HOW TO FIND A DOG WITH THE PERFECT TEMPERAMENT?
Here at Fenrir, we speak a lot about raising and training perfect canine companions. But there is no such thing as THE perfect dog. As the saying goes, “one man's nightmare is another man's dream.” If you are an avid bird hunter, for example, an energetic working line Labrador might be the ideal dog for you. But if you lived in an apartment building and did not like going out much, your perfect canine companion might be a low-energy English Bulldog. In our opinion, there is a perfect dog out there for everyone – it is just a matter of finding them! And this article is all about selecting the perfect dog for you.
FINDING THE PERFECT CANINE COMPANION
Once you are ready to get a new dog, the process of choosing the ideal canine companion begins. This is an exciting time. And we recommend taking it slowly, and doing extensive research before buying or adopting a dog. There are approximately 360 different breeds out there. And depending on your lifestyle, your financial situation and your preferences, some breeds are more suitable for you than others.
Breed standards describe the physical traits, temperament, and behaviours that are expected for a particular kind of dog. If you get a German Shepherd, for example, you can expect a loyal, intelligent and alert dog. But there are variations in size, coat colour, and coat type: Not all German Shepherds are equal: Puppies from working lines typically have higher energy levels and stronger drives than puppies from show lines.
Bet even within one single litter of pedigree puppies, temperaments do vary from one dog to another. Therefore, we advise to get clear on what exactly you want in a dog. You want to define these expectations long before you head out and buy a puppy. Let’s say for example that you live in a small house, situated in a suburban neighbourhood. Your children are still small, and you enjoy having friends and family over. You also own a cat and a pet rabbit. In such a setting, your perfect canine companion would have to be:
✓ very patient and gentle with children
✓ friendly towards people in general
✓ outgoing and playful
✓ tolerant of other pets
✓ calm and quiet in the home
✓ smart and trainable
✓ good in adapting to new situations
In your situation, you would not enjoy a dog with an assertive, suspicious or insecure personality. Dogs with a high prey-drive and high energy levels would not be ideal, either: Family companion dogs need to be particularly well-balanced, sociable, and stable.
To give you another example, let us assume you live alone in the middle of the forest. In order to feel safe in this remote setting, you want a large and powerful guard dog. This dog’s job will be to protect you and your home. Of course, such a dog’s temperament will be quite different from that of a family pet. For the role your dog will fill, they should be:
✓ naturally protective and alert
✓ wary towards strangers
✓ courageous and assertive
✓ loyal and dependable
Attributes such as a high prey drive and the tendency to roam would not be ideal, as you need your guard dog to stay close to the house. In such a setting, your perfect companion will not need to be adaptable, sociable, quiet, or good with other people and dogs. On the contrary, your ideal choice could be an independent Boerboel, a fearless Rottweiler, or a loyal Bullmastiff.
We highly encourage you to take a pen and a notepad – and write your own list. Ask yourself which character traits your perfect dog would have. If in any doubt on how to find the ideal dog for you, consider hiring a local trainer or behaviourist. Ask them to assist you with the selection process. These people typically have large networks, and they can help you finding dogs that match your needs. They can also accompany you to shelters or breeders to perform basic temperament testing on the dogs you are interested in.
Such tests include evaluations of the dog’s overall behaviour towards people and other dogs. A canine professional will carefully observe the dog’s interactions with their environment, their behaviour on a leash, and their body language. By offering the dog food and toys, they can find out what motivates the animal. And even more importantly, they can see whether or not the dog has tendencies for aggressive behaviours (such as resource guarding).
If you are selecting a dog by yourself, ask the staff members, or the breeder, for information on the dogs’ temperament. Tell them what your perfect canine companion would be like, and what kind of role you want them to fill. These people know their dogs best. And they will be happy to recommend you the individuals best-suited for your lifestyle and your preferences.
RAISING AND TRAINING PERFECT PUPPIES
If you have selected an adult dog, chances are that they will already have a basis of socialisation, obedience and manners. There is always room for improvement, but in many ways, adult dogs are easier to handle than puppies: Young canines have lots of energy. They are very excitable, and most of them happily engage in behaviours such as destructive chewing, play-biting, whining, and going to the toilet indoors.
After all, the base temperament remains the same for dogs throughout their lives. This is precisely why temperament selection is so important: Naturally confident puppies typically grow up into confident adult dogs. Timid puppies, on the other hand, may stay insecure throughout their lives. We can, however, balance our puppies’ natural temperament with education. With assertive puppies, for example, we would focus on strong leadership. Shy puppies would receive even more socialisation than the average dog: By exposing insecure puppies to different environments and situations, we help them to build up confidence.
Crate training is also the best method to prevent separation anxiety. To condition your puppy to their crate, we recommend using mental stimulation tools – such as our Fenrir Hammer. Filled with meat paste or peanut butter and then frozen, the Hammer keeps dogs occupied for a long time. You can put the Hammer into the crate right before leaving the house. In this way, your puppy understands that you leaving is not something to fear.
Another helpful tool for raising puppies is the Ragnar Collar. Young dogs have an uncanny ability to get themselves into trouble when left unattended in the home. With the Ragnar Collar on your puppy, however, you have maximum control. Its lightweight design and soft padded interior make this collar ideal for puppies. If you see that they are getting into anything, simply grab them by the collar. Alternatively, you can attach a light long line to the Ragnar Collar, and let it trail behind the puppy anytime they are not crated.
This brings us to the end of our discussion on temperament selection. The canine temperament spectrum reaches from the most timid and insecure dogs to extremely confident and assertive individuals. But most puppies, and adult dogs, are somewhere in between these extremes. This does not mean that owning a very assertive or insecure dog is a “bad” thing. You just need to complement your confident dog’s assertiveness with strong, calm and consistent leadership. And if your dog is shy and timid, focus on building their self-esteem and their confidence. Whatever temperament your dog has – as their loving leader, you will bring out the best in them. In any case, we wish you all the best on your journey with your dog.