Patchwork Pups - do we need 'breed'?

Patchwork Pups copyright Karen Wild Pawprint Intellidogs ltd

We don’t have a pack of dogs – we have a patchwork.

For me there is no such thing as ‘What breed?’ – partly because it takes so long for me to describe the various mixes we own, but also it makes me feel uncomfortable.

By talking about breed, I am somehow defining our dogs in a way I would never do with any other living creature. Let’s use our moggy as an example. Our cat is ‘Button’. He’s just himself (as any cat owner knows, very much himself!). He has his own way, his likes and dislikes. He’s black and white, and sleek, and fit. He leaves Hannibal Lecter-style demonstrations on our front lawn that would be worthy of any modern art installation, leaving you queasy and just a little bit intrigued all at once.

So, I don’t define him as a breed, and it’s the same with my dogs.

I am not proud to be an owner of certain types of dog, or breed, not at all. After all, most trainers are expected to own enormous furry behemoths in dog form. I don’t. I did. But I don’t now. Slightly embarrassingly, I have little mutts, mongrels, Heinz 57’s, they are all tiny and happened serendipitously upon us. They aren’t working dogs in the official sense of the word, although they make great decoys. They are family pets.

Before you yell it out at the screen, I don’t forget that breeds do have specific abilities, are deliberately engineered for that purpose by our choices. This makes life easier for trainers and owners alike, because we have a pretty good idea what this dog might do and why.

Even so, I still test every dog I see in my behaviour and training practice for all those instincts, regardless of what breed they are supposed to be, partly because they are all different and have had varying learning experiences. I think it's dangerous to make assumptions, as the ridiculous breed-specific legislation indicates. The fact remains. They are all canis lupus familiaris, and breeds aren’t species.

To define them by breed would limit their natures. Sweet, spiky, reactive, cuddly, needy, opinionated, opportunistic… maybe defining them through human characteristics isn’t ideal, and I have missed out ‘scent-connoisseurs’, an essential description which applies to all dogs, perhaps. Nevertheless it’s better for me than pigeon-holing them when, to me, appearances simply don’t count.

 

Karen Wild BA (Hons) Dip App Psych www.karenwild.co.uk www.intellidogs.com/blog

Full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), Associate Member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers

'Towards honesty and integrity and accreditation in our profession'