By Peg Shovel
REGION – Some dog breeds are hyperactive and shy, others laid back and friendly. Others difficult to train, others easy. Right? Maybe not. New research says the differences between breeds are very small. So what is a good dog for seniors?
However, “There are certain tendencies for certain breeds”, said Dr. Andrea Y. You, DVM, medical director of Behavior Vets of New York and a resident of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
But luckily, a dog’s genes don’t determine how it will behave. If you raise a dog from a puppy, you are in charge of which behaviors you want to encourage and which to discourage.
“Dogs can learn things that don’t align with what their instincts are telling them to do,” Tu explained.
Influence of race
Recent Research by Dog Geneticist Kathleen Morrill of the University of Massachusetts Chan School of Medicine in Worcester and her colleagues show that breed is generally not a good predictor of behavior in any particular dog.
But Dr. Christopher Pachel, DVM and certified animal behavior consultant in Portland, Oregon, tempered this belief. “Every dog is an individual, but there are certain traits that may be more likely to show up when selecting a specific breed of dog,” he noted.
Small dogs have the advantage of being picked up as long as you can physically bend down to reach them. Dr. Katherine A. Houpt, VMD and professor emeritus at Cornell University, and a graduate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, recommended a Bichon F for less active seniors.laugh about, Maltese, Pomeranian, or Pekingese. Dr. Tu added to that list greyhounds (although they’re not little, she said they’re couch potatoes), toy poodles, and, for those willing to pay for potential health issues, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. “Cavaliers make great lap dogs because they are sweet and goofy as logs,” she said.
On the other hand, as Dr. Tu explained, highly intelligent dogs like poodles can be a challenge.
“Do you want to raise another child?” she asked. “If you don’t have the time to devote to giving them the level of enrichment they need, you may have a problem child on your hands.”
Many of those on the list recommended by Drs. You and Houpt have long hair. That can be inconvenient.
“A dog whose coat requires extensive hands-on grooming could be a challenge for someone with arthritis,” Pachel cautioned.
Using a professional groomer is expensive, but necessary for some breeds. That means taking the dog to and from the groomer. Yes, you can learn to trim your dog’s hair on your own, but it’s not easy to learn and it means buying expensive special tools to do it right.
As we get older, we can develop our own health problems. Do you want a dog prone to health problems too?
Dachshunds or other breeds with very long backs often develop back problems. Dogs with short muzzles, such as pugs, often have respiratory problems.
“No dog without a nose,” advised Dr. Houpt.
But there are dozens of health problems that can arise in any breed, so do your research. Or ask the breeder. Any reputable breeder will willingly offer this information. If they don’t? Find another breeder.
We have a lot to do with the way our dogs behave. It depends on how much time we dedicate to training. Pomeranians can bark a lot, but you can control that. Terriers can be trained to be less tenacious and poodles less annoying because they are bored.
The best predictor of personality is the dog’s parents, Dr. Tu said. “Go to the breeder and meet the parents. The personalities of a puppy’s parents are important,” he explained. “Also, get your pup when he’s around seven to eight weeks old.”
With careful training, Dr. Tu added, “this can give you the opportunity to create the personality you expect.”
Are you still confused about which breed is best for you? Don’t know if you’re ready to train a puppy?
Maybe Dr. Tu has the answer: “You want a cat!”
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