Bernese Mountain Dog
Affectionate, strong, intelligent—these are just a few words commonly used to describe the loving and playful Bernese Mountain Dog.
But did you know they have one of the shortest…
From the original wolf in nature, humankind has managed to create a bewildering variety of dog breeds. There is one for every purpose, every taste (and several in between).
There are some that are iconic (Snoopy? Spuds MacKenzie?), some that are irreplaceable in human service (German Shepherd), and many that are so weird (Chinese Crested, definitely) one wonders why anybody breeds them at all.
Are dogs the most popular pet in the world?
Are they the most numerous? (Most surveys just count the number of households that have a pet, not the actual number of pets.)
But once you have decided a dog is your pet/working animal of choice (many people these days keep crickets...there’s a thought!) how on Earth do you decide which one?
Great Dane or Chihuahua?
And why a purebred dog and not a crossbreed dog (mutt)?
A dog "breed" is a type of dog that, when crossed with another individual of the same type, will always produce that exact type. Hence the better description is "purebred" dog.
The term dog "type" is often used to indicate the ideal characteristics of a specific breed. It is used to draw up the "breed standard" against which a dog is measured.
For perfection. Or so it seems when you go to the dog shows!
In zoology, the "type specimen" indicates the original individual that was used to describe that specific animal and give it a Genus and Species name.
Dog "type" is more or less the same concept to describe the different breeds: it’s what tells you why a bulldog is an "English Bulldog" and not a "French Bulldog".
Dogs of different types that are crossed to produce a dog that is a mix of the two types and is called a "mixed breed".
Mutts are dogs that are the product of many, often unknown, breed crossings.
And no, two mutt mates that produce a litter of mutties (ok, I know there is no such word, but what else do you call a mutt puppy?) does not mean that the mutt litter is "purebred".
Is a purebred dog also inbred?
Not necessarily but often.
If you take "inbred" as meaning an individual that is the result of breeding sister and brother, or mother and son, or father and daughter, then yes, many dog breeds started with the practice of inbreeding.
If the inbreeding is recent, the degree of shared genes (a concept called identity-by-descent) can be measured. This uses sophisticated genetic methods called genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data.
In short, it can tell you whether the dog has been inbred to such a degree that it is likely to suffer from the typical problems associated with inbreeding like propensity for genetic abnormalities and the susceptibility to inherited diseases.
Dog breeds come in all sizes - so bred by humans of course, not naturally.
From really small (fits in a teacup) to really large (looks at you, level in the face).
Generally, a teacup dog is defined by size and weight:
*By adulthood (12 months old), a dog is regarded as a teacup dog if it weighs no more than 4 lbs and is less than 17 inches in height.
*These measurements have not been standardized in any official way since they are not officially recognized.
Teacup dogs are therefore not any specific breed but in fact the product of breeders who cross the smallest of every litter of very small dogs with the smallest of other litters of very small dogs. Until the dog is so small it fits into a teacup.
The attendant medical problems of this practice are numerous and most veterinary associations are against the breeding of teacup dogs.
The toy/teacup boundary is fuzzy because teacups have no official recognition.
Toy dog breeds are generally bigger in size than teacup dogs and are described as small companion dogs or lap dogs.
The actual parameters of small dog breeds are difficult to find, but generally:
Adults toy dog breeds are of a weight less than 22 lbs and/or are shorter than 16 inches.
It seems that any dog that is smaller than the "traditional" specimens in that breed ends up in the Toy Dog category.
Toy dog breed examples are Spaniels and Poodles.
And then there are miniature dogs.
The AKC does not have a miniature group but they have several breeds registered as miniature something or other.
At the last count, there is the Miniature American Shepherd, the Miniature Schnauzer, the Miniature Pinscher, the Miniature Bull Terrier, and the Miniature Poodle.
However, there are other small breeds that the AKC classifies as miniature:
What is a small dog breed?
The AKC does not have a special "Small" Group, after all.
..but you can look up the breeds by size, and one of the categories is "small" (whatever that means, no parameters are given).
Then you get a nearly 60 small dog breeds list that includes all the breeds mentioned above and then some.
Dog food manufacturers don’t make things so complicated!
The labels on most dog foods say a small dog is between 10 and 20 lbs. Easy-peasy.
What is a medium size dog?
Hah, the no-nonsense dog food label says they weigh between 30 and 50 lbs.
Or it could be 40 to 60 lbs if you have a look at some dog feeding charts.
Or if you want to get a bed for your dog a medium dog can be anything from 8.8 lbs (4 kg) to 49.6 lbs (22.5 kg).
Clearly, or perhaps not so clearly, medium dogs fall somewhere within a quite wide range of sizes.
Again, the AKC is pretty vague about the measurements (weight, height) that qualify a dog as a medium breed. The “medium” search turns up almost 100 breeds on the AKC website.
How do you want your eggs?
How do you want your steak?
How do you want your dog?
Surely it should be clear what a large breed dog is?!
It’s the one you do not argue with.
No, wait...I know some Dachshunds that you definitely do NOT argue with. Not if you value your ankles.
Dog breeders generally define large dogs as having weight of at least 50 lbs and a height of at least 24 inches.
Think Afghan Hound (yes they only look dainty), BullMastiff, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Great Dane (of course) and even Labrador Retriever.
Now we’re talking serious size. These monsters are at least 90 lbs heavy.
Great Danes regularly achieve Giant status, as do Neapolitan Mastiffs and other Mastiffs.
The heaviest dog on record was an Old English Mastiff who weighed 343 lbs in 1989.
His name was Zorba and in addition to being the heaviest, he was also the longest (nose to tail) at 8 ft and 3 inches.
The tallest dog ever was a Great Dane named Zeus who stood 44 inches tall.
Zeus has since crossed the rainbow bridge (at only 5 years old), but his record has not been surpassed according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Dog coats are made of hair.
Fur is just a kind of hair.
All mammals have hair, even if it is just while still in the womb. But as with humans, dogs can definitely have different kinds of hair. In other words: coats.
Even hairless dogs have a type of "coat".
Ok, but why do coat types matter?
Because different coats require different kinds of grooming and it can get to be a fairly time-consuming job, so choose carefully.
All dogs have either a single or a double coat.
A double coat consists of a thick, dense, fine undercoat of hair overlain by coarser longer hair called guard hair. You find it in breeds like the Siberian Husky and German Shepherd.
A single coated dog lacks the undercoat and has only the coarser longer hair.
Examples are Greyhounds and Dalmatians.
Not entirely snake naked, these breeds usually have a soft coating of down over the body.
The skin needs protection from sunburn and of course, these dogs are very vulnerable to weather extremes.
Hairless dog breeds include American Hairless Terrier, Chinese Crested and Xoloitzcuintle (if you can pronounce it you are allowed to own it).
Fluffy haired dogs have a very thick double coat (also called a fleece coat), either straight or curly.
When properly groomed, the coat looks like a ball of fluff and makes the dog appear larger than it actually is.
Best-known fluffy dog examples are Pomeranians, but American Eskimo Dogs and Chow Chows also have this coat type.
A short hair dog's coat is short in length, less than 1 inch.
Unlike the "smooth" coat, this coat has more texture, and you can put your fingers through it.
Pugs, Labradors, and Beagles are typical short coated dog breeds.
The smooth coat is very short and the coat lies very flat to the skin, with no texture but is quite shiny.
Greyhounds, Pointer, and Bulldogs are all smooth coated dogs.
The hair on medium coated dogs is slightly longer than the short coat:
About an inch long and may stand slightly away from the surface of the skin.
Border Collies are considered medium coated dogs.
Long-haired coats are, well, long.
It can even reach the floor.
It requires a lot of grooming.
Beautiful long-haired dog examples are
Some dog breeds can have either short or long haired coats, like the Dachshund. The long-haired variety is due to a recessive allele that is not always expressed.
A breed with a combination coat has areas of longer coat as well as shorter coat. The two types of coat are very distinct and easy to tell apart.
Generally, the shorter coat is on the body and the long coat is on the ears, legs, and tail.
Examples of dog breeds with a combination coat are the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever.
Terriers and Schnauzers are some of the best-known wiry coated dog breeds.
Wire hair coats are genetically determined. The hair structure is unique, consisting of 3 different parts on each hair.
Grooming is done by hand-stripping, which retains the wiry structure. If the coat is clipped the hard, wire points are removed, leaving the two softer parts in the middle of the hair and at the base next to the skin. It may never grow the wire look again.
Friendly reminder: Don't shave wire haired dogs!
Curly haired dog coats are sometimes called a "poodle" coat.
Breeds include Bichon Frise and Poodles.
This coat is very thick and curly and has a lot of volume.
Curly haired coats are one of the hardest coats to maintain because they require a lot of regular (even daily) grooming.
One of the most responsible choices you can make in choosing your dog breed is to base it on your lifestyle.
The saddest thing is to see a retriever that is never allowed to retrieve, a working dog that is forced to spend his day locked up in a room, a small poodle running its little legs off to keep up with a jogging owner, and so we can go on.
A family dog has to cope with more than one person who gives orders, accepts or rejects behavior, feeds (or does not) and takes him for walks (or does not). It is very difficult, because a dog’s reasoning capacity does not always allow it to figure out conflicting signals and commands from humans.
One family member may use the words "come now" to call the dog to his side, whereas another one uses it in irritation to stop the dog from doing something.
The dog hears the same words.
The only way for your dog to know the difference is to rely on other cues such as body language, tone of voice, or experience to differentiate what response is required. If the dog is still a puppy, this can be very confusing, intimidating, and lead to a perception of rejection.
Most dog owners still think that dogs are pack animals and look to one very dominant leader. Numerous later researchers have pointed out that this conclusion was based on seriously flawed studies.
There are a lot of theories about how humans are supposed to fulfill the dominant "alpha dog" role, but that approach has lost a lot of ground and is rejected by most of the respectable canine associations and organizations, such as:
The point is that a family dog does not need one member to be the "alpha" leader. What it needs is consistency among all of the family members in their communication, attitude and social interaction with the dog.
If you think your family may not be up to this, do not get a "family" dog.
In fact, do not get a dog. Period.
I'm sorry if that seems harsh, but my job is to prepare you for the privilege of owning a dog. :-)
Of all the family members, it is the most difficult to teach kids how to behave consistently with a dog.
Choose a breed that will tolerate the incomprehensible and unpredictable behavior of human kids. Take to heart this quote from the Hinsdale Humane Society:
“All children, even very well-behaved and well-supervised children, will eventually do something to the dog, relentlessly, invasively, past the point of what may be considered fair or tolerable.”
- Hinsdale Humane Society
Considering physical issues, the dog should be of a size and activity level that suit the kids in the household:
Look here to see a list of the AKC recommendations for breeds that are good with kids.
Ultimately, you are responsible for training both the dog and the kids to live together in harmony and happiness. The reward of putting in this work is a bond that will last your dog's lifetime and memories that will last your child's lifetime.
Hypoallergenic dog breeds are all the craze these days!
But Buyer Beware:
Dogs with coats that do not shed a lot are not necessarily hypoallergenic.
Humans are not allergic to the hair, but to the dander.
Because dogs that shed a lot of hair also shed a lot of dander, they tend to cause more allergies. So your chances of developing allergy symptoms are probably less with a short coated and smooth coated dog, but the length of the coat is no guarantee.
Note: If you are an active person who has properly socialized your dog to go anywhere/everywhere with you...it doesn't matter where you live or what dog breed you have because your dog will get the mental and physical stimulation she needs to be a happy and healthy canine. Too many dog owners who lead a non-active lifestyle justify having a high-exercise-requirement-dog just because they have a big backyard.
To be clear: I don't care how you live. Live the life you're gonna' live...just don't make your dog suffer because you chose a breed that doesn't fit your lifestyle.
...rant over, on with the show...
You would think it is logical that very big dogs and very active dogs should not be kept in an apartment, yet people still try. And then the dog is taken to be re-homed, or worse, euthanized because it is a "problem dog".
Dogs are not toys. They are living creatures just like humans and they do not deserve to be kept in environments that drive them crazy.
If you live in an apartment, here are traits you should look for when choosing a dog breed:
Keep in mind that even if you find a dog that has all of these qualities, like a Basset or an English Bulldog, even they will need at least some exercise, some stimulation, and some excitement in their lives.
They have vocal cords and they have behavior patterns where they will use them. If you need one that is as quiet as possible, there are breeds that are less prone to vocalization than others.
(But the most effective is to remove or restrict the reasons why the dog would feel the need to bark, whine or howl.)
The Basenji is famous (well almost) for not barking at all.
They are not silent, however.
They do howl and make some really weird noises. They are also very energetic, inquisitive and active. So if you do get one, you are going to be kept busy and it is not suited to apartment life.
Other breeds that do not tend to bark or yap a lot are Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, Borzois, and Great Danes.
The trick is to avoid:
A number of dog breeds have been developed to do a specific job. In fact, that is probably how the whole diversification of dog breeds originated.
Where we are now in history, there are dogs that are so specialized it is a sin not to apply them in the job they were bred for.
It is also an important consideration when selecting a dog because the temperament for different jobs are different and can be problematic for you if you can not provide that kind of environment for your dog.
There are five main categories of service dogs: assistance, rescue, personal protection, estate guard, and sled dog.
Best known are the guide dogs for the blind, but guide dogs for people with hearing impairments are also becoming common.
The Assistance Dogs International organization actually puts the Guide Dog for the blind, and the Hearing Dog for the deaf each in their own categories, with Service dogs as a third category. In this category, they define the Service Dog as:
"A dog that works for individuals with disabilities other than blindness or deafness. They are trained to perform a wide variety of tasks including but not limited to; pulling a wheelchair, bracing, retrieving, alerting to a medical crisis, and providing assistance in a medical crisis."
- Assistance Dogs International
There are 3 more categories of assistance dogs:
There are different types of legal recognition and rights applicable to the different kinds of assistance dogs. It also differs in different countries. It is best to do some research to find out what categories are recognized, and how they are covered by the law, in the country where you live before you acquire an assistance dog.
Universally known as "search and rescue" dogs, they are used by human teams of the same title to do exactly that. They find humans buried under snow or rubble avalanches, or who have lost their way in the forest or on mountains.
Some dogs go on international search and rescue missions following large natural disasters such as earthquakes or tidal waves.
Most of the dogs used in these operations are outstanding trackers with a phenomenal sense of smell. However, they also need to be confident and agile walking on difficult terrain, obedient yet independent enough to search by themselves, and certainly courageous.
There are no specific breeds that always make good Search and Rescue Dogs. Rather, there is the 1 in 1000 individual (yes, they are rare dogs), that excels in this job.
The requirements to get certified are rigorous and training takes at least 2-3 years.
Most people who talk about guard dogs actually mean "watchdog".
It is a dog that will give the alarm when strangers approach or when a situation is in any way unusual.
Their main characteristic is that they can bark loudly and long. This is the way that they are telling their owner that something is wrong, whether it is a person, another animal or an object that behaves in a way that is suspicious.
It will not (and should not) attack unless provoked to the point of "do or die".
Size is less important than vigilance and vocalization. Therefore many smaller breeds make excellent watchdogs, like terriers, chihuahuas, larger poodles, dachshunds and shi tzus.
Watch "Dog" Fun Fact: Geese famously are better than many watchdogs in making an alarm, but most of us are not quite comfortable keeping geese!
Quiet dogs are least suited to be watchdogs.
What is a guard dog?
Is it a fearsome monster that kills everyone and everything on sight?
The Hound of the Baskervilles and worse?
The AKC calls them Guardian Breeds and characterizes them as loyal, fearless, strong and watchful.
A guard dog is not a watchdog or an attack dog, but a bit of both.
It will make alarm just like a watchdog, then hold and see what is the reaction, but will then charge and attack if their alarm was an insufficient deterrent.
Attacking can consist of biting and/or grabbing and holding on.
A guard dog's size certainly is important and so is appearance:
A large, dark dog seems to be the winner in the race for scaring would-be intruders away.
Probably the most recognized guard dog is the Doberman Pinscher, and also Rottweiler and German Shepherd.
Some of the earliest guard dog breeds were selected to guard livestock rather than humans. They typically are thick-coated while the other kind is short-coated, like mastiffs.
An attack dog that is not properly trained can bring you an unending trail of trouble and sorrow and can cost you a great deal of money and heartache.
Think about the reason why you specifically need an attack dog. Usually, attack dogs are trained and used only by law enforcement agencies, police, security and military personnel, not private individuals.
The training of an attack dog is very specialized and most importantly includes training the dog to STOP attacking! Consider seriously this quote from a Ph.D. dog behaviorist:
"A dog that learns to attack cannot be punished by traditional punishment like smacking it with a newspaper or yelling no!"
- Michelle Callard-Stone, PhD in Applied Animal Behavior
Calling an attack dog a personal protection dog is not going to shield you from the consequences if the dog attacks and kills without due reason or restraint.
Breeds that are traditionally used as attack dogs are:
In Germany, the Hovawart was bred for the express purpose to guard estates and their masters. They come from as far back as the thirteenth century and is one of the few breeds that have since also consistently excelled as Search and Rescue dogs.
No more the friendly family dog who will protect and rescue the kids from villains. Today the Estate Protection Dog is a highly trained (police and military training) dog that resembles an attack dog much more than a guard dog.
And they tend to be pretty expensive.
Like $50,000+ expensive.
Huskies and Malamutes immediately spring to mind, but Chinook and Samoyed are also sled dogs.
But how is a sled dog a service dog?
In the past, they were the main means of transporting goods and people over snow. They were indispensable for Arctic and Antarctic exploration but were banned from Antarctica in 1991 because they are not indigenous to that continent.
Today, the sled dog’s skills and endurance in pulling sleds over and through miserable terrain, freezing temperatures, and horrific storms are put to use mainly in competitive races.
In the arctic regions, sled dogs are often still used for freighting, skijoring and tourist rides.
The military use dogs for different purposes: bomb detection, drug detection, dignitary protection, and patrol (scouting, searching and attacking).
The qualities needed to be trained successfully as a military dog (only half of the trainees actually make it) are a combination of:
In the USA, the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program states that the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, and Belgian Malinois have proven to be the best choice as the standard military working dog.
For some interesting information on military dogs, and what happens to them when they are "decommissioned" try here.
No, we actually have not covered all the possible dog breeds yet!
Here are a few more to tickle your fancy.
Breeds are rare either because they are almost died out, small in numbers, or confined to specific areas of the world outside of which they are seldom seen.
Some, like the Aussie Pom, is a mixed breed and therefore not considered a true breed. Aussie Poms are a cross between a Pomeranian and an Australian Shepherd.
Creating weird dogs by strange crossings will mean it is "rare", but somehow those dogs are more like freak shows (the woman with the beard in the 1880 traveling shows…).
Some of the rarest dog breeds are:
Hybrids are initially created by breeding two or more purebred dogs, but different, dogs.
For example, Goldendoodles and Labradoodles, two very popular hybrids, were initially created by breeding Poodles with either golden or Labrador retrievers.
Other examples are:
Goberian: Siberian Husky + Golden Retriever
Labsky: Labrador + Husky
Pitsky: Pitbull + Husky
Pomsky: Pomeranian + Husky
Horgi: Corgi + Husky
Chusky: Chow Chow + Husky
Corgipoo: Toy Poodle + Corgi
Shorgi: Corgi + Sheltie
Cormatian: Corgi + Dalmatian
Dalmachshund: Dachshund + Dalmatian
Corman: Corgi + German Shepherd
Beagleman: Beagle + German Shepherd
Bullman: English Bulldog + German Shepherd
Shepherd Chow: Chow Chow + German Shepherd
German Sherpei: German Shepherd + Shar-pei
Sharp Asset (or Ba-Shar): Basset Hound + Shar-Pei
Cocker-Pei: Shar-pei + Cocker Spaniel
Bullpug: Pug + English Bulldog
Chug: Pug + Chihuahua
Schnoodle: Schnauzer + Poodle
Yoodle: Yorkshire Terrier + Poodle
Mixed breed dogs, in contrast, are the offspring of dogs of different breeds and breed mixes, and humans may, but usually, don’t have a hand in their creation.
They are often praised by their owners as being the very best kind of dog to have - no fussiness, no papers, just lots of character, love and devotion!
Affectionate, strong, intelligent—these are just a few words commonly used to describe the loving and playful Bernese Mountain Dog.
But did you know they have one of the shortest…
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