Euphemisms in Dog Breed Descriptions


aloof = fearful

loyal = fearful

protective = fearful

one man dog = fearful

good guard dog = fearful

watchful = fearful

shyness = fearful

cautious of strangers = fearful

courage = fearful

reserved = fearful

sensitive = fearful

discriminating = fearful

bred to work = compulsive tendencies if work unfulfilled

zeal for work = apt to develop compulsion

high prey drive = apt to chase others

people oriented = prone to separation distress

It seems to me that breed descriptions are awash with descriptions that paint a picture of fearful breeds as acting out of loyalty and love. But these descriptions are cover ups for dogs who are on a continuum of the fearful scale and some will, as adults, be more prone to develop aggression because of their fearful nature.

Before seeing any companion in my referral business I research its background, its known genetics, and the breeding facility it came from.

Some of the things that also concern me are: seeing that the kennel is large – has several or even tens of female and male dogs. This can mean that bitches give birth and raise their puppies in kennel environments rather than in the home. More akin to a factory than a home. Ideally the new dog owner wants to bring home a puppy that already has had much socialisation and experience of a regular suburban environment – full of the noises of televisions, microwaves, passing traffic, screaming children and boisterous family life. A large kennel in a rural setting may not give pups adequate exposure to this. A wide range of sound and a variety of experience may be lacking.

Flying puppies – Often this is done during the fear period (between 8-10 weeks of age) and hence can set the puppy up for future phobias – e.g. noise sensitivity, storm worries.

Working dog lines sold as family pets – I often see working breeds who are sold as family pets and the breeders state that they select the pup with an appropriate temperament for the family. Dogs that are bred to work are selected for a very different skill base than those that suit a family. It seems somewhat nonsensical to believe that the two dichotomies can be bred from the same stock.

It makes no sense, to me, to say that dogs bred to do protection work also make good family pets. It makes no sense to say that dogs who are bred to work sheep all day will also do well with life in suburbia.

Always remember that behaviour is a result of three crucial elements – genetics, prior learning (e.g. socialisation history) and the environment (both the internal physiological environment and the current physical environment facing the dog). Because of their genetic tendencies for fearfulness some breeds will require more active socialisation than others to result in an adult animal comfortable around a variety of situations.

However hard we try we cannot turn a Rottweiler into a Golden Retriever. Years of selection and breeding has gone into produce both the look of the dog and the temperament that goes along with it. People choosing any breed should be aware of what that breed was originally selected to do, and expect the temperament type that comes along with that work, and in the end not be surprised that their dog is not an appropriate dog to spend its time in a cafe conversing with the dogs designed to do just that. It is not sufficient to like the “look” of a breed or choose one because its coat doesn’t shed. There is so much more that should be considered.



3 thoughts on “Euphemisms in Dog Breed Descriptions

  1. Great blog. While breed research should be mandatory, it is worth remembering that there is more variety within breeds than between breeds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s