WHAT IS A WORKING DOG?
Working dogs are bred and developed with attributes necessary to perform jobs such as guarding property, personal protection, pulling sleds/carts and performing rescues, tracking, crowd control and so forth. The type of work performed and the working temperament are key factors that determine the breeding philosophy of working dogs.
The type of work performed is the key factor that separates certain groups of working dogs from others. Herding breeds are great candidates for protection work. The best police style working dogs are directly drawn from practical herding stock, and not merely “herding” dogs that are pet or show dogs.
It is important to understand that dogs originally developed for a particular work application may not become a qualifying candidates.
WHAT IS A WORKING TEMPERAMENT?
Working temperament is the collection of consistent traits necessary to perform and excel in working situations. The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) was originally developed for herding or farm-related work, as well as guard/watch duties and general companionship. This type of breeding is called “working lines”. Note: Although few people today use their GSD’s for herding or farm work, the loyal, courageous dog of the farm still exists in most GSD’s today.
Due to breeding programs that swayed outside the original mission and purpose, it is not uncommon today to find some dogs are ineligible for application as working dogs. Further, it is not uncommon to find dogs originally bred to control herds of sheep or cattle that are intimidated by them. These dogs may have been bred for showing, thus leading to the degeneration of a breed. This type of breeding is called “show lines” , which is in stark contrast to the “working lines”.
Since these dogs look similar to the casual observer, most people assume the character and adaptability for work to be more or less the same. Show breeders often tend to encourage this self-serving attitude, undermining the fact that a dog’s potential is primarily determined by its genetic make up. We are often approached by people that want their dogs trained as super working dogs, but disappointed when the lack of confidence, courage and enthusiasm was highlighted. Even the instinctive protective nature was questionable in many GSD’s! This highlights the need to regenerate working dogs breeds back to the original temperament and application.
We respect show breeders and their right to breed towards their goals. However, we will never breed canines just for show. We believe the expense, effort and upkeep of their dog should pay off with the animal working towards a reward. Our effort focuses on dogs that work and perform duties they have been trained for. This does not stop with a single dog but continues generation after generation, as we generate attributes necessary for the ideal working temperament.
We believe the development of these qualities make a dog both capable of working and intrinsically compelled to work.
WHAT QUALITIES COMPEL A DOG TO WORK?
- Quick reaction
- Guarding instinct,alertness and vigilance
- Exceptionally watchdogs tendency
- Tenacious defensive drive when it comes to master and family
- Responsiveness to master’s direction
- Ability to handle stress and work under stress
- Firm loyalty to those it knows and loves
- Exhibition of reserve with strangers
Working temperament is not synonymous with personality. Working ability is akin to the human term “work ethic”. A person can have a bad work ethic but have a wonderful personality. Conversely, one with an excellent work ethic could have an abrasively or unpleasant personality. The same is true in dogs. Without good character the working dog can endanger the very humanity it is tasked to serve and could be a liability.
DETERMINING IF A DOG POSSESSES A WORKING ABILITY
A working temperament requires innate characteristics that drive a dog to work effectively under a range of circumstances. Some examples of working character are:
- Tolerance to pain and heat
- Natural herding instinct
- Ability to handle stress and pressure, corrections and confusion
- Degree of forgiveness
- High rate of learning
- Problem solving ability
- Acceptable degree of independence
- Trust, confidence in self and handler
While the list can vary in its extent depending on specific work applications, this should nevertheless provide an idea of the qualities the working temperament of an individual dog is comprised of.
No dog can possess every character of working ability at all times. It’s the breeder’s responsibility to maximize positive aspects of a breed and minimize the negative ones, while retaining an ideal balance in temperament. Even with excellent breeding programs, it is unrealistic to expect any animal to excel in all areas of the working arena.
A dog’s working attributes can be displayed in sports, where one can discern in-depth knowledge of its working temperament, which depends on the qualities the particular sport. For example, if you choose agility, you will have the opportunity to readily observe characteristics of flexibility, athleticism, speed, teamwork orientation, rate of learning to some degree, and willingness to follow direction. The more time spent with the sport, and the more advanced you become, and the more you learn about your dog’s working qualities.
BREEDING AND BREEDERS
Every knowledgeable breeder (not puppy farmer or dog trader) is aware of physical and other faults each dog may possess. A good breeder is committed to breeding out undesired traits/attributes while breeding in desired and necessary qualities.
These are conscious decisions that require knowledge, commitment and dedication. At Von Fidel, we hope you realize that breeding should not be left to just anyone. The more informed you are, the better it is for the future of your favorite dog breed.