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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chihuahua: Mighty Personality on Petite Legs

Fiona - Save me Rescue, ON

Chi Chi - adopted as a disabled senior

It recently occurred to me (about five minutes ago) that while I've talked about Chihuahuas I haven't done a breed profile focused specifically on them. In honor of our household's Lord and Mayor, that seems like an injustice that must be righted.

{For those not familiar with Chi Chi, I will explain that this is less a real 'injustice' and more along the lines of a potentially perceived injustice. Chi Chi's current belief system includes the idea that he is and ought to be at the center of my universe.}

wiki commons - black and white Chihuahua

In the interests of disclosure, I should also mention that there have been years in my life when I was A Big Dog Person and could not imagine ever living with a Chihuahua. In hindsight this may have been an instinctual insight into my own personality, rather like a person with an addictive personality instinctively knowing they should never start drinking. Not only do I now live with a Chihuahua, I openly admit I would willingly live with more Chihuahuas and even probably more than one at once (although not in my immediate lifetime.)

Those who have happened upon this blog in the past, or who even have been so bold and daring as to follow it, know that my personal life has included some health concerns. (This is also my excuse for being such a gosh darn unreliable blogger these days.)  I now realize that someday I will probably need a service dog.
Jenny the Collie, Chi Chi, and Lil the Labrador

Currently, I get by using a cane and an emotional support dog. And yes, the opinionated little Chi Chi is that support dog. When I must travel, and I am uncomfortable (the two now go together) having the little dog with me provides both physical and emotional comfort. When I had to spend a full week having tests and procedures done at the Mayo Clinic, it was the Chihuahua who waited quietly and patiently for me in the hotel room, and leaned gently against my aching joints when I returned at the end of the day. In fact, it was his outstandingly good behavior on that trip which won him a new and unexpected convert to his ever growing fan base. Not previously an admirer of the breed, my father now says of Chi Chi, "There's just something about him."

But Chi Chi is not an exception to his breed.
Chihuahuas are more than small dogs devoted to their people. When trained and handled like real dogs, capable of learning real things, their true personalities have a chance to shine. I recently saw an online video of a woman who had trained three Chihuahuas to heel, dance, and work with her, all at the same time and all doing exactly what was expected of them. And I just love the pictures from the Calmont Chihuahuas' Website, one showing one of their Chis competing with the big dogs in an obedience event and another of multiple Chis all taking part in a prolonged stay exercise.



Chihuahuas come in both long and short coat varieties, a range of colors, and their size, according to breed standards, is typically between 4 - 6 pounds (1.8 - 2.7 kg). In real life, i.e. outside the show ring, I've seen people advertizing dogs as small as 2 pounds and oversized Chihuahuas with larger frames can be 8 - 10 pound (3.6 - 4.5 kg). Sometimes people assume that a larger Chihuahua is a mix breed but there is actually a 
considerable range of size even among purebred dogs. This is a breed which has been significantly negatively impacted by backyard breeders and puppy mills. If one is interested in the breed but has concerns about the potential temperament of a dog, than I advise working with a rescue which takes time to learn about the individual dogs in their care.


This is also a typically long lived breed, with an average age of 15 years and it isn't uncommon for a Chi to live to be 17 - 20 with good care. They can have dental problems and may need to have teeth removed as they age. They may have weeping eyes, particularly the very 'apple headed' dogs whose eyes bulge.

Big Dog People don't typically think of the Chihuahua's size as an advantage, but when it comes to traveling or living with an emotional support animal, there's something to be said for a dog who can sit in a person's lap, without interfering with the person's ability to breath or move (I'm thinking now of my Labrador who would happily be a lap dog and who "squishes you with love" as my nephew's say.)

There are an unfortunately large number of Chihuahuas in shelters and with rescue groups waiting to find new homes. Many are euthanized each year for lack of homes. In the U.S. the homeless Chihuahuas are second only to pitbulls in shelter numbers. Today I will include pictures and web addresses for a handful of these little giants who happen to be in shelters in the U.S. midwest and Ontario, Canada - believe me, no matter where one lives, there is a Chihuahua out there waiting to be adopted. Full of love, loyalty, and very trainable - if you want a big dog personality in a small package, the Chihuahua is a breed worthy of sharing your home.

Midget - Fox Valley Humane Society, WI

Peanut - Copper Country Humane Society, MI

Lena and Lola - Humane Society of Muskegon County, MI

Ashley - Ruff Start Rescue, MN
Babee Girl - Heartland Animal Shelter, IL
Eugene - ALIVE Rescue, IL
Edgar - Happy Tails Animal Shelter, IL

Bobby and Baby - Lincoln County Humane, ON
Buddy - JR's Pups-N-Stuff, WI
King - Home for Endangered and Lost Pets, IL

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.