Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wee Little Chihuahuas (Perpetually Big Attitudes)

Chihuahuas are the Rodney Dangerfield of the dog world - they don't get no respect - at least not from the dog world in general. You would be hard pressed to find a dog that is more often dressed up, posed next to larger items to show their small size, villainized-by-association due to the unfortunate celebrities they attract, or misunderstood by those drawn to larger dogs. Yet any owner of a Chi I've ever met has been so devoted to the breed that it is easy to see they can be appealing if given a chance.

 No breed is more prone to the whims of people when it comes to being costumed. Even Pugs don't seem to spend as much time being dressed up as the long suffering little Chi.

 Of course, some clothing is to help keep the dog warm because they can be prone to chills...but I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue that all clothing is for the sake of the dog. One of the draws to very small dogs is that they allow people to costume them. It takes much less time to make a Chi costume than to make a Mastiff or Great Dane costume -- and the bigger the dog the harder it is to deal with resistance if the dog doesn't feel like dressing up that day.
 And of course, sometimes we do dress our canine friends up to amuse ourselves - and some dogs do genuinely seem to enjoy the attention that comes with being the center of action. But if one is born a Chihuahua, it seems one is predestined to wear clothes.
It is a good thing that the average Chi has a good sense of humor. Not all breeds could put up with the whims of owners with as much grace as these pups do.

Another big cross the Chihuahua has to bear is constantly being positioned to showcase just how small they are -- people love to take pictures of these pups in tea cups, next to soda cans, cell phones -- or just much bigger dogs. What they lack in physical stature though, they make up for in attitude.

Chihuahuas have personality.

They have attitude.

They have a tremendous amount of tolerance for people.

Considering what people put them through, this is saying a lot.

Sometimes Chihuahuas get a bad rap in the personality department ... and truly, no dog can look more vicious when putting on the mean face.

Any dog however, if not given a routine and clear boundaries becomes emotionally unstable and unfortunately, Chihuahuas have attracted more than one person who thought because of the breeds small size there was no need to create routines and boundaries for them.

 This is a trainable breed; not everyone attracted to the breed is willing to put in time to train them. Chihuahuas are clever enough though to excel learning tricks, if that is what their people are interested in teaching them.

 They also make awesome watch dogs and will let you know if anyone, or anything, is encroaching on their territory.

They come in long and short haired varieties and a range of colors, including merle, tricolored, red and white, black and white, and cream.

What I find most distressing about the current situation of the Chihuahua is the plague that celebrity has been to these tiny, tough, tolerant pups.

Due in part to the current popularity of purse dogs, and to movies that feature Chihuahuas - like Beverly Hills Chihuahua - a lot of people have temporarily owned the dogs only to abandon them.

Currently, the Chihuahua is the most common small dog in shelters and rescues. They are just behind Pit Bulls for numbers in shelters waiting for homes - literally thousands of these wee dogs are waiting to be adopted and some will never have the opportunity to know a good, loving home. What a terrible price to pay for unwanted, fading popularity with the wrong people.

Like any breed the Chihuahua isn't for everyone. However, these pups can be remarkably hardy, good with children and other animals, are trainable and willing to please - if people give them the chance.

This breed doesn't demand to be carried and dressed up; people choose these activities for the breed. Chihuahuas do love human companionship and this is what they have always been bred for...to be companions to people.

If a diminutive statured dog with big attitude would fit into your life, consider adopting a Chihuahua or mix. They will reward you with many faithful years and a really big attitude for life. 

Plus, they will be tolerant if you absolutely have to try that cute little outfit on them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Look out Reindeer, if Great Danes learn to fly....


Now I ask you - put some antlers, harnesses and reigns on these pups and do they not look like they are up to pulling a sleigh full of toys? I think Santa Clause's reindeer better watch out - if Danes ever decide to compete for the job those little caribou could be in for some real competition.


I guess the picture of Danes with antlers came into my head after seeing a couple of people put some of those clip-on antlers on their horses. There are horses smaller than Great Danes - granted they may be "miniature" - on the other hand these canines at 28" - 32"+ can be bigger than a legitimate pony.



Maybe it is the size that makes these dogs so fascinating. Or maybe it's the fact that they've transitioned from origins that included hunting and killing boar to now being reliable family members. A lot of people like these big guys and gals, regardless of if they will ever personally live with one. Great Danes do, after all, take up a noticeable bit of space.


I was interested to find the range of colors now recognized in this breed by the AKC:


Black & White








Blue & White

Blue Brindle


Chocolate & White

Chocolate Brindle

Mantle Merle





I'll be honest, I've never even heard of a Merlequin before...although when I hear the name I could sort of imagine the color.

Great Dane colors website

I went to a Great Dane color site to make sure I didn't mess up the colors - above is a picture from the site:

Great Dane colors website

Now according to the Great Dane Color website, there are only six AKC show-colors of  Great Dane:
Harlequin, Black, Blue, Brindle, Fawn, and Mantle. 



When I go to AKC bench shows the  most commonly represented Great Dane has been Fawn, which I think will make the strongest contenders for replacing reindeer because they've been around a long time, they will blend in with the overall color scheme that people are used to, and frankly -- as a pretty old dude -- I'm not sure Santa would immediately know the difference without his reading glasses on.

Fawn - Natural ears and Cropped (or trained to stand with tape)

Not that I'm suggesting that any Dane is currently thinking about taking a reindeer's place - or are they....?
Is it my imagination or could I have stumbled onto a plot? 
It would appear this guy even has an elf in training. Just saying reindeer - you could be replaced by canines who would be happy to eat cookies, saving Santa a bundle on hay and oats....

Then again...maybe reindeer aren't the only ones Danes would consider replacing....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Labradors: English (Bench) and American (Field)

A registered Labrador is a registered Labrador...right?
Yes. With qualifications.
All Labradors are not built the same.

The Labrador known as the "British type" is what is typically seen at bench trials, i.e. the show ring like Westminster Kennel Club. What is sometimes called the "American type" is the hunting field trial Labrador.

Sometimes the two types are referred to as British and American Labradors. When I was much younger this distinction wasn't made. Over the years however, as hunters who used their Labs more for upland game hunting then water retrieving began to adjust what they bred for, the "field" Lab became a longer leg, longer tailed, narrower headed dog.

 Compare these two yellow females for example.
Notice the longer legs and lighter build of the one, the shorter, stockier overall build of the other.

These are two more examples of the difference between a field Lab and a bench Lab. The chocolate above is of field breeding, the black Lab is of bench lines.

 Even when they're sitting down you can see some basic differences between the two types. Notice the narrower build of the chocolate compared to the husky build of the yellow Lab. From longer leg, to longer, narrower neck and slightly longer, more slender muzzle...these two Labs are not built the same.

 Notice there is also a shorter, stockier tail on the bench trial version of a Labrador, compared to the longer, thinner tail on a field lab.

With each type prone to being too extreme in some bloodlines -- far too heavy with mastiff type heads in the extreme bench lines, too over sized tall in the extreme field lines -- more breeders are interbreeding the two distinct lines trying to once again recreate the kind of Labs that were around when I was a child - dogs that were fit for bench or working.

Lil comes from this kind of inter-mixed blood line. Her dam, on the left in the above picture is of field lines and of a visibly taller line than her sire, on the right, who is shorter, stouter, and heavier from tip of tail to snout.
Lil is beginning to show more of the outcome and purpose of this kind of line mixing - an attempt to breed a moderate Lab that is neither too heavy nor too leggy.

She's starting to fill out although she still has a way to go - at still under a year she will continue to physically mature until about the age of two. When she's sitting down, her appearance can literally change depending on the angle of her head.

Notice that from above and down you can see the field Lab in Lil, but from straight in front and up you can see some of the bench influences. An increasing number of Labs are once again starting to show both parts of their heritage rather than just one or the other.

For the Lab owners out there, if you want to share photos of your own labs just send them in and I'll post them.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Walkie Part Two": Goldens, Beagle, and Collie-Lab

Kathy - who lives with Gus (Golden Retriever), Gilbert (adopted senior Beagle), and Ruby (adopted senior Collie-Lab) - tells us about her system for walking with dogs.

Gus and friend

 I have complex walking systems for my dogs that include the routes we take, the technology we use and wear, and the dog combos I take out together.  This all depends upon time, weather, road and trail conditions, and energy level.

Our normal walks average around four real walks (not just going into the backyard) a day.  Usually Gilbert (with or without Ruby) gets two short walks a day.  And Gus (usually with Ruby) gets two longer walks a day. 

Now that our area is cold and snowy, when I walk on the street and there is an icy layer of snow, I use some kind of strap-on treads on my shoes or boots.  I used to use Yak Tracks but they broke pretty quickly (the rubber bit that comes up around your shoe absorbs a lot of friction and tends to fray).  So, now I use these.  I mostly use the Due North ones on the bottom – I strap them on my Bean boots and leave them there all winter.  But for heavier duty traction, I also use the Stableicers.  I HATE falling and, in our lake effect snow area that averages 200-250 inches of snow a winter, that snow packs down into icy for much of the winter.  I won’t walk the dogs on the street without some traction unless there is bare pavement and great traction.



Gilbert the beagle is not a very motivated walker.  His idea of a walk is following scents hither and yon, not walking in a straight line down the street or on a trail.  He gets 1-2 walks around the blocks or short walks into nearby woods.  Because of his thick neck, he always has a soft harness on and I keep a short leash attached.  Because of his nearly blindness and deafness, unless he is crated, he always has this short, light leash on – inside and out – I need to be able to grab him to lead him outdoors or wherever I want.  When it is cold, he wears this great, thick dog coat in a size or two bigger than needed because I like the full body coverage.  This dog coat also has reflective stripes so that cars can see him at night.  And it has a little opening where you can attach the leash to a collar or harness.  Everybody has tags with my name, address, email, and phone # (and Rabies tags) and Gus is micro-chipped and has a tag for that as well.


Ruby and Gus usually get 1-2 walks on the trails a day.  I’ll often take Gus for a long jaunt around the neighborhood to practice leash walking and “leave its” with other dogs and people and also to keep up his socialization.  Gus wears an easy walker harness (as does his boyfriend Arvo in the picture below).  This harness is aimed at medium level pullers and discourages hard-core pulling.  It works well for me, but if you have a puller, try different harnesses – there are ones for really hard pullers.  For Gus and Ruby, I always use well broken in, thin leather leashes – I love their durability, comfort in your hand, and traction in your hand.

I’m lucky to live a couple blocks from about 100 kilometers of trails and abandoned roads.  In the winter, many are groomed for cross country skiing.  Lots of areas out there are great for snowshoeing and there are places people keep so packed down with snowshoes that you can walk in boots on them.  I’m fortunate to be able to choose loops that range from 20 minutes to several hours and everywhere in between, depending on how much time I have and who I want to avoid.  I typically only let Gus off leash in areas where I don’t expect to see people much, but I do this daily.  A big concern is ATVs, motor bikes, and snowmobiles (and the occasional illegal car or truck on the trails), but there are also mountain bikers and runners – I don’t want him to be hit or to chase a bike or runner.  I love when I encounter dog lovers with or without their dog-friendly dogs on the trails.  It is great for my dogs to meet people and for Gus to get a chance to play with another dog or two.

Since deer and other game seasons are going on, they are wearing dayglo colors.  I also like to be able to easily spot Gus when he’s off in the woods now that the leaves are gone.  Gus’s green coat also provides some warmth, but has the ongoing challenge of the front Velcro strap coming apart.  I prefer the snap-in type attachments that are on Ruby’s orange vest.  I’ve also got bigger, warm coats for both that are somewhat colorful, have reflective tapes and are good for colder temps.  When I cross country ski with Gus, I use a belted leash that goes around my waist and often put a bell on him.  When I’m in spots where I expect very few people I let him run.  Again, I try to minimize his interfering with people, like skiers, who didn’t plan to play with my dog during their ski.  I do take high value treats and work on recalls with both dogs – Gus is doing well when there are no distractions, but won’t come to me when there is another person or dog he wants to meet.

This is one of the walks I like to do when I don’t want to see anyone – this is a utility corridor that has no real trail, it is lumpy and bumpy, but I’ve never seen another soul walking it.


Sometimes, like this morning, I drive for a few minutes to get to a place I want to hike into.  I worried for years about driving with loose dogs in my car, particularly when I was doing a lot of 200 mile round trip drives for dog training.  So, I started using a seatbelt for Gus.  This type of seatbelt can be attached to actual human seatbelts or to a belt across the car ceiling (it hooks into the handles at the top of the door inside the car that I never noticed were there).  The seatbelt attaches to a special harness. 

Gus is always on the seatbelt when he is in the car.  He tolerates it fine, although it does sometimes twist around.  He’s a fantastic, young dog I love a lot and have put a lot of work into.  I’d be devastated if he was killed in a car accident because he was loose.  Ruby and Gilbert go into the back-back of my Subaru Forester – they are super seniors who can’t as easily be seatbelted on the back seat.  I’ll feel really bad if they are hurt in an accident, but they have both already lived beyond their expected life span, so I think I can live with this.  Maybe this seems callous, but it would be extremely complicated to try to belt up all of them and would probably require separating them into three different spots.

Once I got my Forester, my elderly, big dogs (Ruby and Breezy the coonhound) weren’t able to easily get into it.  Ruby has a mass on her belly that is painful and she is over 70 lbs and hates being picked up – in fact, if pushed, she will bite if someone is trying to lift her.  So, I got this ramp which has worked beautifully for both Ruby and Breezy.  I have to aim Ruby up it, hold onto her collar, and be ready to support her back end, sometimes she tries to bound up it and collapses.  Similarly, I aim her down it when she needs to get out and hold on to her collar so she doesn’t try to leap out.  She’s done this – her back end collapses and it is frightening to me, but she has never injured herself.  However, she could break a hip doing it (according to my vet) which would likely be something from which she would not recover.  So, I always control her entrances and exits.  Gilbert the beagle will walk up and down the ramp although he sometimes finds it hard to keep going near the top.  But he is 26 lbs and easy to lift in and out.  However, like Ruby, he’ll take a flying leap out if given the choice – probably less of a danger to him, although it could mean he is loose in an area with cars.  So, he’s closely supervised also.