Editor’s note: This article is much longer than other articles posted on this blog. While few readers will read the article in it’s entirety, it was posted because it is a very comprehensive discussion of what should be considered in choosing a dog for security. If you are considering getting a dog for security or have a dog for security purposes, it would behoove you to read the entire article.
This article is Copyright 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000 by David F. Austin. It may be freely distributed in its entirety, minus the images, provided that this copyright notice is not removed. It may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in commercial documents without the author’s written permission. This article is provided “as is” without express or implied warranty. Although I have consulted with experts and have tried to be a good reporter, I am not a breeder, trainer, veterinarian or any other kind of expert on dogs or security.
The crime rates are up, and you’re afraid at home, at the office, around the neighborhood and in the car.[*]
How would you like to increase your safety with the help of a companion who has superhuman abilities, cares selflessly about your welfare, and will adore you even when others reject you?
With some effort, you can find such companions – they’re dogs. This guide can help get you started.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- General Information on Choosing a Dog
- Dogs and Home/Neighborhood Security
- Ask the Experts about Home Security
B. Another Expert, and Four Roles for Dogs
C. A Consensus on Dogs and Personal Security
D. Profile of a Protective Family Dog
E. Legal Issues
III. Buying a Puppy
- Before You Bring Your Puppy Home
A. Why a Dobe?
B. Avoiding Health Problems
- Large Short-Haired Alternatives: Bullmastiffs and RottweilersVII. Longer-Haired Alternatives: Akitas, Belgians, Bouviers, GSDsVIII. “Rare” Breeds: American Bulldog, Beauceron, Caucasian Ovcharka
IX. ‘Second-Hand’ Dogs
X. Neutering, Health and Temperament
References and Sources
A: Incidence of Hip Dysplasia in Featured Breeds
B: Choosing a Protection Dog
C: Some Local (NC Research Triangle) Resources
- General Information on Choosing a DogBefore considering what kind of dog to get, please read: The Monks of New Skete,The Art of Raising a Puppy.To choose breeds, consult: Benjamin and Lynette Hart, The Perfect Puppy and Michele Lowell, Your Purebred Puppy. The Perfect Puppy covers only 56 of the most popular breeds’ temperaments, but makes a greater effort to be objective than most other sources. It’s most important to know about the categories of temperament that the Harts define. Your Purebred Puppy covers almost three times as many breeds and includes: warnings about health defects to watch for in specific breeds; guidelines on choosing a breed to fit your way of living; and advice on finding good breeders. See also: rec.pets.dogs FAQ Homepage
Of course, reading books is no substitute for meeting dogs, owners and breeders. Each dog is an individual who may not have the temperament typical of his/her breed; individual differences can even swamp breed differences. But you still improve your odds of getting a companionable dog if you know what’s typical of a breed.
- Dogs and Home/Office/Neighborhood SecurityImproving home security is relatively easy. Increasing your security outside the home imposes additional constraints. Let’s consider home security first. (Much of the information in this section applies, with obvious modifications, to the workplace, and you may want to keep it in mind if you work outside the home at times when most others do not.)A.Ask the experts abouthome security. Jack MacLean (Secrets of a Superthief) reports the results of a survey of over 300 prison inmates who’d been convicted of burglary or other residential crimes. Three of the questions were about dogs and home security:
Would dogs scare you away?
65% said that dogs of good size and unfriendly persuasion would scare them away
35% said no dog would scare them away.
Based on reassessment of responses, MacLean concludes that over 95% would indeed be scared away.
What kinds of dogs scare you away the most?
30% “pit bull dogs”
25% all dogs
10% German Shepherd Dogs
What would scare you away from a residence more than anything?
59% people in the house
32% almost any dog
9% replies from night-time only burglars, who’d be deterred by spot or flood lights lighting up a yard
In another study, the following question was asked of 589 convicted property offenders:
How effective is each of the following likely to be in preventing burglary, breaking and entering and grand theft?
0 – not effective 1 – somewhat effective 2 – very effective
Monitored burglar alarms 1.51
Electronic sensors in windows 1.35
Closed circuit TV cameras in stores 1.31
Private security patrols 1.14
DOG IN HOUSE 1.11
Weapons in home 1.10
Guardhouses protecting homes 1.07
Random police foot patrols 1.05
Better exterior lighting 1.02
“Neighborhood Watch” programs 0.98
Safes/strong boxes 0.83
Local burglar alarms 0.83
Deadbolt lock 0.79
Timed interior lights 0.78
And a police officer wrote:
…you are concerned for your family’s safety, and you want a nice pet, too. Fortunately…, you can have the best of both worlds. I speak as a dog enthusiast, and as a police officer who specializes in Crime Prevention. …Professional criminals dislike: 1. time 2. noise 3. light. [TIME:] Most thieves like to be into a house in less than 15 seconds; if a criminal needs more than that he probably won’t break into your house. This tells us that good quality, re-enforced doors [and windows] with heavy duty locks are an answer. LIGHT: if you keep the area around your house lighted (sensor lights are good and inexpensive, too) this will help greatly. NOISE: … [a small, alert dog], while not intimidating to most people, is a problem to a burglar – he does not want to hear that barking! So, you can improve your home security without adding a… [larger] dog…. BUT, like a lot of things, sometimes more is better, and in this case, having more physical security, more light or more noise is going to be in your favor…. Also, having a big dog on the property lets the pros know when they are looking for an easy mark that perhaps your house is not an easy mark.
But, there are still the matters of neighborhood and car safety, and not just any barking dog will help with these.
B. Another expert on personal security, and four roles for dogs. In The Truth about Self-Defense, nationally-recognized expert on security and use-of-force Massad F. Ayoob makes these useful distinctions:
WATCHDOGS …[are] mobile, four-footed burglar alarm[s]. [They] bark insistently and steadily when an entry is attempted, and … [go] to the entry point to pinpoint it for you as … [they] yap.
PROTECTION DOGS are animals with advanced obedience training. On your command, they will bark and lunge at an aggressor, snapping at him without actually biting him. Also upon your command, they will immediately sit or lie and fall silent. Their training is oriented strictly toward a deterrent show of force; if your attacker persists, the animal will have to fall back on its natural protective instinct and bite him. A properly trained protection dog will also perform all the functions of a watchdog.
ATTACK DOGS have been trained to sink their teeth into people on their master’s command, or when they observe their master under assault. Once resistance from the suspect ceases, a true attack dog will let go of him. It will do the same on command, no matter how excitement-charged the atmosphere, if it has been properly trained and selected. Normally, the dog will only bite if given the proper command, or if the animal sees its owner or a family member under attack.
The attack dog is at the maximum level of obedience training. After the master has ordered it to put a suspect on point, the dog can be called back, and even ordered to “make friends.” It feels no personal animosity toward the person it is ordered to attack; it is a canine technician, doing a job on the orders of its human boss.
GUARD DOGS represent the deadliest level of canine training. These animals either walk with a sentry, or patrol alone in an enclosed space. Their function is to apprehend and neutralize any human intruder. They do not stop biting when the suspect stops resisting; they stop only when the human stops MOVING. They are likely to be trained to go for the throat or genitals. Guard dogs are trained to kill and maim. A guard dog is so vicious that it will usually obey only a single handler. … The only legitimate use of a guard dog is in wartime, or when guarding an area so sensitive that human intrusion could result in awesome public danger, such as a nuclear weapons facility.
To help with neighborhood and car security, you might need more than a watchdog. Ayoob argues that very few people need more than a protection dog. I assume that he’s right.
C. A consensus on dogs and personal security. Among the dozens of people consulted (breeders, owners, trainers and three police officers who specialize in crime prevention), the clear consensus was:
having some dog is better than having none, and having one of the larger, louder, darker (preferably black) dogs would be helpful with house, neighborhood and car security, but because of their easily recognized physical appearance and reputation among criminals as attack- and guard- dogs, Dobermans (and some other protection dogs; see D.) would be much more of a deterrent than, say, Labrador Retrievers, particularly outside the home. It was also agreed that one can find Dobermans (and other protection dogs) who’d make wonderful family pets.
In the Intelligence of Dogs, Coren distinguishes among three kinds of “intelligence”: instinctive (skills and behavioral dispositions that are genetically programmed), adaptive (learning, memory and problem solving), and working and obedience; and he discusses how a dog’s individual personality influences the way in which his or her intelligences are expressed. With these distinctions in mind, Coren reports the results of his survey of 208 North American obedience competition judges, and his further consultation with 63 small animal veterinarians and 14 specialists in guard and protection dog training (“11 experts in training dogs for property and personal protection and the remaining 3 dog trainers and dog masters associated with police forces” – p. 134).
The 14 specialists said that these 15 breeds are best at watchdog behavior (pp. 134-135; listed roughly in descending order of alertness): Rottweiler, GSD, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Chihuahua, Airedale, Poodle (Standard or Miniature), Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, Dachshund, Silky Terrier, Fox Terrier. The breeds least likely to succeed as watchdogs (p. 135; listed from least to most) were: Bloodhound, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Basset hound, English Bulldog, Old English Sheepdog, Clumber Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound, Pug, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute. The most effective guard dogs (p. 141) are likely to come from these breeds:
Staffordshire Terrier (34)
Belgian Malinois (22)
Belgian Shepherd (15)
Belgian Tervuren (14)
Chow Chow (76)
German Shepherd Dog (3)
Giant Schnauzer (28)
Rhodesian Ridgeback (52)
where the number is the breed’s rank among 133 breeds (sorted into 79 ranks) in working and obedience intelligence (pp. 180-182). (Bouviers rank 29th, Akitas 54th.) Coren suggests grouping the ranks:
27-39 above average
70-79 most difficult to train.
Dobermans and German Shepherd Dogs received special mention for their high adaptive intelligence. Female Dobermans were thought to have generally higher working and obedience intelligence than males, and males were seen as better at problem-solving.
According to the 14 specialists, being a effective guard dog does not require high working and obedience intelligence. An instinctively protective dog that is intimidating because of its size or appearance can be an effective guard dog, even if it is not in the top two groupings and so not highly trainable. Together with the information and advice from The Perfect Puppy, Coren’s results suggest, however, that dogs that are not highly trainable may not be the best choice for most dog owners. Nor is every highly trainable dog suitable for protection: for example, Standard Poodles (2), although powerful and protective, cannot deter attack by appearance alone.
D. Profile of a protective family dog. A trainer/breeder advises:
… you are looking for the same thing I want … – a dog that is:
1) not a liability – not aggressive, not attack trained….
2) a loving and trustworthy member of your family
3) suspicious of strangers, yet willing to accept someone whom you say is okay
4) confident enough in his/her opinions to decide when a stranger is a threat, and to back up that threat with growling and possibly attacking if necessary.
5) willing to do anything to protect his/her beloved family.
This type of dog is produced through a combination of breeding and training. Although there are exceptions in every breed, the first step would be to decide on which of the protection breeds you want. The protection breeds are Belgians (Tervuren, Sheepdogs, Malinois), Bouvier des Flandres, Bullmastiffs, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, and recently, Akitas. You want a dog that has the bred-in instinct to be suspicious and alert. You want a dog that is willing to be a part of your pack and accept you as pack leader. … most of what you are looking for is achieved by breeding, not by training. Picking the right dog is …[the essential first step]. As far as training, it is important not to use a harsh method of training where you destroy all the dog’s initiative. You need to use training methods that encourage the dog to think and make decisions. You also need to make sure that you are always the ‘alpha’ [pack leader], the “loving dictator.”
For in-house security, a loud, deep (big dog) bark from an alert watchdog might be all you need. I say “might” because you may also want the dog to stop anyone who tried to harm a family member – that is, you might feel the need for a protection dog. What kind of dog you feel you need for security in your home will depend on how awful the harm would feel, weighted by how likely it seems. For security outside the home, a Doberman (or other recognizable protection dog) would be more of a deterrent than, say, a Labrador Retriever – but a black Lab would be a deterrent, too: “Why bother that person, with a ‘big’ black dog, when there are others around with little or no dogs?” thinks the semi-rational potential assailant.
And what about the near-psychotic drug-user, who’s not even semi-rational? (A New York Times headline described them as “Homeless, Insane and on Crack: A Danger to Themselves and Others.”) Again, the awfulness of this possibility must be weighted by its likelihood. When we think of our children, even unlikely harm looms large.
Any dog suitable for protection will likely be larger (22+” at the highest point of the shoulder, 55+ lbs.), smart and powerful. Such a dog will need plenty of exercise (good for owners, too!), training and companionship. Otherwise, the dog will become tense and anxious (much as would a bright, energetic child deprived of companions or play), and will try to relieve these feelings by, e.g., running, chewing or barking. For these dogs, destroying a table leg, the entire couch or the drywall between apartments (actual incidents!) is very easy. This applies not only to the protection breeds, but to any dog who’s larger, smart and powerful, even a typically calm Labrador Retriever. Any dog will benefit from ready access via dog-door to a securely fenced yard also containing a kennel run.
Would a larger dog take up too much space? Well, there’s the number of cubic feet that the dog occupies, and there’s ‘personal space’ (a measure of how intrusive it feels to have the dog indoors). A well-trained (24″, 60 lb.) Doberman takes up less personal space than a boisterous (13″, 15 lb.) Beagle.
(Snickers 1/20/89 – 11/11/ 03)
- Legal issues:Suppose that your dog bites someone (a) who’s breaking into the house or (b) who’s an assailant on the street. What legal trouble might you face?STATE AND LOCAL LAWS AND ENFORCEMENT POLICIES ARE RELEVANT HERE, but here are some general remarks from a police officer/lawyer.
The first issue is where canine force falls within the use-of-force continuum. …. Based on the amount of damage a large, aggressive dog can/will do to a human, it is probably correct that canine use of force should be considered lethal force … at about the same step as an impact weapon, but not as high as a firearm. Fortunately for [most] folks …, most lawyers haven’t a clue about use of force and won’t analyze it correctly if they are contacted by someone bitten by your dog. In home defense, the law generally gives more latitude to the resident, and … [the bitee] will have a harder time winning a lawsuit. In the street, you may have a slightly harder time, depending on the nature of the encounter, and how well the bitee perjures himself. I think that criminal prosecution would not be something to worry about, but that civil litigation might result, and that is where the extra investment in time and $$ to get a good quality dog is gonna pay off. It will really pay if you have lots of friends and neighbors who regularly interact with the dog and will be able to testify as to its peaceful nature, tolerance for the abusiveness of 4 year old kids, etc. Ayoob’s book has many passages about the possible civil and criminal consequences of use of force, and you should consider them in some of your planning. … If you have a large, aggressive dog, you will have to walk it on a short lead all the time, just to keep someone … from claiming that the dog was loose and came after them at random, without provocation, no matter how well trained and tempered the dog is. … [I]f a dog of that nature chews on some lowlife, [s/he] … will have some incentive to try to get some $$ out of you, and may try, which is why I consider the cost of a best quality dog to be a minimal investment…. The [bitee’s] ability to collect will also vary with the local legal climate; small town/rural areas are not good climates for that sort of plaintiff.
Another lawyer believes that the preceding overstates the likely legal trouble.
Check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Some companies may restrict coverage if you have certain breeds of dogs at home.
III. Buying a Puppy
For general advice, consult Your Purebred Puppy. A larger-breed, pet-quality puppy will cost upwards of $400. However, by investing more up front, one can save a great deal in the long run (thousands on vet bills; or, if you don’t have thousands to spare, the agony of having a cherished pet put to death). Some breeders will provide written guarantees; one proud, happy owner writes:
Now I have a Doberman Pinscher. I bought him from a breeder as a pet and he has grown into a beautiful show dog. With him came the following: 1) Guarantee that he would be free from genetic disorders or I would be given a new puppy; or if I chose to keep him, I would be given back the money I paid for him and extra money to help with vet bills. 2) His pedigree, and any information on his parents that I wanted. 3) His AKC papers. 4) All shots and wormings. 5) Tail docked, ears cropped and free ear care. 6) A well behaved and healthy companion with perfect temperament. 7) No worries whatsoever. To me, all that was worth spending the extra money to go to a breeder.
ALL breeds are subject to genetically-linked defects in health and temperament. Working with a good breeder minimizes (but does not eliminate) the chance that one will end up with a defective dog. Your Purebred Puppyhas some good advice about this.
Don’t be scared by talk of genetic defects and health problems. Although some breeds have been severely damaged by poor breeding, the best response to a long list of possible defects and problems is to be alert for them at the outset. Also, keep in mind that the length of a list may reflect the state of knowledge about a breed more than the likelihood of running into problems. Uncommon breeds are generally less well studied than more common breeds, and so may have shorter lists. A defect in an uncommon breed may also propagate more quickly and be harder to eliminate from the smaller population. Popular breeds will generally have longer lists in part because they’ve been studied more intensively.
- Before You Bring Your Puppy HomeTo help you raise your dog, consultThe Art of Raising a Puppy; Carol Lea Benjamin,Mother Knows Best and Dog Problems; Clarice Rutherford and David Neil, How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With; or William Campbell, Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs and Cats. If you study just one of these before you get your puppy, it should probably be How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With (-but if you don’t have time for more, do you really have time for a dog?). To help you decide when to call the vet, buy and use Carlson and Giffin, Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook. This is far more ‘user-friendly’ than the cheaper Merck Veterinary Manual, also often stocked in mall bookstores.
Of course, no one can learn how to raise a dog from books alone. Plan to enroll with your puppy in a training class by the time the puppy is six months old. (Trainers and kennel clubs offer these regularly; they typically meet weekly for 6-10 weeks and cost about $50-$100 total. Private lessons cost more, but even one or two can be very helpful with tougher problems.) It also helps to view some of the many videos available. One good one is: Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Sirius Puppy Training Program; the manual is Dunbar’s How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks.
An untrained dog of a protection breed is a “lethal weapon that can pull its own trigger.”
Pet supply stores (e.g., Pet Depot) stock the equipment and supplies you’ll need (crate, collar, leash, brush, comb, shampoo, flea spray, bowls, etc.), but their prices are higher than those of mail-order suppliers. One of the fastest and most reliable mail-order suppliers is R. C. Steele Co. (see References and Sources).
I was talking with a friend who was asking my advice about what sort of dog to get. She wanted a large dog that would be easy to train and groom, safe around her children, and a good protector. I said she was describing a Dobie…. a good Dobie is the dog I would choose if I had a child who needed a reliable pal and lived in an atmosphere of risk – but I emphasize that a lot more is captured than I can go into here by the expression “a good Dobie.”
Vicki Hearne, Animal Happiness (16)
- Why a Dobe?If you want a highly trainable, medium-sized, short-haired dog who doesn’t drool a lot, who’d make agreat family pet and who’d also deter criminals by her appearance alone, then a black female Doberman is the kind of dog to get.B. Avoiding health problems: C. David McLaughlin, DVM, Chair of the Health/Medical Registry Committee, Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) and Vice-President/Grants, The Doberman Pinscher Foundation of America, Inc., writes:The primary diseases associated with the Doberman are von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD), cervical vertebral instability (Wobblers Syndrome or cervical spondylopathy), dilated cardiomyopathy, hypothyroidism, chronic active hepatitis (copper associated toxicosis), chronic skin disease associated with color dilution (blues and fawns), and the conditions associated with the recent addition of albinism (sometimes referred to as “white Doberman”) into the gene pool.
He advises screening for VWD and hip dysplasia and checking family background for Wobblers, cardiomyopathy and hypothyroidism.
At the present time the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) maintains a registry for hip dysplasia [see Appendix A] and hypothyroidism providing valuable information on … [puppy’s parents]. As reliable tests for other diseases are developed they will be added to the registry.
Dr. McLaughlin also emphasises that
… at the rate veterinary medicine is advancing, some material [on dog health problems] may be obsolete even before it is published. Consequently, there is no substitute for soliciting the advice of a primary care veterinarian for the most current information…. Research is underway to develop DNA tests for cardiomyopathy and VWD. A DNA test is available for copper toxicosis in some breeds at this time, but not for the Doberman, as yet.
Some breed ‘giant’ Dobermans (over 28″). These dogs are more susceptible to bone problems like hip dysplasia than normal Dobermans, and so are best avoided. It’s doubtful that the extra size yields significantly more protection for the owner.
If you do want an even bigger dog and don’t mind one who slobbers, then consider:
VI. Larger Short-Haired Alternatives: Bullmastiffs and Rottweilers
Bullmastiffs are not quite as “stable” temperamentally as the mastiff, but most people say they are sweet. A few tend to attack and/or kill cats and other dogs.
Hip dysplasia is a common problem in the breed, as is lymphsarcoma
Rottweillers have an overpowering need to be dominant, and only a few people can successfully deal with this. They also have a tendency to “mouth” things, hands in particular. Many tend to be dog aggressive but most of the behavior problems stem from owners. The biggest problem overall is spoiled dogs. Behavior that might seem cute in a puppy gets dangerous in a 90-120 lb. adult. One “problem” in the Rottweiler is herding behavior. Many people don’t recognize these behaviors for what they are, especially in puppies; they view it as aggressive behavior and either harshly over-correct it or aggravate it into aggression. This breed has some problems with shyness as well, but not to the extent of the GSD.
Health problems: common: coronoid process (fragmented) FCP, osteochondritis dissecans, ectopic ureter (esp. females); not uncommon: achalasia of esophagus, cruciate ligament rupture; uncommon: retinal dysplasia; rare: hypomyelinogenesis.
VII. Longer-Haired Alternatives: Akitas, Belgians, Bouviers and GSDs
If you don’t mind the copious shedding and grooming requirements of a longer-haired dog, then a Belgian might be a good choice. The Sheepdogs are black; the Tervuren can have a mixture of dark and light (rich fawn to russet mahogany with black overlay); the Malinois resemble German Shepherd Dogs in their overall coloring (fawn to mahogany) and coat-length. Since they are as yet less popular than many of the other protection breeds, they’ve not been overbred to the same extent. Nevertheless, to guard against hip dysplasia, check OFA certification in the dog’s pedigree; also ask for CERF certification and be on the alert for any familial tendency towards epilepsy and other seizure-causing disorders. Anywhere from 10% – 35% of Tervuren may be affected to some degree by the latter; the Sheepdogs appear less susceptible to this range of problems. Shyness and herding behavior can also be a problem in Belgians.
Well-bred GSDs are versatile working dogs. The most common temperament problem in GSDs is shyness. Most of the snapping is by fear biters, rather than aggressive dogs. This problem tends to be exacerbated by owners who either coddle the dog, because they realize that the dog is scared, or who praise the dog for “protecting” them. As in Rottweilers, one “problem” in the GSD is herding behavior.
Health problems: common: malabsorbtion, VWD, panosteitis, ununited anconeal process, chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, idiopathic epilepsy (esp. females); not uncommon: achalasia of esophagus, anal furunculosis, pannus (corneal disease), subaortic stenosis (in some strains); uncommon: hemophilia A, persistent right aortic arch, pyoderma; rare: dermoid cysts, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, giant axonal neuropathy, (hem)angiosarcoma; variable: cataract; not common: corneal dystrophy.
Bouviers are outstanding kid’s dogs. They are even-tempered and extremely intelligent, but not immediately obedient, though sensitive: stern language is more effective than physical correction. For a big dog, they have a relatively small appetite (except when a puppy). Though big and imposing. (95 to 105 lbs. is typical) they are remarkably agile and like to play hard, especially when younger. Indoors, they are calm; outdoors, virtually inexhaustible. Grooming can consume most of a Saturday; twice-weekly grooming is preferable.
Health problems: common: hip dysplasia, entropion; not uncommon: laryngeal paralysis, myopathy; rare: glaucoma. Some suffer from hypothyroidism, but the breed is not noted for this problem.
The biggest problem with Akitas is aggressiveness towards other dogs, though they tend not to act unless provoked. Like Rottweilers, they require a firm, but not harsh, hand. Properly trained, they can be great with people, children included.
Their coats are very much like Siberian Huskies’s. They blow coat twice a year (a mess for about 2 – 4 weeks), but the rest of the time they have very little hair loss, nothing a good weekly brushing wouldn’t control. They are very clean animals, and bathing is normally not required more than once every 3-6 months.
Akitas are prone to hip dysplasia. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a problem in the breed (as well as entropion and cataracts). Autoimmune thyroiditis is very common. Several autoimmune diseases – VKH (Voight-Koyanagi-Harada), pemphigus, autoimmune hemolytic anemia – are fairly common. Hyperkalemia is usually a misdiagnosis in Akitas; their red blood cells are different from other dogs (except for one type of poodle) and are more fragile. Skin problems like flea allergies are becoming more common, too.
VIII. “Rare” Breeds [section in infancy]
In the previous versions of this FAQ, I focused on the more common, AKC-registerable breeds. Concern about breed health problems and comments from some people who are experienced with dog and security issues have led me to try to expand coverage to include breeds less common in the US. (Of course, there are never any guarantees that a dog will enjoy good health, even with the most responsible care.) Getting a dog of a rare breed does present some special problems, however.
Two breeds that recommend themselves are the American Bulldog and the Beauceron (or, Bergers de Beauce – a French herding dog). The appearance of black dogs of either breed would deter all but the craziest criminals, and their protective behavior should discourage the rest.
US Beauceron Alliance [link down]
St. Sacrement Beaucerons [lots of information and links]
Lots of terrific photos: http://roland.collignon.free.fr/
The American Bulldog has a bulldog head, but is much taller and heavier than the English or French Bulldogs, often weighing well upwards of 90 lbs.
The Beauceron has been described as looking like a cross between a Doberman and a GSD, with height and (in 90% of the breed) coloring similar to black Dobermans but somewhat more thickly built.
The Caucasian Ovcharka, a Russian breed that has recently made its way to the US, is feircely loyal to and protective of its immediate family. At 160 lbs for a male, the breed is truly not for everyone.
IX. ‘Second-Hand’ Dogs
Wonderful dogs can be found at animal shelters, but the risk of getting one with health and temperament problems is significantly higher when information about the dog is very limited, as is commonly the case. (The risk can be reduced somewhat by hiring an experienced trainer to help choose the dog and having a vet check the dog before adopting it.) Your Purebred Puppy and The Perfect Puppy offer some good advice, as does The Adoption Option. The Art of Raising a Puppy and Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs and Cats contain detailed sections on puppy temperament testing. Simpler versions of the tests are described in Carol Lea Benjamin’sSecond Hand Dog and Chosen Puppy, and in The Adoption Option and The Perfect Puppy.
Many breeds have active rescue organizations, another good source of ‘second-hand’ dogs. Breeders and kennel clubs often know whom to contact. And there’s a directory of rescue organizations: Network for Ani-males and Females, Project Breed Directory. Some of the most up-to-date information is available via the world-wide web.
X. Neutering, Health and Temperament
The connections among neutering, behavior and rate of maturation are not clear, although neutering of male dogs does seem to reduce roaming, fighting, mounting and marking that are specifically sex-driven. As already noted, the vast majority of dog bites are by unneutered males. There is also one very powerful health argument for early spaying of female dogs. Of the diseases to which they are subject, mammary cancer is the biggest killer of females. Spaying before the first heat reduces the risk of mammary cancer by over 99%; spaying between the first and second heat is not quite as protective, but still reduces the risk by over 90%; spaying between second and third heat reduces the risk by about 80%; but spaying after the third heat does not significantly reduce the risk; after four heats, there is no measurable difference between spayed and intact female dogs.
References and Sources (must be updated)
Many of these books are available in public libraries and/or chain (‘mall’) bookstores. Almost any dog book or tape can be ordered from Direct Book Service: Dog and Cat Book Catalog (1700 titles!), PO Box 15357, Seattle, WA 98115, 1-800-776-2665. An enormous amount of information is also available via the world-wide web.
American Kennel Club, The Complete Dog Book 18th Ed. (Howell House, 1992) $7.99 ISBN 0-87605-464-5
Massad F. Ayoob, The Truth about Self-Defense (1983, The Police Bookshelf, PO Box 122, Concord, NH 03302-0122 1-800-624-9049) $7.99 pbk ISBN 0-317-64452-1
Carol Lea Benjamin, Chosen Puppy: How to Select and Raise a Great Puppy from an Animal Shelter (Howell Book House, 1990) $7.95 pbk ISBN 0-87605-417-3
Carol Lea Benjamin, Dog Problems (Doubleday and Co., 1981) $13.95 hardcover ISBN 0-385-15710-X
Carol Lea Benjamin, Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog (Howell Book House, 1985) $15.95 hardcover ISBN 0-87605-666-4
Carol Lea Benjamin, Second Hand Dog: How to Turn Yours into a First Rate Pet (Howell Book House, 1988) $6.00 pbk ISBN 0-87605-735-0
Carol Lea Benjamin, Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence (Howell Book House, 1993
John Blackwell, American Bulldog (T F H Pubs, 1994) $14.95 ISBN 0866228675
William E. Campbell, Behavior Problems in Dogs 2nd ed. (Goleta, CA: American Veterinary Pubs., 1992) $32.95 hardcover ISBN 0-939674-36-X
William E. Campbell, Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs and Cats (Loveland, CO: Alpine Publications, 1989) $14.95 pbk 0-931866-42-D
Delbert G. Carlson, DVM and James M. Giffin, MD, Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook (Revised and Expanded) (Howell Book House, 1992) $25.00 hardcover ISBN 0-87605-537-4
Annette M. Carricato, Veterinary Notes for Dog Breeders, (Howell Book House, 1992) ISBN 0876058055.
Ross D. Clark and Joan R. Steiner, Medical and Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs, (Edwardsville, Kansas: Veterinary Medical Pubs., 1983) ISBN 093507824X
Sydney C. Cooper, Anne Scott and the Editors of Consumer Reports Books, Home Security (Consumer’s Union, 1988) $15.00 pbk ISBN 0-89043-087-X
Stanley Coren, The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness & Capabilities
(Bantam Books, 1995) ISBN 0553374524
Mark Derr, Dog’s Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship (Henry Holt & Company ,1997) $25.00 ISBN 0805040633
Karen Freeman Duet and George Duet, The Home and Family Protection Dog: Selection and Training (Howell, 1993) 0-87605-619-2
Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Sirius Puppy Training Program (Pacific Arts Video, 1-800-538-5856, 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211) $14.95
Ian Dunbar, How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks (Sirius Puppy Training Program Manual) (Oakland, CA: James and Kenneth Pubs., 1991) $17.95 spiral bound
Fiorenzo Fiorone, ed., Encyclopedia of Dogs (HarperCollins, 1973) ISBN 0690000561 [and (Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1973) ISBN 0-690-00056-1]
Cathy J. Flamholtz, A Celebration of Rare Breeds (OTR Pubs, 1986) ISBN 0-940269-00-7
Benjamin Hart, DVM, PhD and Lynette A. Hart, PhD, The Perfect Puppy (WH Freeman, 1987) $9.95 pbk ISBN 0-7167-1829-4
Vicki Hearne, Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog (Harper, 1991) $11.00 pbk ISBN 0-06-019005-1
Vicki Hearne, Animal Happiness (HarperPerennial, 1995) $12.00 pbk ISBN 0-06-092606-6
James Herriot, Dog Stories (St. Martin’s Press, 1986) $5.99 pbk ISBN 0-312-92558-1
William R. Koehler, The Koehler Method of Guard Dog Training (Howell Book House, 1962 & 1967) $24.95 ISBN 0876055528
R. M. Koster, Carmichael’s Dog (Norton, 1992) ISBN 0393033910
Michele Lowell, Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer’s Guide (H. Holt and Co., 1991) $10.95 pbk ISBN 0-8050-1892-1
Maurice Luquet, Les Chiens de Berger Français (Editions de Vecchi, 1982) LC 83-131973 SF428.6 .L865 1982 ISBN 2-7328-0325 85.00 Francs
Jack MacLean, Secrets of a Superthief (NY: Berkley Books, 1983) ISBN 0-425-05645-7
Donald McCaig, Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men: Seeking through Scotland for a Border Collie (Harper, 1991) $10.00 pbk ISBN 0-06-098114-8
Monks of New Skete, The Art of Raising a Puppy (Little Brown, 1991) $17.95 hardcover ISBN 0-316-57839-8
Network for Ani-males and Females, Project Breed Directory: Yellow Book (Germantown, MD, 1989) $18.95 pbk ISBN 0938073028
Network for Ani-males and Females, Project Breed Directory: Red Book (Germantown, MD, 1993) $25+$3.05PH 18707 Curry Powder Lane, Germantown, MD 20874
Mary Randolph, Dog Law 2nd ed. (Nolo Press, 950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, 1-800-645-0895) $12.95 pbk. ISBN 0-87337-216-6
Roy Robinson, Genetics for Dog Breeders (Pergamon Press, 1990) ISBN 0080374921
Eliza Rubenstein and Shari Kalina, The Adoption Option: Choosing and Raising the Shelter Dog for You (Howell Books, 1996) ISBN 0876054254.
Clarice Rutherford and David H. Neil, How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With 2nd Ed. (Loveland, CO: Alpine Publications, 1992) $9.95 pbk ISBN 0-931866-57-X
Carl Semencic, The world of fighting dogs (TFH Pubs, 1984) $23.95 ISBN 0866226567
Larry Shook, The Puppy Report (NY: Lyons and Burford Pubs., 1992) ISBN 1-55821-140-3
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Hidden Life of Dogs (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) 0-395-66958-8
David Alan Wacker, The Complete Guide to Home Security: How to Protect Your Family and Home from Harm (Betterway Pubs., Box 219, Crozet, VA 22932 1-804-823-5661, 1990) $14.95 pbk ISBN 1-55870-163-X
Bonnie Wilcox, DVM and Chris Walkowicz, The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Pubs., 1989) ISBN 0-86622-930-2
Malcolm Willis, Genetics of the Dog (Howell Book House, 1989) ISBN 087605551X
Malcolm B. Willis, Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders (Howell, 1992) 0-87605-782-2
R. C. Steele Co., 1989 Transit Way Box 910, Brockport, NY 14420-0910; for catalogue requests: 1-800-872-4506; for credit card orders: 1-800-872-3773. (There is a $50 minimum on each order.)
Appendix A: Incidence of Hip Dysplasia in Featured Breeds
|Breed||% Dysplastic||# of Evaluations|
Period covered: Jan ’74-Jan ’95 
Appendix B: Choosing a Protection Dog
1. Do you have the resources for a dog?
Time [1 hour/day or more – probably more]
Space [cubic feet vs. Personal; see end of II. D.]
Energy for walks and play
Money – Start-Up Costs
Buying the dog
From a breeder
From a shelter
Buying Equipment (initial)
Toys (nylabone, etc.)
Money – Monthly Maintenance
Supplies (flea & tick repellent, heartworm preventative, etc.)
Vet bills (immunizations, medications, dental care)
[A rough estimate of the range of costs: for a small male from a shelter, about $200 initially and $25 per month; for a very large female from a breeder, about $1200 initially and about $70 per month. Your mileage may vary.]
2. What kind of help with personal safety do you need?
Watchdog – almost any barking dog will do (consult Lowell and Hart and Hart and check Coren’s lists
Attack – Unless you like living with an uncontrollable loaded gun, this requires thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. The dog may cost $3000, and you’ll need to go through 1-2 years of intensive, professionally guided training with the dog. Please read Duet & Duet and Koehler and then consult with the relevant experts.
Protection – What kind of protection dog do you want? (see chart)
Size, Sex, Ease of Care, Trainability
|Breed||Size||Care & Clean-up||Brains|
Appendix C: Some NC Research Triangle Resources
Ms. Jan Santel, an agility competition judge and trainer, is an excellent source of information and forthright advice. She has had several Dobermans, though does not breed them, and runs Autumn Winds, a dog agility and obedience training center at Route 1, Box 11-D, 3701 Bosco Road, New Hill, NC 27562 (919) 362-4084, 4091. E-mail: AgDog@aol.com. Novices and experienced owners alike have found Ms. Santel to be very helpful.
For help with herding breeds, contact the Triangle Herding Club.
I’m sure that there are other fine trainers in the area.
[*]A November 15, 1992 LA Times article reports security expert Richard W. Kobetz’s view that criminals will try new tactics as home security improves, and that car-jackings will likely increase. It is estimated that in 1994, there were over 300,000 incidents of breaking and entering in NC alone; fewer than 2000 of the criminals were sent to jail. The national average is about the same. And most crime goes unreported.
See References and Sources for more detailed information on books and tapes.
For color photographs, see: AKC, The Complete Dog Book; and Wilcox and Walkowicz, The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World.
A great place to meet all three together is at dog shows. Check the monthly Dog World, available at many libraries and newsstands, for extensive listings. Local kennel clubs can also help.
Life with a dog is also well described in fiction. R. M. Koster’s novel, Carmichael’s Dog, is a profoundly witty account of how a dog’s purity of heart may be enlisted in the fight against even the most tenacious personal demons. James Herriot’s Dog Storiesis wonderful ‘faction’. Some excellent contemporary nonfiction narratives are: Stanley Coren, The Intelligence of Dogs; Vicki Hearne, Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog (an artfully written and sophisticated consideration of the question, Do dogs have minds?); and Donald McCaig, Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men (on the importance of giving dogs some work to do). You can find many other dog tales, fictional and factual, in public libraries.
A police officer in a K9 unit agreed with MacLean’s reassessment of criminals who say they’re not scared by dogs: almost all of them are lying.
This is not the name of a breed. The term refers to dogs of various breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, Dogo Argentino, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and perhaps Bull Terrier, as well as dogs resembling these. SeeBandit for a discussion of why this isn’t merely a matter of semantics. None of these breeds fits the profile of a protection dog in section D. An ill-bred, badly mistreated ‘pit bull’ might attack people – the owner included. Who’d want such a dog?!
MacLean says that creative signs also help. (BEWARE OF DOG is too ‘old hat’.) For example: BEWARE: RABIES QUARANTINE AREA; KRANKHEIT RABIES RESEARCH FOUNDATION; DANGER: EXTREMELY VICIOUS BARKLESS GERMAN ROTTWEILERS; ATTACK DOGS TRAINED AND SOLD HERE; OUR GREAT DANE WELCOMES YOU FOR A MEAL; WE CAN MAKE IT TO THE FENCE IN THREE SECONDS – CAN YOU?
After getting a dog, it’s wise to have it tatooed with, say, your SS# and to register the dog and number with the National Dog Registry, Box 116, Woodstock, NY 12498 (914) 679-BELL FAX (914) 679-4538. (There’s a one-time fee of $35 per owner – so if you later adopt, say, 50 dogs, there’s no further fee.) If you do register with the NDR, you’ll get a window decal that reads, WARNING: TATOOED PETS REGISTERED WITH NATIONAL DOG REGISTRY WOODSTOCK, N.Y. (800) NDR-DOGS. At least, this may give a burglar pause. Perhaps s/he’ll think that your dog’s a really mean biker.
The average installed cost of such a system is about $2000; the monitoring service charge runs about $25 per month. The lifetime cost of such a system is therefore comparable to that of a dog; but no such system can greet you with joy at the end of hard day.
Wacker, The Complete Guide to Home Security, quotes relevant data from The Figgie Report Part VI-The Business of Crime: The Criminal Perspective (Figgie International, Inc., 1988). See also Cooper, Home Security on MacLean’s survey.
The Duets call this “Level I Protection Training.” They agree that it’s reasonable for most people to stop training at this level.
Levels II and III Protection Training in the Duet’s terms.
Training a dog properly as an attack-dog is a difficult and very time- (and/or money-) consuming process. (The Duets say it takes 1-2 years, with the help of professional trainer. See also The Koehler Method of Guard Dog Training.) An improperly trained attack-dog can be dangerous to its owner. Dogs made ‘mean’ through brutal and so improper training methods are unreliable and so not safe around other living things. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and the Humane Society of the US show that the most likely victim of a dog’s aggression will be its owner, a family member or a neighbor; in six out of ten cases, it will be a young child.
The K9 unit officer reported that his field experience strongly supports the claim that black dogs are more of a deterrent.
Koehler gives a list of dog breeds (pp. 36-52) to look at if one seeks watch, protection or attack capabilities: Airedale (P), Belgian Sheepdog (P), Belgian Tervuren, Bouvier des Flandres (P), Boxer (P), Briard (P), Bullmastiff, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chow Chow, Collie, Dalmatian, Doberman (P) (“one of the best choices”), German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, GSD (P) (“there is not a finer working dog than a good GSD”), Kerry Blue, Kuvasz, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Staffordshire Terrier (P-some), Standard Schnauzer, Weimaraner. A “(P)” indicates suitability for police work (pp. 78-79), with Giant Schnauzers added for this purpose. Dachshunds and some Toys can also be good watchdogs.
or withers, as it’s called; dog heights are standardly given in this way.
As Hart and Hart have documented, dogs of toy breeds and other comparably-sized dogs tend to be highly reactive, and dogs of some of the larger breeds tend to be quieter. It’s not inconceivable that some would find a Pomeranian more intrusive than a Bullmastiff.
Ayoob suggests considering Great Danes (he’s owned them) and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, too. The sheer size of a Great Dane is intimidating. Ridgebacks were originally bred in South Africa to protect farms against lions and human marauders. Others have suggested Corgis; they make fine watchdogs but are too small to serve as protection dogs. Lowell advises:
If all you want is a dog that barks, you can make your choice from among all the breeds [except Basenjis]. But if you must have a breed with some size, muscle and protective reputation, choose from: German Wirehaired Pointer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Weimaraner, Norwegian Elkhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Akita, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Doberman, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Kuvasz, Mastiff, Rottweiler, Standard Schnauzer, Airedale Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Irish Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Chow Chow, Australian Cattle Dog, the Belgian herding breeds, Bouvier des Flandres, Briard, Germand Shepherd, Puli, Australian Shepherd, Chinese Shar-pei, Chinook, Leonberger, and Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. (23)
As indicated above, however, size, muscle and protective reputation are not all that’s necessary in a protection dog, so it’s better to go by the profile and breed list in D. (The Duets add Boxers to the list, and say others might be suitable, too.)
For more on this topic, see Randolph’s Dog Law. Some courts have found that a dog can be a deadly weapon and its presence can be an aggravating factor in an assault, even when the dog never touches the alleged victim.
-for the largest dogs, way up: $800 is not unusual. The price for such a pet-quality puppy is just about the cost of breeding and raising it properly until it’s ready for adoption around 10 weeks. Very few breeders break even. So there’s reason to be suspicious if a dog of larger breed is offered for less.
For additional cautionary tales, see: Larry Shook, The Puppy Report. Shook reminds us that a guarantee, oral or written, is only as good as the guarantor. (Only a few states have even adopted ‘lemon’ laws for pet buyers: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Virginia.) For additional information, consult: Roy Robinson, Genetics for Dog Breeders or Annette M. Carricato, Veterinary Notes for Dog Breeders. For even more detail, see: Ross D. Clark and Joan R. Steiner,Medical and Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs (encyclopaedic, out of date, but still useful) and Malcolm Willis, Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders (simpler than his Genetics of the Dog).
Some owners who’ve suffered with or even lost a dog to defects will say, “I’ll never own another _____. I couldn’t go through the pain again.” If the defect is uncommon or readily treatable, then this (understandable) reaction might be a rational basis for caution, but not for avoiding the breed altogether.
One dramatic example is Clark and Steiner’s section on Beagles, which gives one of the longest lists in their book. But this is due in large part to the popularity of Beagles as lab animals.
The latter is based on a standard text, Campbell’s Behavior Problems in Dogs. These books explain how most ‘dog’ problems really result from unreasonable owner expectations and behavior or from treatable dog health problems.
If you consult several books and/or tapes, you’ll discover that there is disagreement about dog training methods. But much the same is true for books on child-raising, another very complex subject, which has been far more extensively studied. There does seem to be universal agreement that for dogs as well as for children, preventing behavior problems is best achieved through rewards for desired behavior, rather than punishment for undesired behavior. Of course, different dog/owner teams may require different sorts of methods, just as different parent/child ‘teams’ may need different approaches towards child-raising.
There are about 53 million dogs in the US, and about a million dog bites reported each year, with perhaps three times that number unreported, and about twenty percent requiring medical attention. Unneutered dogs account for about eighty percent of all bites and nearly 100 percent of serious maulings; 87 percent of all biting dogs are male (CDC and HSUS). Of course, human beings are far more dangerous than dogs are, by any reasonable statistical measure. There are about five times as many people as dogs in the US; dogs kill about 15 people per year, humans about 22,000; and there are over 10 million violent crimes per year, about fifty percent resulting in significant injury. And people kill about 5 million dogs per year.
144 Algonquin Road, Barrington Hills, IL 60010-8602, 847-428-7155, FAX 847-428-0610. The Foundation, which is distinct from the DPCA, accepts tax-deductible donations and bequests for medical research.
Albino Dobermans have been reported to have some temperament problems, possibly associated with extreme sensitivity to light.
Some information on VWD from Leah Cohn, DVM, PhD, College of Veterinary Medicine, UMissouri: There are three types of VWD, only one as severe as human haemophilia. Dobermans have the mildest of the three types: an afflicted dog will have increased clotting times if cut (e.g., during surgery), but bleeding incidents respond very well to transfusion and drugs. Generally, the Dobermans who are carriers only won’t bleed excessively, and the affected dogs will bleed, but not much. [If a VWD dog is taking aspirin (say, for orthopaedic problems), then this can make the clotting problem worse.] Hypothyroidism can cause the VWD factor to decrease, too, but this is remedied by thyroid hormone replacement therapy. There are three tests for VWD; most samples are sent to the lab of W. Jean Dodds, DVM, in Albany, NY. The tests are not all that reliable. For example, if less than 40% of the normal amount of the VW factor is present, the dog is called affected, with 40%-70%, the dog is called a carrier, more than 70%, the dog is said to be clear. (These are very rough figures.) But dogs classified as carriers in this way can bleed more than dogs classified as affected – there are other factors that will determine the severity of symptoms.
Dr. Cohn also offered this additional information about Doberman health problems: The choice of a black female is a good one since blacks (and reds) have less skin disease, and females have much less cardiomyopathy. Dobermans (and to an even greater extent, Rottweilers) may not respond as well as other breeds to parvovirus vaccine, so it’s a good idea to give them extra vaccinations later, e.g., again at 6 months.
Far less frequent Doberman health problems: congenital renal disease (similar to glomuleronephritis), apparent by 16 weeks, rare; osteosarcoma (far more common in giant breeds, e.g. Great Danes), a disease of middle age, first apparent as a lump toward elbow or away from knee producing lameness; by the time the lump is seen, the cancer has already spread and it’s too late to do much about it; copper storage disease of liver, beginning in puppyhood (quite common in Bedlington terriers), affects older females more severely; tribrissin arthropathies: an inflammatory response to a very common antibiotic, which, however, stops soon after the medication is withdrawn; there are other, even better (though more expensive) antibiotics to use instead; ciliary dyskinesia in nose and throat, seen as runny nose in young puppy.
A small percentage of Dobermans will lick a spot on their flanks repeatedly (‘flank-sucking’), causing a multiple lick granuloma (or, acral lick dermatitis). The psychoactive medications that help human beings trapped in obsessive-compulsive behavior may also help dogs. Some veterinary dermatologists contend that the licking is the dog’s response to a deep skin infection (pyoderma) and that anti-staph antibiotics are therefore at least as effective as the psychoactive medications.
Other kinds of mastiffs, e.g. Neapolitan, may also be suitable for protection.
The K9 unit mentioned above uses Belgian Malinois (and the similar but rarer Dutch Shepherds) because they have fewer health problems than German Shepherd Dogs and some other protection dog breeds. The increased popularity of Belgian Malinois for police work has led to a corresponding increase in their popularity generally, an effect that has been observed with other breeds, as well.
Every breed ought at the very least to have a registry like that of the DPCA, but few do. As Shook discovered, it is difficult to get accurate data on health problems because many breeders of most breeds are reluctant to talk about such problems.
Six helpful books on GSDs: Anna Katherine Nicholas, The Book of the German Shepherd Dog, T.F.H. Publications, 1983; M. B. Willis, The German Shepherd Dog: Its History, Development and Genetics, Arco Publishing Co., 1991; Winifred Gibson Strickland and James A. Moses, The German Shepherd Today, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974; Jane G. Bennett, The New Complete German Shepherd Dog, Howell Book House, 1982; Fred Lanting, The Total GSD; Susan Barwig, The German Shepherd Book. Get Willis if you’re only going to get one. The German Shepherd Quarterly covers working dogs in obedience, herding, search and rescue and Schutzhund as well as the breed ring. Subscriptions are available from The German Shepherd Quarterly, 4401 Zephyr Street, Wheat Ridge, Colorado 80033-3299.
One of the few systematic studies of this very complex subject was done by leading animal behaviorist Dr. Benjamin L. Hart. Hart’s study found that
… castration doesn’t affect hunting ability or watchdog behavior. There are individual differences in how it affects other behaviors. Some differences are probably a result of the environment but many are due to breed and genetics. Roaming showed the greatest degree of change with over 90 percent of the dogs having either a rapid or gradual decline. This is probably a result of the lessening in sexual drive. Fighting with other male dogs showed 40 percent to have a rapid decline and 22 percent a gradual decline. About 50 percent showed a decline in urine marking in the house. The act of mounting dropped rapidly in about one-third of the dogs studied and gradually declined in another one-third. Much of this decline was in mounting people so castration appears to be a good way to reduce this problem.
There doesn’t appear to be a proven difference in effect from castration before puberty or in the adult dog. In fact, some humane shelters and breeders are neutering their pups by four months of age before they are placed in their new homes. Recent studies have shown no ill effects. And as is true with the female spay operation, there is no basis for the idea that castrated dogs become fat and lazy. (Rutherford and Neil, 155-6)
Experienced breeders and trainers often offer anecdotal evidence that spaying before a female’s first heat will cause her to retain, perhaps permanently, her puppy personality. See, for example, DK Bates and M Miller, “Does early spaying cause bad behavior?,” letter to Dog World, December 1992, p. 4. (In this letter, “early” seems to mean “before the first heat.”) An equally recent comment on this issue appears in the “Questions from Our Readers” column of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Newsletter Vol. 10 No. 11 (January 1993):
Q: Is early spaying related to the development of behavior problems in a bitch?
A: It is unlikely that spaying would increase activity level or cause it to remain at a high puppy-like level. Activity would be expected to decrease when the source of estrogen, the ovarian hormone that increases activity in most species, is removed. This is believed to be the basis of the weight gain observed in spayed dogs.There is one report from the U. K. of bitches who were aggressive before they were spayed and became more aggressive afterward.
There has not been an objective study of the effects of spaying on activity level, however. Because of the recent decision by some humane organizations to neuter animals at a very early age, an opportunity now exists to survey the owners of bitches that were spayed at a very early age, at the traditional prepubertal age, and postpubertal. We hope funds for this study will be forthcoming.
Some of these points are also made in a reply to Bates and Miller: DL Bledsoe, BF Heald, LA Farrell, AJ Tucker, “Early Spaying Reduces Mammary Cancer Risk,” Dog World, March 1993, 4-5.
Some puppy bitches are born with immature or underdeveloped vulvas. These bitches, if spayed before their first heat, may continue to have problems throughout their lives. The physical results of going through heat often correct this problem since the vulva will swell during heat and not shrink back to it’s former size (though it does shrink down from maximal heat-induced size). And one wants to prevent constant vaginal infections as they can lead to bladder infections and possibly kidney infections. Not all puppy bitches are born with this problem. For these normal puppies, spaying before the first heat does not pose any problems.
The often-cited problem of older spayed bitches having continence problems is not a function of when they were spayed. Many, but not all, will respond to estrogen supplementation.
Of course, neutering will also help with the terrible dog overpopulation problem. Millions of dogs are put to death annually because of this.
Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals, University Missouri – Columbia, 817 Virginia Ave, Columbia, MO 65201, (314) 442-0418.
(Image courtesy of )