Ken Hough's Website

Choice Of Breed

Basic character and behaviour:
I expect these comments to raise a few eyebrows and possibly hackles. There are many different individual breeds of dog and many, many more permutations of cross-bred dogs. The various breeds can look very different, and perhaps more importantly, can have widely differing characters.

Some folks (and authorities) believe that a dog's behaviour can be determined by training alone. I strongly dispute this!

Dogs can be trained to behave well when under instruction of their owners, but what is likely to happen when a dog is running free and can make it's own choices, or when it becomes stressed/upset? Under these circumstances, humans may behave according to their underlying character. Surely, dogs will do likewise.

For example, I have seen enough of escaped/free Jack Russel dogs to expect that they ARE VERY LIKELY to behave like the ruthless rat catchers/killers that they were bred to be and will often attack other dogs much bigger than themselves. I have seen this on a number of occasions, including attacks on my own dog! I no longer believe owners when they tell me that "my (Jack Russel) dog is always very good natured". I use Jack Russels as an example. Other breeds have other very definite behavioural traits that no amount of training will eliminate.

Breeds that have been developed to be guard dogs have underlying territorial/aggressive traits. I recall when as a student, I lived in digs where my landlady had the biggest alsasian/german shephard dog that I've seen. It was very friendly and safe with the lady's children -- and with me. However, one day a neighbour came in unexpected and we had to pull the dog off him!

As a rule, dogs will be very loyal to other members of their pack/family, but please don't ever overlook the underlying character of the breed.

Pedigree/pure bred versus crossbred:
As with the human species, there can be variations in character within a breed. Some will be of stronger character than others. By choosing a pure bred dog, one can expect some degree of consistency in expected behaviour, although there are still likely to be some differences even between members of the same litter. For example some might be more outgoing than others.

Crossbreeds on the other hand, are less predictable. Indeed, some crosses might seem to be inviting problem behaviour. Recently, a fatal dog attack was reported as being from a Jack Russel/staffordshire bull terrier cross. Imagine the killer instinct of a Jack Russel in the powerful body and jaws of a stafforshire bull terrier. Potentially a very dangerous dog!

I grew up with cross bred terriers which fortunately didn't cause any serious problems. Later in life, I was introduced to pure bred working dogs such as collies and various kinds of gun dog. Working dogs are not suited to all potential owners. They can be very strong in both body and mind and need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

My own preference:
My own preference is for working english springer spaniels. They are famously VERY active dogs and must be allowed LOTS of exercise. Given this, their basic kind nature and intelligence show through. As with other breeds of gun dog, the natural canine instinct to kill has been largely bred out. My previous springer worked as a "Pets As Therapy" dog, bringing comfort to many elderly and infirm folks.

Presently, I have a five month old working springer spaniel pup. Although in appearance, she is similar to my previous working springer, she is very different in character. She is much more extrovert, although still very gentle and friendly in nature. A quick learner and very responsive. I couldn't ask for better.

Note: Don't confuse working springer spaniels with the more usual domestic/show strains. The latter tend to be bigger, somewhat less active, and typically have longer coats than the working dogs.

Return To Main Dog Page