Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Know Your Dog: Working Group

At one time, dogs were placed in one of two categories: Sporting and Non-Sporting. But the increasing number of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club and obvious differences in purposes for which breeds were developed and used led to creation of new categories. The newest category was created in 1983 when Herding Dogs were separated from Working Dogs for show purposes.

Those breeds retained in the Working Group tend to be large to very large and very strong. Rottweillers, Great Danes, Akitas, Saint Bernards, all belong to the Working Group, not to forget Newfoundlands, the various Mastiffs, and Great Pyrenees. (Hint: As far as I'm concerned, the "Great" in Great Pyrenees refers to the size of the dog, not the altitude of the mountain range.) Boxers and Samoyeds are among the lighter weight breeds in this group.

These dogs are designed to do the heavy-duty work that humans are unable or unwilling to do. Pull a sled for miles in sub-zero temperatures? Swim through changing tides and ice-flows to rescue shipwrecked sailors? Scale the Alps pulling wagons loaded with weapons for Roman Legions? Slog through twenty-foot snow drifts to deliver brandy in cute little mini-kegs to freezing travelers? No Problemo!

These are the dogs of daring-do.

They are also enshrined in children's literature from Nana to Clifford and Carl. Who can resist a massive canine who restrains a child from running into a busy street or restores a fallen blanky or teddy to a crying baby's crib?

But. Wait. One. Minute.

Their considerable dimensions and strength alone...make many working dogs unsuitable as pets for average families.

This is a quote from The American Kennel Club's description of Working Group Breeds.
These people know and love dogs. Many of them have spent their adult years breeding, showing, and loving Working Dogs. If you have a Working Breed or are thinking about acquiring a Working Breed, read the AKC's brief, but essential, introduction to this group.

Not one of the Dogs of My Life has been a Working Dog. But I have known a few memorable Working Dogs. Some are among the sweetest, most obedient dogs I have ever met. One--yes, I mean you, Onslow--is a lazy, super-sized lap dog who would drink the brandy and expect You to pull Him on a sled.

But two totally unsocialized Working Dogs initiated one of the most traumatic scenes of my life. Their brutal attack eventually resulted in the premature death of my beloved Good Soldier, Champers.

If you are willing and able to spend hours socializing your dog; if you are willing to objectively assess your dog's temperament and provide it with quantities of supervision, exercise, and, yes, "work" to make it a companion, not a menace--a Working Breed might be the dog for you.

If not, get a Shih Tzu. Join the millions of Toy Breed owners who like to tell everyone within earshot, "He thinks he's a Big Dog."

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