Driven dogs – those that want to work (or play) a lot


Brindle pit bull
Look at that sweet, calm, am I doing this right face.   Brindle pit bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are some couch potato dogs, some active dogs and then there’s  dogs like Border Collies or ACDs or Belgian shepherds or Pit Bulls, which many times (certainly not always) take it all to a new level.

I read a statistic that said that 25% of the dogs in rescues/pounds were identified as pit bulls (from experience I know these guys get euthanized much more often). I also read that a fair number of dogs identified as pit bulls weren’t pit bulls, but then again there’s those shelters that won’t take pit bulls so the staff calls them boxers or lab crosses or anything except pit bull. I’ve handled quite a few shelter and non-shelter dogs with pit bull type looks and they usually are amazingly athletic and powerful, but to those who think they don’t act like other dogs…silly, they are quite terrier like and bull dog like. Shelters are not a good place for these dogs, definitely not the right situation – not enough exercise and too much doggy wildness in the atmosphere.

Regardless of the breed the vast number of dogs occupying shelters are very active, often male, medium to large size and often dark colored (the curse of being a big black dog). People coming in usually want smaller, quieter, blond or lighter colored and calmer. In fact when I was looking for an adoptable dog I too wanted smaller and lighter colored (not because I was afraid of a darker colored dog, but because I do a fair number of demonstrations and photos and lighter dogs are better accepted – people are less afraid of them – and easier to photograph too).

Max and I did a talk and demonstration yesterday. He was his usual schmoozing self, making his way slowly through the crowd of people stopping at each to check if they wanted to pet him and then moseying on. Of course now someone always says they want to take him home, but he spent months in the shelter before I picked him. He was large, dark faced, up eared, male, rowdy and so not very place-able.

Max, large, up eared, dark faced shepherd
Max, large, up eared, dark faced shepherd

I chose him because he was more interested in me than any of the other dogs there. He wanted to connect, many of the others couldn’t be bothered to, they just wanted me to let them out. He also was not dog reactive and I figured that any dog that spent that much time in that crazy environment and wasn’t dog reactive would do well in helping me train other people and dogs who were.

In our non-active, restrictive world active dogs are having trouble.

I guess my house isn’t immune to the above statement. The eyes that stare holes into my face, the chin placed repeatedly on my thigh with some weight behind it, identifying that I have spent my two hours doing my own thing and now it’s time for something doggy.  The silly bounces and the leap downMar2011Jazziefetch 043 steps if I say ‘do you want to go outside?’ The weird wall lean or couch lean or door lean when she’s trying to get me to understand, ‘I need to go outside.’ See this backslash \, well that’s her ‘I’m leaning’ angle. The lean thing is all Jazzie’s own creation. Max just moves into my line of sight and stares at me if I have been preoccupied too long with human business.

“They’re so smart I just would love to have one.”

I’ve heard people say that too many times, indoor, small yard, non-active people. And ya know, it could work….NOT!  OK, sometimes it could and after they got used to being herded or doing doggy fire drills. Some dogs just decide to go find their own active fun, which might take us back to the shelter environment. The ACDs/kelpies and shepherds, well they are more territorial. Run straight at the interloper and bark at them from a very close distance. By some definitions this is an attack. It seems like the number of people who know how to calmly deal with a loose dog in the yard is decreasing. Hand flapping or running or kicking is not a good answer – act ‘like a tree’ people (still, silent and eyes down-not staring) until they mill around or head away.

The pit bull types are not so interested in people, usually, but often other dogs or any animal including people (running, action) and that intense prey drive  is a bit awesome. Games to the rescue, lots of games and exercise and more games. Games inside, mental games and physical, intense games outside with controlled start and stop. This means everybody goes outside, not just dog…are you kidding just think of the trouble they could get into without me outside with them.

When Max was being Sandy (in the Annie play) each day before practice and before the actual show we went to the lake (it was very hot out) and did a significant number of water retrieves. I wanted him calm for all the play hoopla and exercise calms us all mentally, reduces worries and makes getting comfortable a lot easier. He loved it – refreshing and calming both.

Is your dog getting enough physical and mental exercise? Do you believe the let’s get more readers freaked press about pit bulls or have you turned around your thoughts? Do you know how to read a dog’s intentions or do you just get stuck on big, black=scary?

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