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Dogs from working lines!!

Welcoming a dog into your home is a huge decision. Looking at your lifestyle and level of knowledge is key when considering any dog. Once decided, where you then purchase or rescue that puppy or dog from is another decision that should not be taken lightly.

Sadly, there is a really big misconception that every dog can be a suitable house pet and family member and that is simply not the case.

In this article, for simplicity, I am grouping dogs into either working lines or pet lines.

I’m personally always suspicious when I hear a working breeder has carried out a mating from a pet dog. it doesn’t make sense to decrease the generations of effort that has usually gone into breeding a dog with drive and tenacity and my first thought was it just about the money?

Dogs bred for protection roles often have characteristics such as high drive and energy levels and an element of reactivity. All these factors will often make them difficult to keep as pets and many get relinquished to the police or security companies.

However, we must discuss that some dogs who were bred from working lines are unlikely to succeed in working roles and often these dogs are sold to pet homes.

These dogs though do not then instantly lose all the other drives just because they didn’t make the grade. The gun-shy spaniel may still retain a high level to flush and work, they just didn’t like gunshots which then you have to consider how you will support this dog with situations such as Fireworks night.

The Malinois who hesitated a little too often at the bite and hold still has the desire to do it, they just didn’t have enough of it to make the grade.

In my job as a Behaviourist, I am seeing a phenomenally huge increase in pet dogs being bred with dogs from working lines, and whilst not all pet x working dog breeding’s fail to be successful in a home, the owner often has to work very hard on meeting that dog needs and for some first-time dog owners, this can be too overwhelming.

Working dogs are phenomenal to watch, whether that be herding cattle, flushing out birds, pulling sleds, or guarding and protection work, to name just a few jobs our dogs do, they have been selectively bred to excel in these jobs and they do it phenomenally well, their eagerness and their intensity to fulfil a role is wonderful to watch and boy do I know this. I breed, race and show working Siberian Huskies, we compete in sled dogs races and I am lucky enough to share my life with 13 dogs.

Some of these are pet Siberians that I rescued, they came from lines that had very little drive, they are easy-going little love muffins and are happy doing all the things that pet dogs do.

My rescues will still chase prey if given the opportunity and they will still run in a harness, but the drive, the never give up attitude is not there.

However, most of my dogs are from strong working lines and they could not be more different.

I bred a litter and kept them all because I was breeding for that amazing drive and work ethic that their parents have, and boy did I get it.

Now I want to be clear, my team all live indoors and they all enjoy cuddles on the sofa, walks in fields and other things that dogs love to do, working does not have to mean outside or treat them mean to keep them keen, but I would not have a house left if being a family pet was the only job on offer to them.

You show them a harness and they go mad, they live for it, they work so hard that I have to regulate them and make sure they don’t overdo it, when the going gets tough, they get tougher.

They NEED to do that job, its ticks an internal box that makes them feel good, and without that outlet, I would see them get very frustrated and I would without doubt start to experience my dogs displaying undesirable behaviours through stress and frustration.

During the summer months when it is too hot for me to run the team we use enclosed fields 3-4 times a week, so they can free run but this still doesn't tick the box fully. Free running although amazing for them and needed is not a replacement for running in harness, it complements it but doesn't replace it,

I often hear people say, “but we love walking and being outdoors”, and that right there is issue numero uno.

Physical exhaustion is not what a working dog is all about.

I worked with a client many years ago who had a working Collie and after 4 hours of running, she was still wired and just didn’t relax. Working is not about exhaustion, far from it, it’s so much more than that. You can walk that Collie for 4 hours, but it will still chase that car and bike if its internal needs are not met. The inability to do what is natural to them starts to turn into what most people see as undesirable behaviours.

So, when you are considering a dog and you are being told that the dog comes from working lines, ask yourself this!

Do I have enough experience with this breed to consider a possibly more highly tuned version?

Does my lifestyle allow me to offer this dog more outlets (it’s hard to get up early for shoots if you are home alone with children)?

Does my health allow me to meet this dog’s needs?

Does my home suit this type of dog?

Do I have the time to give this dog more outlets for its enhanced working attitude?

Do I have the money to seek reputable Behavioural support if my dog starts to struggle mentally with life as a pet? A dog from working lines does not guarantee you a top-quality family pet, it means it’s been bred to work, and if you're not going to work it in some way, then it’s a really good idea to have breed appropriate outlet researched and ready to offer.

Owning a working dog is a Lifestyle choice and if after all, I have said you feel that is a choice you can commit to then great, you will be in awe of these amazing animals, but if not, then maybe a dog from working lines isn’t for you.

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