My new German Shepherd Dog (GSD) puppy, Anja, is 15 weeks old. To keep up with her, I go to bed early, take extra vitamins, and call Anja’s breeders and trainer often. I also find myself reviewing notes from puppy articles I’ve written over the years. Writing about a puppy is easier than raising one! But even now, Anja is a budding breed ambassador. She’s been to churches, stores, schools and repair shops in my hometown, Waco, Texas. And she collects Texas-sized hugs everywhere she goes.
Anja is the offspring of two remarkable parents, each bred for the temperament and drive that make the GSD a great working dog and companion. When I went to California to pick Anja up, I spent two days with her sire, Dante, and his owner, Deborah Stern. When we visited an outdoor café, Anja followed her daddy’s lead, relaxing as we dined. She also watched Dante’s polite response to newcomers. An outstanding breed ambassador, Dante excels in agility, conformation and therapy work, as well as causal meet and greets. He’s set the breed ambassador bar high!
Anja is only a novice breed ambassador, but we’re off to a start. She invites questions everywhere we go, especially when my granddaughter and I take her shopping.
Whether your own dog is a sporting, companion or working breed (or a combination!), he can become a breed ambassador, too.
Try these steps to making your dog a wonderful breed ambassador:
- Teach your dog manners. A dog can only be a good breed ambassador if he’s polite while out in public. Consider a Canine Good Citizen class and title. Join an obedience class, or sign up for a new dog sport. Giving your dog focus and purpose will help him develop manners.
- Have some fun researching. Many national breed clubs offer an in-depth history of the breed’s development on their websites. If your dog exhibits non-standard traits (maybe you have the one Golden Retriever who hates water!), you can explain him as unique.
- Find ways to naturally exhibit your breed’s talents. For example:
- If he’s a social, companion breed like the Maltese, developed to bring comfort, certify him as a therapy dog to visit the elderly or to listen while school children read to him.
- If he’s a sporting breed like the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, show off his retrieving at local parks or lakes. Maybe try a Dock Diving event or field trial. Onlookers admiring the Chessie’s athleticism may enjoy hearing about his webbed feet.
- If you own a Terrier, explain his spunk and spirit to newcomers. Most Terriers were bred for self-governing work chasing prey. They’re inherently more independent than many breeds. Terriers can show off in sports such as barn hunts, agility or rally.
- Push back against misconceptions. If your breed (such as the Bully breeds) is subject to negative press, take special care to socialize him extensively and represent him to the public. If your dog is a Bully mix, it’s equally important you teach him to be well-mannered in public.
- Tell, but also listen, to stories. Few people who cherish dogs don’t love to hear, or tell, a good dog narrative. I often come to understand my breed best in the context of the dog world as a whole. Talk openly to those around you about your dog, even about your own challenges raising him.
- Keep your dog well brushed and groomed. Each breed’s coat was developed for a purpose. His appearance reflects on his health and heritage. Make grooming a fun bonding time between you.
- Don’t leave the mixed breeds out. If your dog is a mixed breed, consider a DNA test to reveal his breed makeup, and help your dog naturally exhibit those varied breed traits. Additionally, you can be a spokesperson for rescued and mixed breeds as a whole if your dog evidences good manners.
Tell us: Is your dog a breed ambassador? How does your dog best represent her breed(s) — or not?
Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Lynn Hayner.
Why read breed profiles?
Dog breed profiles help everyone, whether you have a mixed breed or purebred dog, to better understand and improve the quality of your dog’s life. If you have a mixed breed dog, read up on all of the breed profiles that make up your dog. Not sure what breed your dog is? There are a number of easy DNA tests out there to help your find out.
Read more about dog breeds on Dogster.com: