Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Samoyed: From Sled Dog to Bed Dog


Cheerful, friendly, only sometimes stubborn, and the perfect companion for winter activities Samoyeds have always happily made the transition from nomads and sled dogs to household and bed dogs, often in the same day.


As one can imagine of a breed that originated in Siberia, this is a tough, hardy dog that none the less was happy to adapt to being a beloved housepet. In fact, it is said they were traditionally used to keep people warm at night, after a day of carrying packs, pulling sleds, or herding reindeer. This is a breed that while needing to be capable of independent action, has always worked and lived with people.

Their thick coats require grooming and washing to fight the yellowing process that can happen when the coat is left natural and exposed to elements. A well groomed Sammie looks dazzling with their fluffy white fur. It is said the smile they are famous for is also practical; a non-drooping mouth ment no icicles forming on their mouth in the winter.


An intelligent, independent breed, Sammies are perhaps best suited to people who are easier going, versus those who require strict compliance. Not to say they are difficult to train but like any breed that was originally developed to have common sense and survival instincts, a Sammie isn't going to blindly follow anyone's commands.


This is however, also still a breed capable of working and thrives with a job to do whether that be herding livestock, pulling a sled, or carrying a pack. Pacific Crest Samoyeds are just one example of a kennel that still raises working dogs.


If one wants a loving, cheerful family member though, a dog that is happy to go where the family goes and do what the family does, then this is a breed worth considering. This is a breed that requires a moderate but regular exercise routine and will not be happy if left alone for long periods of time. These are people loving dogs who also tend to get along well with other animals.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"New" Dogs in the AKC Book

This year the American Kennel Club has recognized four new breeds for the purpose of eligibility for shows. These are breeds that have long been established in other countries but now have enough individual dogs/fanciers in the States to be shown - and thus bred - here in the U.S..


From South Africa we have a member of the Mastiff family, the Boerboel. An impressive dog that has, like most Mastiffs, been used primarily to guard his home and people this is a powerful, large breed, with males getting as large as 28 inches at the shoulder and from 150 - 200 pounds (71 cms, 90.7 kg).

This breed is designed to be loyal to its family and aloof with strangers.  Physically many members of the breed were agile enough to also be used hunting; their specialty was to help bring down large game.

wikipedia commons

I've noticed that in the States people are docking tails, and sometimes cropping ears, which hopefully will soon fall out of favor; this is a breed that is obviously well balanced with a tail and there should be no excuse that judges will not place a dog with a tail at a bench show. Of course, some people are docking and cropping to add to the fierce looking appearance of the breed - entirely unnecessary when dealing with a dog this big. Anyone who is going to charge past a 200 pound dog isn't going to be stopped by their stub tail.

The next two breeds are both Italian in origin.

wikipedia commons
The Bergamasco is a herding breed and may remind viewers of the Hungarian breeds the Puli and Komondor (Bergamasco are slightly larger than Puli and considerably smaller than Komondor). Breed history says that this breed traveled into the Italian Alps with nomadic herders originally from the area of Iran. The breed as now known however, was rescued from near extinction after WWII by an Italian breeder.

akc photos

As with herding/livestock guarding breeds that needed to work at least part of the time independently and part of the time with shepherds, the Bergamasco is trainable but independent. This breed can think for itself even though it also becomes very devoted to both the people and animals it protects and herds. And yes, this breed will herd children just as willingly as it will  herd sheep.

akc photos
The Cirneco dell'Etna may remind viewers of the more familiar (in the U.S.) Pharaoh Hound; they share a common ancestor and origin but the Cirneco is the smallest member of this branch of the hound family (which also includes the Ibizan.) As with other hounds, these have been used to hunt; the Cirneco has arguably maintained its working roots longer than its cousins who are mainly found in shows and as pets. It may take those of us in the U.S. not from Sicily a while to remember that their name is pronounced cheer-nek-ko.


The Cirneco is slighter in build than its cousins the Pharaoh Hound and Ibizan, as well as slightly calmer and more mindful that it often still has a job to do. They are however, gaining in popularity as housepets due to their smaller size and limited grooming requirements, not to mention their relatively calm and affectionate personalities. They do however, have an athletic nature and a need to get out and move.

akc photos
The fourth entry into the 2015 AKC book is the Spanish Water Dog (SWD).  Putting aside the breed's name, the appearance of members of the breed gives a strong hint of what they were primarily/originally used for. Dogs with rough coats and solid physical stamina but not overly large build generally were used for herding. The SWD proved to be very multi purpose though and so, their people found additional uses for the breed.

SWD club uk
This breed proved useful not just for retrieving from the water; it is said they also were used to help tow small boats to shore.
Obviously a trainable and energetic breed, it is strongly recommended that the SWD live with people with dog experience. With their intellect and prowess they otherwise will soon be running the family. And yes, this is another breed that is willing to herd children. But it's probably best if you don't let an SWD raise your child.

akc photos - Cirneco in field trial 

With the addition of these four breeds the AKC now recognizes 184 breeds of dogs.
And I will again remind readers, every single one of these breeds has volunteers working to rehome members of the breed who for a variety of reasons, are not able to stay with their original families.

Barbet free images - SWD working

As I also always like to remind people, don't add yourself to the list of people who need to rehome a dog by obtaining a breed that isn't suitable to your lifestyle and expectations.

Mizpah Butch, an influential Boeborel easily scaling a fence

While these are all lovely breeds, none of them are particularly suited to first time dog owners. Their exercise needs and/or potentially dominate personalities will do best with people who approach the relationship with experience training, meeting exercise needs, and dog-behavior knowledge.

A working dog - Silver Pastori Bergamascos 

Each breed will however, certainly be fun to watch in shows and field trials and I look forward to encountering them in increased numbers, in the right homes.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 - New Year, Same Pack

- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jakeys-Journey/1434918143408396?fref=photo
I saw this pic on Facebook, posted by Jakey's Journey, a page about an adopted Greyhound who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on Dec. 30, 2013

Which of course got me thinking about my own "pack" and how long it's been since we had an update here, as well as a check in with all of our online friends. Even when we try to read other blogs, we don't always comment, so it often appears I think, like we've dropped off the face of the earth. We have not.

In fact, Gracie continues to keep an eye on the neighbors and even as I write this is in her favorite spot, on back of the couch looking out the window. She did pause for a moment to glance over at the computer and say hi to everyone.

Lil meanwhile, found the sunbeam that  made it past Gracie and into the living room.

As usually happens around here though, the sun didn't even last long enough for me to finish a blog post; Lil decided to check out the backyard - in case anyone had dropped any food there in the last five minutes.

And since no food was present, and that is always disappointing, I decided to give everyone a biscuit.

 Notice how much more alert Lil looks when food is involved.

Of course, when it comes to biscuits, Jenny is willing to put in an appearance.

And Chi Chi decided to see what all the girls were stirring over.

Unlike some bloggers and photographers, we do not have good luck getting everyone sitting in the same picture. Lil finds it impossible to sit any distance away from me when I have food in my hand, and Gracie belly crawls into all photos.

So a photo that is supposed to be of Jenny and Lil becomes...

And then we have Gracie's experiment with just how close to the camera lens she can get....

 In other words, not a lot has really changed around here.

We hope that everyone else and their couch-wolves are heading into a 2015 filled with positive possibilities and potential. We continue to hold our own and while our presence may be sporadic, we remain your faithful friends.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Lovely, Large, Leonberger.


Well, it would appear that my resolve to post weekly has come to naught. My fingers are working well enough tonight though to allow for a post I've been thinking about for a while on a noble breed, the Leonberger.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone to  read that the Leonberger originated in Leonberg (Germany). This giant breed was multipurpose: able to pull a cart, work on the farm, and live with the family.


There can be a real range in size among members of the breed: weight from a small of about 100 pounds (45 kg) to a large of 170+ (77kg); height ranges from about 25 - 36 inches (63.5 - 91.4 cm).  Obviously, even a "small" Leonberger is a dog with stature and presence.

While their size may be intimidating, this is actually a friendly breed with moderate exercise needs. Very large dogs often do not require as much exercise as smaller, active breeds and while they like some room to stretch out, a Leon can adapt to a thorough walk a day; one doesn't need a farm to keep a Leon.


What they do need is human companionship. This is a breed that was developed to be around people and they prefer to be where their people are. It is this personality trait, as much as their size, which keeps them from being well suited to small spaces. It isn't easy having a 150 pound shadow in a cramped walk-up flat. Plus, there's a limit to how often that frame can go up and down stairs before damage to joints begins.


Joint problems and the strain that a massive body puts on organs limits the lifespan of giant breed dogs and the lovable Leons are no exception. A life of 8 - 10 years is common. The amount of affection and happiness they will squeeze into those years though, make them very worthy companions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Of Dogs, Horses, Donkey, and a Wee Begging Pony

I would like to start by thanking everyone who has taken the time to send positive thoughts and energy my way; it's working! I was able to walk downstairs this morning without any significant discomfort - well done people :-)

Photo: Roberta Coppler
This photo is of two of my newest friends, Arthur and Aimo. Due to the fact he is sitting closer to the camera, Aimo the Jack Russel looks considerably bigger than he is in person; although his personality certainly is even bigger than it looks here.

These pups are the "security" team at Coppler Farms, where I've been horse riding this fall. They take the job very seriously. Every time I arrive they threaten me with barks, tail wagging, and in Arthur's case, usually a long story about how he's been waiting for someone to go riding so he can run alongside. Arthur likes to run along with the horses, while Aimo likes to run about three miles for every mile the horses walk. I don't think there could be a more perfect exercise routine for a Jack Russel.

This is Lizzie. She's a registered National Show Horse (a deliberate cross of Arabian and Saddlebred). She is not however, a show horse by profession, although she does get out to local fun shows. Lizzie is what we call a "trail veteran" which means that when we're riding through the woods and a chipmunk bursts from out of nowhere and races practically under her hoof, she just keeps walking without needing to jump three feet into the air.

That's not to suggest that Lizzie doesn't still have horse moments. For while dogs evolved from predators, horses evolved from prey. When it is particularly windy Lizzie starts to suspect that Horrible Beasts and Horse Eating Monsters could potentially be waiting ... everywhere.

This suspicion was not alleviated when the latest trainee recently arrived at Coppler Farms.

Poor Buddy - he looks different, he sounds different, and Lizzie cannot walk by him without stopping and staring. Really, rudely, ears forward, with a "What!" look that is just not friendly.

This week Lizzie did finally allow a nose sniff  from Buddy and did not squeal (something mares tend to do when they are making a fuss) but she's still got a way to go on being more accepting of his glorious differences.

The pony is Sampson, who can tell if anyone could be convinced to slip him a little snack it might be me. He likes to reach through and nuzzle me as I groom and saddle Lizzie.
Sampson however, must be kept on a "dry lot" without access to green grass which has a high sugar content; he's on a perpetual pony-diet. Unfortunately for the little dude he gains weight just by looking at food, a condition I can easily relate to. I think it is plain to see here that he is saying, "Please miss, just a crumb!"

Photo: Roberta Coppler
 Lizzie at a fun show with a Jr. rider 

Over eating in horses can lead to both intestinal problems like colic and hoof/leg issues like laminitis and eventually founder, where the horse's hoof rotates, resulting in not just permanent damage but causing pain with every step. To avoid this easy-keepers like Sampson are fed grass-hay, as dried grasses have a lower sugar content than green grasses, plus daily intake can be monitored and limited.  Like most Labradors, ponies would prefer the option of eating to death.

The weekly riding therapy is proving useful not just for keeping my joints mobile but for supplementing my mental health. I'm also greatly enjoying the opportunity to spend some time on a farm again. Especially when, at the end of the ride, I get to go home and leave all the clean up chores to someone else!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Catching up and Fun Dog Pictures with links


I think there's something to be said for learning to not take one's self too seriously and in turn, to not taking life's ups and downs out of proportion. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Fortunately, I have dogs and cats in my life to remind me that I focus on things that aren't nearly as important as say, handing out dog biscuits or making sure the cat gets a little milk in her bowl.  Sometimes we have to just take a deep breath and allow the universe to unfold around us.


This past year has been a bit chaotic and as a result this blog has been somewhat neglected for chunks of time. Good intentions aside, I haven't made time to keep up with  my blogging friends and I miss their posts and their blogs.
While most people who stop by here are infrequent visitors looking for specific information about a certain type of dog, there are a handful of visitors who have blogs I like to follow and/or who like to follow updates here when they are posted. For those folks I feel a little explanation of my semi-disappearance is in order.

I haven't spent all my time laying around taking selfies. Really!

About a year ago I found out I was living with multiple complications caused by lupus, which is an immune disorder that opened the door for fibromyalgia, sensitivity to the sun, fatigue and other fun stuff.  More recently I had a week of tremendous spine pain which culminated with waking up one morning not able to use my right leg. 

Brain imaging has shown there is now a lesion on my right frontal cortex. It will take more tests from a neurologist however my doctor and I suspect that the lupus may have eaten away some of the myelin sheath around my nerves. If this proves to be true than I am now living with multiple sclerosis.


MS can sound intimidating but the way I'm looking at this is, regardless of what it is, or what it is called, I am already living with what I am living with. I would like to know what it is so that I can take appropriate steps to keep it as manageable as possible.


For example, my joints and muscles have become very problematic. I've found that both physically and emotionally I benefit from taking a relaxed horse ride once a week. That's a new therapy that is proving very beneficial. I figure I'm among a small group of people who at my age actually feels stiffer getting on the horse than when I get off.  I'm also making a new friend in the woman I rent a horse from and getting out into some beautiful fall weather to ride.

And I continue to find a lot to laugh at both in myself and the nut-bar animals I live with. They've also been very comforting. Lil has decided she will be my protector and back-up cuddler, whenever Gracie gives her room to squeeze in and squish me. On those days when I'm stiff enough I need to lay down with heat, I don't need to bother with electronic gadgets - I have a Terrier on one side, a Lab on the other and a Chihuahua who snuggles up against whichever joint is sorest.  The Collie stops by to stare at my face and make sure I'm still breathing.

I'm grateful that I'm still able to work and that my employer is currently able to accommodate me. Also, I can still write and have a publisher who will be printing my latest book: Disability Services and Disability Studies in Higher Education: History, Contexts, and Social Impacts.  


Honestly, some days I feel a little muddled, so it's good to know I can still think and write and produce stuff other people want to read. That's an affirming fact that also fuels my optimism that I will continue to be able to live with whatever I am living with. It's all a matter of remembering to stop and smell the butterflies in life, right :-)

I am intending to be a bit better about keeping up with blogs I follow and with posting here at least several times a month. I also need to find my camera's battery charger so that I can post some update photos of my crew. Jenny's looking older but still plugging along. Chi Chi on the other hand seems to be getting younger and healthier. My sister suspects he's found a way to siphon off my life energy which is why he keeps getting stronger ... of all the Chihuahuas in the universe I had to adopt an evil genius!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Not Getting Bitten

I recently read an inquiry from someone wondering what a person could do to avoid getting bitten by a dog.

Aside from the most obvious answer - avoid dogs - there are some straightforward ways a person can not do all the typical things that tend to lead to a dog bite.

Most people are bitten not by stray/strange dogs, or even mean/aggressive dogs. Most people are bitten by anxious or fearful dogs who feel threatened or cornered by something a person has done. For people who do not have a well developed sense of reading dog body-language, there are some basic tips for not placing one's self in a biting situation.

1) Don't charge up to, or rapidly approach, or pick up, or even directly approach a dog that isn't yours. In fact, the safest way to encounter a new dog is to let the dog approach you and take it's time sniffing around and sizing you up without you appearing to pay attention at all. Be mindful of the dog but be neutral and keep your hands to yourself and don't stare at the dog.

In fact, even when re-entering your own home it is a good idea to not make a big fuss over your own dog - not because you might get bitten but because this sends the wrong message to your dog; you are emphasizing that you've been apart - in other words you're emphasizing that separation is a bad or anxiety producing thing.  This can start to develop or reinforce a dog's anxiety over separation by making it a big deal that you were gone and are back. Low key entry and exits go a long way towards keeping emotions from running amok.

2) Similar to 1 - don't make a lot of noise like "Hey DOGGIE DOGGIE, come here doggie, come-here-come-here-come-here!" The last thing a dog that isn't certain of itself or you needs is for you to ramp up their sense of 'something weird is about to happen' by you creating a lot of noise and/or motion. Play it cool. Let the dog approach and don't whistle, call etc. Some dogs just aren't that in to you. Learn to live with that reality.

3) Remember, under the wrong circumstances any dog can bite. Even if they wag a tail and have an owner who assures you, "Oh, he's fine, he growls at everyone."

[This might be true - my own dear Gracie has a tendency to have a special growly-bark she uses when she's happy - but a stranger should never count on being able to tell the difference between her happy growl and her worried growl and if you were in my house I'd encourage you to use your own best judgement even if I were saying, "She loves hugs." People using common sense around strange dogs are less likely to get bitten.]

You don't need to be afraid of dogs - you do need to realize that if you do not have personal experience with a dog you also do not know what might trigger a specific dog into biting. Following the above few simple guidelines can keep you out of harm's way. It should also be mentioned - do not take a dog's food or items, or stand over a dog while it is eating or playing with a prized item if you do not know the dog, or if you know that the dog typically 'guards' valued items. If you own a dog with this behavior and you want to alter the behavior, you may also want to work with a trainer (because unless you've adopted the dog with this behavior you have also helped create the behavior in the first place.)

When one has time to learn about dog body language then one will realize that there are very few dogs who bite without ample warning and provocation. If people remembered to not treat every dog as a friendly dog who wants to be fussed over and grabbed by strangers, then there would be a lot fewer dog bites in the world.