Breeding and Feeding

Thanks to everyone who pointed out that the Coombs test I mentioned last month was a related test, but not the right one. The Coggins test is, of course, the test for swamp fever in horses.

I’ve had a few people ask about breeds of dogs. All breeds are man-made to one degree or another. The biggest thing in looking for a purebred dog is to ask yourself why the breed was developed. Some breeds were developed for a particular trait and you can’t get upset when the dog exhibits this trait.

Dobermans were developed because they have a strong bond to a single person or a small family. They bond early and have a built-in need to guard their family.

Having a Doberman means never going to the bathroom alone again. Mine will always sit or lie facing away to watch for something that might attack me. It’s a different way of showing affection from most dogs.

She’ll go to bed early and find something to guard. Until I go to bed, praise her and assure her I’m taking over the guarding, she won’t relax. Easy to train for guard work, she is one of the most loyal and affectionate dogs around.

Border collies are another example of breeding for a specific purpose. They herd. This is just part of their genetics, so don’t get upset when they herd goldfish from one side of the bowl to the other. They just have to herd.

Herding is often done by nipping at the heels of the herdee, and this is something to be aware of. I once had a client who had to build a strong fence around the front yard to keep their dog from herding kids.

One kid on a bike wasn’t a real problem, but several kids on bikes just called out for herding. The parents (and by-law officers) didn’t understand the dog was simply doing what it was bred for in trying to herd the kids into the yard.

Sled dogs are bred to run. You don’t have to do anything to make them run. The hardest thing is to try to keep them from running. Watch the start of the Quest and this will become very clear.

Distance dogs seem to run forever. Sprint dogs will run for about 10 miles and then be happy to relax. I had a sprint dog years ago that took off while a friend was dog-sitting. We drew a 10 mile circle on a map and that’s where we looked.

She was curled up in the roots of a tree almost exactly 10 miles from the starting point.

One breed that is genetics gone sideways is the English bulldog. This breed began in the 1200s in England to move cattle around in slaughterhouses. That’s why they’re short, with a long jaw to bite up at the cow’s nose.

When this was done less and less, they were used for bear-baiting. When this became illegal the breed almost died out, but some like the strange look and started breeding the herding and aggression out of them. They became the clowns of the dog world.

On another note, some have asked about nutrition. I’m always amazed that some people think that they know more than a company that spends millions of dollars on nutritional research.

There are only five companies in the world that do nutritional research and all others simply take that information and try to adapt it – or use a marketing scheme to try to argue against it.

Dogs are omnivores, or animals that will eat almost anything. Cats are obligate carnivores. In other words, they have to eat meat to survive. A vegetarian cat will soon die.

They need a certain amino acid that is only found in meat and have no ability to convert to it from other food sources, as other animals can. I’ve had clients who forced their cats to eat only vegetables. If they can’t catch the odd bird or mouse, they can’t survive.

Dogs do fine as long as the diet is balanced and it’s just easier for most to use a good quality dog food. But remember, there’s a lot of junk out there.

A good test is to try a bag of a cheap dog food and put the waste back in the bag. You’ll find that most comes back. Then try a good quality (and yes, more expensive) food and you’ll find that much less comes back and you can feed much less in the long run.

One cheap food was found to have drugs in it that are used to euthanize sick animals. Guess where that comes from.

Another was found to have lots of hair in it. The more expensive brands have much better quality control and are well worth it in the long run.

Then there’s the occasional person who feeds their pet something exclusively. The cat that lives on nothing but chopped liver is a good example. The owner’s argument is usually, “but that’s all he’ll eat!”

Some kids would only eat ice cream and chocolate, but most would agree that this isn’t the best idea.

And speaking of chocolate, it can be very toxic to dogs. It contains theobromine, a close relative of caffeine and can be quite dangerous to dogs. Grapes and raisins are also dangerous.

I’ve even had several dogs like to empty ash trays and, while the filters might help the smoker, they collect much of the nicotine and are extremely dangerous.

Not that smoking is a very bright idea in the first place.

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