A few months ago, Dogster’s social media analyst sent me a link to Dr. Matthew Wright’s website, Breedfreak, and told me we had to get our paws on a copy of his book by the same name. Breedfreak profiles 62 of the most popular dog breeds in a tone we’ve yet to see in a breed book -– the doc is refreshingly candid when presenting genetic or behavior issues common in certain breeds.
Each profile is accompanied by a stereotype icon (or five), such as the howl/bark icon, which is accompanied by the text “Your neighbors will kill you. Your ears will scream for mercy,” and the neurotic icon, which Wright puts next to breeds that are “prone to mood swings … in need of constant reassurance … and are excessively suspicious of other dogs, cats, and human beings.”
I have an Italian Greyhound in my life, so I flipped to the IG page and wasn’t too surprised to find a neurotic icon staring me in the face next to a “high vet bill icon” and the “most likely to be hit by car” icon. Each breed in the book gets a tagline, and my dog was described this way: “Needier than an insecure schoolgirl.” Geesh, you’d think Dr. Wright had met my dog, who follows me from room to room at home and is a familiar shape under the covers when I’m zoning out to Pretty Little Liars or some other bit of rubbish TV with crap acting on Hulu.
Other breeds were described this way (and if you’re curious about how Breedfreak described your pup, leave a comment below and we’ll hunt for it in the book):
Miniature Pinscher: “I Am a Teacup, Hear Me Roar”
Pomeranian: “Little Gremlin”
Border Collie: “Workaholic”
Bulldog: “Happy-go-lucky Zen Master Dwarf Sloth” (Wha?!)
We found Breedfreak to be rather informative and intriguing for folks considering bringing home a purebred or a mixed breed alike, and were curious to find out whether Dr. Wright had received any death threats from breeders who felt trashed by his book. So we shot him a note. Behold: the official Breedfreak Dogster interview. (Warning: The good doc is very tongue-in-jowl, so remove your serious hats, please. Thanks.)
Dogster: Dr. Wright, what, in your opinion, are the dog industry’s greatest sins?
Dr. Wright: The biggest sin of the dog industry is that they have not told us the truth about the fact that puppies, not even Labrador puppies, can make us more attractive to the opposite sex. Think about it; if a puppy could help you become more attractive, there would be a Zipcar-style puppy rental service in every major city where you could rent a puppy and go to a park to meet guys/gals. Clearly there is no money in puppy rentals, so this proves it does not work. People need to get dogs for the right reasons, and playing the human side mating/dating game is not a good one.
How did you pick the 62 breeds featured in Breedfreak?
I have the attention span of a fruit fly. The goal was to include the top 100, but somewhere along the way I figured that if you really want to get a Leonberger you are either smarter than I am and/or you probably won’t listen to me anyway. When I got to 62, I started reviewing the weird and wild breeds and figured I would not get through to the Leonberger lovers anyway. The main omission, however, was the Corgi.
What do you want people to take away from your book?
Your dog will either enhance your life or ruin it. There is not much of a gray zone. Don’t screw up the next 12 years of your life with a dog that will drive you nuts, bankrupt you, or both. Having a dog that is inappropriate for your situation is worse than being trapped in a dark room listening to “We Built This City.”
Who ISN’T this book for?
German Shorthaired Pointers. Trust me.
You tell us to read the book cover to cover, but with the book structured as is (with a two-page layout per breed) do you really expect people to do that?
Busted. I figured that most people are going to just look at the pictures and throw it against the wall when then read what I say about their beloved breed. My goal with this recommendation was to delay you just long enough to get you to calm down before you destroy the walls in your house. “Read more, throw less” is my motto.
What’s the shortlist people should have in mind when hunting for a dog to add to the family?
The biggest thing is to get the exercise needs right and be honest with yourself about your budget. If either of these things are incongruent with the dog you choose, you are headed for disaster.
How has the reaction to the book been so far? (And our social media manager, who is obsessed with your book, wants to know: Have you received any death threats?)
Better than the Hollywood reaction to Gigli, so that is good I guess. No death threats, but I get some really weird e-mails and have learned about sites like sendanonymousemail.net. Please tell your readers I can take the heat. No need to anonymize their e-mail address.
Also, we’re curious, how have breeders reacted to your evaluations?
I have said this only like a thousand times, but maybe now someone will listen since I am a big muckety-muck author: many of the breeders I know are crazy. Completely unhinged. They know it. We know it. They do not care. The important thing is that their form of madness is what I call “surface crazy.” It does not go too deep and one of the remarkable aspects of this pathologic state called “breeder surface crazy” is that they are able to laugh at themselves (and their dogs). As such, surface crazies don’t worry me.
Conversely, I stay up nights worrying about the folks in the rescue industry who appear completely normal on the outside. Unlike breeders, they seem completely rational until they open up and breathe fire when you disagree with them. I have gotten more negativity from just talking about purebred dogs than I have gotten from any breeder. When I tell them that just because I wrote a book about picking a purebred dog it does not mean I am anti-mutt, they don’t seem to listen.
So, give me a surface crazy breeder any day. You can keep the folks who look normal on the outside.
People often tell us that adopting a mutt is one way to iron out the bad qualities some breeds possess. What is the downside of bringing home a mutt?
A few years ago, I got my head handed to me for saying this, but what the heck. Let’s do it again.
I was once talking to a pregnant friend of mine who was going to get a dog. She did not want to deal with puppy issues and wanted to adopt an adult mutt. In an effort to get her to consider all her options, I (somewhat half-jokingly) said, “Why don’t you get your baby at the juvenile detention hall?” My point, which was not very well taken, was that you might be selecting for a problem child by adopting an adult dog from the pound.
The problem with mutts is that you just do not know what you are getting yourself into. You know those descriptions on the cage cards that say what the puppy mix is supposed to be? Well, I am here to tell you that they are 99 percent bogus. I should know; I sat around for a few days one summer making them up at a local shelter.
Personally, I would rather know what I am getting into as far as size and temperament and risk some medical bills for congenital issues than have a healthier dog where I do not know their exercise needs, size, weight, etc. It is always a trade-off.
In your book you provide total cost of ownership as one of the stats for the breeds listed. How do you get this number?
Experience and the Breedfreak Cost of Ownership calculator!
Which breeds raise the most red flags?
Any of what I call the “tough guy breeds.” These are the breeds that your local MMA [mixed martial arts], steroid, tattooed, black-hoodie-wearing dudes will be seen with. Remarkably, they are the same breeds that the airlines restrict and the insurance companies ding you for. Personally, I think if an MMA dude trotted down the street with a Chinese Crested they would get more comments and looks than a Staffordshire Terrier. Tough guy dogs are all about looks … aren’t they? MMA dudes -– you listening?
And which breeds are a safer bet?
Last question: Who is the dog on the cover? And … is that a tumor?!
Jett is almost 10 years old. I “inherited” him about two years ago as he came as a package with my significant other. 🙂
No, that is no tumor. It is a mucoceole (e.g. a ball of spit). We tried to remove it, but it came back (as they often do). It is just unsightly but does not cause any harm. The kids love to play with it and squish on it when they are watching TV.
Got a question for Dr. Wright? Want to know how Breedfreak described your breed (or mix)? Bark back below.
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