Chapter 4
How To Know What Type Dog Is Best For You

Disadvantages of Purebred Dogs

The disadvantages of purebred dogs fall into one of two basic categories. These categories are the current state of purebred dog's genetic health and creating a mismatch between your needs and a specific breed's genetically controlled traits. Let's discuss the issue of creating a mismatch between your needs and a breed’s genetically controlled traits then move on to the current situation with the genetic health of purebred dogs. A Purebred Dog's Traits are Fixed. When you get a purebred dog, you have a pretty good understanding of how it will look and have a reasonable idea of how it will behave. However, if you don't choose a breed carefully, that advantage can turn into a disadvantage. When you get a purebred, many of its traits are firmly fixed. Many purebred characteristics are genetically encoded, so if you choose a specific breed, you should be prepared to accept the traits of that breed. Clearly, you can't expect a dog that is genetically pre-programmed to be a large dog to stay small. Likewise, you cannot expect to change behaviors that are part of a breed any more than you can change the color of the dog's fur or the size a dog will become. For example, if you get a Jack Russel Terrier (called a Parson Russel Terrier by the AKC), you're getting an energetic, feisty dog that loves to dig. If you cherish a calm, lifestyle with plenty of peace and quiet and love your beautiful lawn and flower gardens, this could be a problem. You could try to change these traits with training, but it is extremely difficult to change a dog's basic nature. In fact, because genetically encoded behaviors are so strong they are difficult if not impossible to reliably change with training. Breeds developed to hunt small animals or are quick to bark are not going to change into a dog that loves hamsters or is very quiet no matter how dedicated you are to a training program. Instead, you should look for a breed whose characteristics are suitable for your lifestyle. If you want a quiet dog for apartment life, choosing a dog breed that likes to bark because it has been bred as a watchdog is a mistake. Conversely, if you want a dog to guard your home and scare off intruders, look for a breed that was developed to fill the role of a guardian not a breed that, even though it is big, typically loves everyone. Find a breed that fits with your lifestyle instead of trying to modify a dog's behavior to fit your lifestyle. This is a tug of war you will probably lose and it creates a mismatch between the dog and your lifestyle that could have been avoided. This is why creating the list of traits that are important to you is so important. You did make that list, didn't you? If not, go back and make a list of the four to six traits most important to you now!