita   

My breed's original purpose has become very important to me in the past 5 years or so.

I nurture their herding instinct (both driving and fetching) and continue to work to showcase our breed as the very talented herders that they are. I intend to work cattle very soon as this is where my breed really excels.

One of my Rottweilers is the highest titled Rottweiler in herding (both sheep and ducks) in Australia and is working to progress on a weekly basis. I travel 160kms each week to do so which is a huge commitment.

Also as butcher dogs Rottweilers pulled butchers carts. I now also train and compete in Weight Pull as another way to continue my breed's original purpose by developing and maintaining strength for this tasks.

I really enjoy continuing on with my breeds original purpose as closely as I am able given what is available to me nowadays and feel it is very important to me. :)

And I enjoyed your post & pics! Interesting to learn about Rottweillers & herding. A great sight to see!

I may be a Tibetan Spaniel tragic, but I love, well-bred, well-raised Rotties. This pic gets it:

post-3304-0-65368400-1448499601_thumb.jpg

Also agree strongly with HW's comment about lifestyle going with certain breeds. Exactly why we once owned working breeds, but now own tibbies.

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LisaCC   

I think it's important for breeds to retain the instincts of what they were bred for. I think we may possibly lose other characteristics we love as we lose instinct.

This is a very important point that is often lost on people who think they "just want a pet". To be quite frank, it gets lost on some people breeding for the show ring also.

Lets take Golden Retievers for example as they are so popular AS pets. In Canada, they just about top the bite statistics on kids. You could write that off as just sheer numbers (which is true) or, you could dig deeper.

People who breed dogs for hunting need a soft mouth and a fairly high level of activity. Those dogs work HARD. People who think its a great idea to breed quieter dogs as pets might choose calmer dogs. What seemed to be happening for one researcher (and I can't find it now) is that what ALSO went out the window with breeders breeding away from function was bite inhibition and what increased was resource guarding.

So does being a "retrieving breed" matter for a Golden Retrieve as a pet? Absolutely it does. You don't want it guarding food (something a hunting dog cannot do if retrieving to hand) and you do not want a hard biter. You may not think it matters when buying a family dog that your Golden Retriever comes from lines with good instincut but it actually does.

Function matters. Function determines bite threshold, bite inhibition, independence or people focus, levels of reactivity and protectiveness, and aggression to dogs and people. This is why you need to do your homework on breeds AND find a breeder who has done it on breeding to a specified breed standard informed by function.

The whole rationale for pedigree dogs is about predictability of these traits increasing the chances of getting a dog fit for function. I think sometimes that gets lost.

Labradors and Goldens were one of the examples I thought of when I wrote that actually. Where do people think that 'soft bite' comes from?

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My breed's original purpose has become very important to me in the past 5 years or so.

I nurture their herding instinct (both driving and fetching) and continue to work to showcase our breed as the very talented herders that they are. I intend to work cattle very soon as this is where my breed really excels.

One of my Rottweilers is the highest titled Rottweiler in herding (both sheep and ducks) in Australia and is working to progress on a weekly basis. I travel 160kms each week to do so which is a huge commitment.

Also as butcher dogs Rottweilers pulled butchers carts. I now also train and compete in Weight Pull as another way to continue my breed's original purpose by developing and maintaining strength for this tasks.

I really enjoy continuing on with my breeds original purpose as closely as I am able given what is available to me nowadays and feel it is very important to me. :)

And I enjoyed your post & pics! Interesting to learn about Rottweillers & herding. A great sight to see!

I may be a Tibetan Spaniel tragic, but I love, well-bred, well-raised Rotties. This pic gets it:

post-3304-0-65368400-1448499601_thumb.jpg

Also agree strongly with HW's comment about lifestyle going with certain breeds. Exactly why we once owned working breeds, but now own tibbies.

Terrific photo, Mita!! Thanks for sharing

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I have been told Retrieving instinct is an essential criteria for assessing service dogs as puppies.

I've also been told retrievers should never be encouraged to tug (if you want to do trials etc) and I suppose I do work against the "soft mouth" instinct because I tug with my dog at agility and play tugging games at home (she loves it).

She hasn't had any problems with hard mouth at retrieving training but we only use dummies and on occasion she might jump up and grab it once we have finished training and tried to tug. She certainly lives to carry her soft toys around the house and is very gentle with them.

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I have been told Retrieving instinct is an essential criteria for assessing service dogs as puppies.

I've also been told retrievers should never be encouraged to tug (if you want to do trials etc) and I suppose I do work against the "soft mouth" instinct because I tug with my dog at agility and play tugging games at home (she loves it).

She hasn't had any problems with hard mouth at retrieving training but we only use dummies and on occasion she might jump up and grab it once we have finished training and tried to tug. She certainly lives to carry her soft toys around the house and is very gentle with them.

Both my Springers tug and they've both got beautifully soft mouths (Em on game). I was a bit worried when I started tugging with Em but decided I would embrace it wholeheartedly with Ginny - in fact I'm back chaining a delivery to hand at the moment and using tug as a balance break. What it does for her confidence and understanding is amazing. I understand the service puppies need to have a retrieve instinct but somewhere along the way you need to dampen the birdiness.

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As a Whippet owner, function fully informs the shape of the dog.

So if you want to test form, it seems logical to test function. Coursing to me is a test of drive, athleticism and soundness. I've got a natural and talented courser and I love watching him do it.

Some of the most common faults in my breed would impede ability to course but I expect that many dogs won't get the chance. Shame really but probably not in the interests of the dogs I suppose.

ETA: The other thing about coursing is watching the pure joy in dogs fulfilling their natural instinct. I love that.

Pretty much sums it up for me too.

My Whippets have been tested in the field over the years and all have a high level of prey drive and conformation that has enabled them to perform as they were bred to do.

Recently mine have taken up coursing. Sadly for my old bitch I don't think she will see a title due to the number of years it will take and she's already a veteran. My young dog looks to be a natural, he courses a couple of meters off the drag and is anticipating the next move.

Hopefully in the new year we will breed our first litter of coursing Whippets. If they inherit their parents drive and conformation they should be interesting to watch.

Lure coursing isn't a sport where you can drag a dog off the lounge or under prepare a dog and expect it to perform. They need to be fit, athletic, have the drive , spatial awareness and of course the natural ability.

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GIven that I don't have a gun, and don't hunt, the official 'gundog' and 'retriever' categories don't matter much at all. Or if you wish to push it back further, the proto-Labradors, the St John's dogs, were bred for multipurpose work, but especially catching fish that had escaped from a barbless hook line in very cold ocean waters. This matters to perhaps 0.001% of Labrador owners. I have owned Labs who didn't retrieve and didn't much like water . . . something of a surprise but not a major concern.

As I understand the breed's evolution, easy rapport with people (gentleman's companion to the landed gentry of late 19th century/early20th century UK), good with other dogs, and capable of learning are extremely important . . . and essential in permitting the Lab to become the preferred guide dog/assistance dog, and a valuable breed for police work where attack/threat attributes are not desired...not to mention the most popular breed in the English speaking world (and quite popular elsewhere).

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corvus   

To me, it's a compromise a lot of the time. I like a lot of traits about vallhunds, for example, but I could live without the default to driving, and have indeed committed a lot of time and effort to bringing this under as much control as possible - i.e. just DON'T DO IT, buddy. It's threatening and there are few contexts where it is appropriate for him to embrace this behaviour. I have been reasonably successful, but I think it has taken a toll on him in terms of internal conflict, and in future I will be more careful about how I do this kind of thing. I would have another vall in a heartbeat, but I'd rather one that doesn't have powerful driving instincts. It's a bit of a liability.

Dog #3 is on the way for us, and it was absolutely an exercise in compromise. Turns out there are no little herding breeds in Australia that could make good little endurance runners without adding significantly to my grooming commitments. What's more, anything like that coming up in rescue vanishes overnight. So, we are getting a hunting dog, despite me being really not cool with critter killing. The way I see it, it was a necessary compromise.

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mita   

Turns out there are no little herding breeds in Australia that could make good little endurance runners without adding significantly to my grooming commitments. What's more, anything like that coming up in rescue vanishes overnight.

Corvus, would a carefully selected sheltie that you keep clipped fit your bill?

We once had a sheltie boy, Danny, who came via the breed rescue & he was a mighty little dog. The breeder's told us that he was the 'old fashioned' type & looked slightly less like the fairy, miniature collie. But almost a bit like your vallhunds (Viking influence on the Shetland Islands perhaps?). Danny had great herding instincts ... he was forever trying to practise with our cats. He was a sturdy, fit little fellow. Because he developed a severe skin allergy, the vet told us to keep him clipped ... & he looked handsome, too.

Don't know how much we can trust Wikipedia.... but I just found this. Sure could see that kind of influence in Danny:

The original sheepdog of Shetland was a Spitz-type dog, probably similar to the modern Icelandic Sheepdog. This dog was crossed with mainland working collies brought to the islands,[6]

Edited by mita

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raineth   

I absolutely agree that most of the time we have to be mindful that the instincts bred for in our dogs that enable them to fulfill their original purposes are likely very important. Getting rid of them could mean you end up with problems for sure.

However when it comes to Danes... Well they were bred for hunting boar. Obviously I don't mean the kind of hunting that gun dogs do, but tracking, chasing down and holding large game animals. They have not been used for this for a very long time, and I don't think anyone has actually got a Great Dane with the purpose of hunting wild boar with them for goodness knows how long. These days they really are solely acquired for the purpose of companionship. Many now have very little hunting instinct left yet still make wonderful companions. In fact I know one breeder who would actively select against strong hunting instincts.

So actually I think it could be beneficial for this breed to evolve and breeders to actively select for traits that make these giant dogs good companions, rather than traits that make them good hunters of large game.

I have certainly trained quite a few behaviours that actively go against my Dane's natural instinct to hunt. She would be very unmanageable if I didn't.

I do let her do lots of sniffing and we play some scenting games, and soon we will be going to a nose-works workshop.

But we also practice obedience and rally-o and that certainly isn't consistent with her breed's original function.

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angelsun   

Very important as I don't want my breed to end up a mockery of what it should be. My line knows how to hunt and kill rodents and snakes and such and does it with amazing skill and speed and accuracy. They work as a team if there is more than one out hunting and I will never discourage them from doing this. We are seeing nice results in things like nose work and barn trials because there are some of us that keep the old instincts alive instead of worrying soley about conformation ribbons. My dogs are structurally correct, that's why they can work. My dogs work because they are physically and mentally able and correct to do so.

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For me the original purpose itself (herding sheep) is really not that relevant. I can't spend the time to develop my dogs' herding instincts so really they aren't relevant.

What is relevant to me though is the drive and desire that working dogs have, so is the ability to work with their handler. So I guess they are incredibly important.

That said, most border collie owners I know would be so totally out of their depth with a full on working dog that it would be criminal to give them one. I think that for the most part the compromise between a dog bred for show with sound structure, a nice temperament and some degree of work a really good thing.

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corvus   

Turns out there are no little herding breeds in Australia that could make good little endurance runners without adding significantly to my grooming commitments. What's more, anything like that coming up in rescue vanishes overnight.

Corvus, would a carefully selected sheltie that you keep clipped fit your bill?

Not a chance in hell. :)

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Think toy poodles were meant to be a lap/companion dog otherwise they wouldn't have bred the size down.

However they are generally very active little dogs & not generally couch potatoes. They will chase birds & react to wildlife.

The biggest problem with them being lap/companion dogs is people letting them get overweight. They do like exercise, can walk a long way with those little legs & run like the wind. Not recommended for agility though.

So temperament, being affectionate, good natured & loving people is the main purpose for them I guess.

Hi Christina, why are toy poodles not recommended for agility? I only ask because I'm researching breeds.

My boy is a whippet and I guess I'm not really qualified to answer because I didn't choose him for myself and I'm still getting to know the breed. :) I love this kind of discussion though - breed histories and functions. Sorry to go OT and not to add more to the discussion.

Some do agility with them & are very successful. They are a lively dog that can usually jump very well but

It is a breed with a high incidence of luxating patella so even if your particular dog has not got it I still consider it a risk to cause it, although any dog can injure its leg anyway.

The other reason is the small size. Tiny bones are harder to mend & repair than larger bones & they are a tiny dog. I discourage jumping & don't allow pups to jump on the lounge until they are 6 months old at least.

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Tapua   

For me drive & ability are selectively bred into a line or out of a line. I went through our kennels about 3 years ago and re-homed the bitches that had low or no retrieval and low drive ( the energy and focus they put into the retrieval ) While drive can vary in litters depending on how much stimulation they get I find breeding Labs with low retrieval or drive pointless. The majority of my dogs go to service, hunting or military homes - I am VERY selective on the people who get our Labs as companions dogs. The higher the drive the less suited they are as an ordinary backyard companion dog

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For me drive & ability are selectively bred into a line or out of a line. I went through our kennels about 3 years ago and re-homed the bitches that had low or no retrieval and low drive ( the energy and focus they put into the retrieval ) While drive can vary in litters depending on how much stimulation they get I find breeding Labs with low retrieval or drive pointless. The majority of my dogs go to service, hunting or military homes - I am VERY selective on the people who get our Labs as companions dogs. The higher the drive the less suited they are as an ordinary backyard companion dog

Which is why I was sold on Ernie when I found most of his line are either pretty or service dogs. We owned a Springer with incredible focus and drive when I was a teen and I knew I didn't have the energy for a working Labrador. :D

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I believe that remembering what they were bred to do and why breeds have certain characteristics , drive and temperament (according to their breed standards) is very important.

Retrieving instinct and a soft mouth in a Gundog I believe contributes to them being great pets.

Being bold , fearless and totally reliable as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, makes them steady and dependable around children. Start messing with that and watering it down and I believe it's a recipe for trouble.

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Lablover   

This is a subject that has been on my mind for a while for a variety of reasons.

How important to you is your breed's original purpose? Have you researched it? For those for whom there are specific dog sports (eg, retrieving and field trials for gundogs, earthdog for terriers) - have you tried your dog out in these sports?

Finally, have you ever tried to train your dog to work against his or her breed's original function, and what were your reasons?

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Lablover   

Are you asking as a breeder or buyer, and what type of buyer.......pet or various field applications, hunting home, retrieving trail home, police sniffer dog etc.

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As a pet owner this changes for me depending on the breed or type of dog. We have as staffy that we picked for his soft temperament. We wanted his breeds dependability with people, but didn't want dog aggression. He is very good with dogs, very gentle with the kids etc. he has been great :) We trained and socialised him with that in mind. We did research his breeds history, and are aware gameness is an important part of his make up, he does enjoy chasing a ball and diving under stuff :)

Our toy breeds are companion dogs and we encourage that because it makes for nice inside dogs :)

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