Maybe you’re a fan of the hound breeds, and have never considered sharing your life with a terrier. Or you’re a herding devotee like me, and haven’t lived with a toy breed. Are you ready to step outside your comfort zone? I’ve asked five breeds to perform the difficult task of generalizing about their respective breed groups.* The breeds were more than ready to give us their pitch. Be prepared to be persuaded.
We herding breeds, including everyone from the small Miniature American Shepherd to the larger Collie, are renowned for controlling the movement of animals. Some herders, such as the celebrated Border Collie, control with the eyes. Others of us control livestock with nudges, nips, or barks. We Bearded Collie, developed in Scotland, also drove livestock to market. We herders as a whole have a passion for work. We’re brainy, biddable, and dynamic. Some of us, such as the Belgian Malinois who guarded as well as herded, show a protective nature. In general we’re not wanderers. We’re devoted to family and often show skepticism about outsiders. We dominate obedience sports and collect accolades in agility. Some of us are also smart alecks. That’s just what comes with mixing bossiness with extreme intelligence!
I’m a Beagle, a scent hound celebrated for my keen sense of smell and my merry nature as a companion. With ancient origins, I was an especially esteemed hunting companion in 18th century England. Some of my sight hound cousins, such as the Borzoi, are considerably larger and speedier. We hounds love our families, but we also love our independence. So while we’re wonderful companions, we’re generally not sappy, clingy, or needy (yes there are exceptions!). With our hardy constitutions, we enjoy exploration and sports, but we don’t insist on intensive exercise like many high-active breeds. Heck, even our super fast Greyhound naps most of the day! An additional helpful hound trait? Most of us, with the exception of the Afghan Hound and a few others, have relatively low maintenance coats. A quick brushing and we’re game to go. It’s time to hug a hound!
I’m the Smooth Fox Terrier, here to convert you to the terrific terrier way of life. I was bred by Brits for fearlessness, hardiness, intelligence, and the ability to catch vermin above and below ground. In general, you’ll find we terriers are sprightly, occasionally scrappy, and always spirited. We treasure our people, but we highly value our own opinions. These days most of us have funneled our passion for the hunt into sports such as earthdog, tracking, and barn hunts. In general, obedience work isn’t our favorite. My clever cousin, Lexi, has an illustrative story about sports with her owner, Denise Visco. After a few obedience shows where Lexi walked the broad jump and then sat grinning as her human handler did the off-lead heeling figure 8 alone, she made clear that obedience wasn’t her passion. Lexi went on to succeed in agility competitions, demonstrating the terrier group’s natural talents, including speed, litheness, and leaping. Let us trouble-free terriers jump into your arms!
Ah shucks, you probably recognize me from my Best in Show at Westminster. But today I’m here to tell you about the athleticism, enthusiasm, and positive energy that all we sporting breeds bring to the table. Most of us were bred for some variation of hunting: pointing, flushing, or retrieving. I was bred in Germany as an all-purpose gun dog, renowned for my superior tracking skills as well as intelligence and biddability. We sporting breeds as a whole offer approachable, positive personalities. Tis no wonder we top the popularity charts! Looking for cheerful? Pick a sporting breed. Hoping for a swimming, hiking, hunting, or hanging out buddy? We’re it! Tired of the serious guard dogs that chase away your new friends? Most of us (the Chesapeake Bay Retriever dissents…) welcome strangers as potential new best friends. Give us a try!
I’m the Chinese Crested, speaking on behalf of the toy group. Most of us are small in stature, but big in spirit. And many (like me!) are wonderful athletes. I can collect accolades in canine freestyle dance, agility, and rally. Historically I was favored among merchants, traders, and sailors. I found myself arriving in ancient ports around the world. The Chinese bred us for our diminutive size, perkiness, and for some of us, hairlessness. A perk of any toy breed’s petite stature? We can live happily with you in small spaces and easily travel with you, even on airplanes. Many of us have low-shedding coats. And even if we have full coats, the quantity of shedding is limited by our size. A few of us, such as the Chihuahua, may take watchdog duties seriously. All of us treasure our families. And since we were bred mainly for friendship and frolic rather than work and duty, many of us adore mankind in general! Ready to down-size?
Top photo: German Shorthaired Pointer courtesy Valerie Nunes-Atkinson.
*We’ll save the American Kennel Club’s non-sporting, working, foundation stock service, and miscellaneous groups for another time. We can only handle so much powerful persuasion at once!