Pup links!

An Australian shepherd contemplates Banksy. Click for source.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Wonder Dog. Read this incredible story of a golden retriever who transforms the life a boy with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The more I get to know them, the more I think that goldens were born to do this kind of work. I kind of teared up, a lot, reading this story. (New York Times Magazine)

Top 10 Most Frequently Reported Poison Dangers for Dogs in 2011. A good list to review and be aware of. (Pet Poison Helpline)

Train Your Dog Month: Results Revealed. The Take Paws blog talks about lessons learned in training their reactive German shepherd. Good food for thought! (Take Paws)

Chart: Nail Trimming. A helpful diagram and discussion about trimming nails. (Inu Baka)

42 St. Bernards. I don’t know how one gets 42 St. Bernards in a glorious, mossy wood with a beautiful blond child, but I like it. (Paw Nation)

She Doesn’t Answer the Phone. E.B. White’s funny letter in response to city complaints that his dachshund, Minnie, was unlicensed. (Letters of Note)

The Nannies. I love these photos of this farm’s Anatolian shepherds, who act as the sheep guardians. The tenderness between the dog and the lamb is so palpable. I am such a sucker for anything even close to inter-species friends; it’s pretty much my favorite thing on earth. (Alta-Pete Farm Tails)

Meet Maddie the Coonhound. Maddie elegantly stands on various objects across the United States. (The Hydrant)

Food Critic Puppy. Oh, man. This is why you don’t give limes to dogs. (Animals Being Di*ks)


Breed Love: Great Pyrenees

This is the late Emma, who was the guardian of a flock of goats at a friend's farm. She was the sweetest and most delightful bear of a dog. Source: My sister

Great Pyrenees are incredible. Just look at the photo of that white, wooly bear! That dog was Emma, a family friend’s gorgeous and loving Pyr. Her job was to watch over the flock of goats in a beautiful wooded pasture, although as she aged, I think it might have been the goats who were watching over her. Apparently, when she died, she quietly walked off into the distant woods. Later that evening, she was found curled up in a grove of trees, as if she were sleeping peacefully.

I loved hanging out with that dog. She was one of the most cuddly and affectionate dog giants I’ve ever encountered. I often wished her owners kept her indoors, though; she loved people so much that it seemed unkind to keep her outside with only ornery goats for company.

In earlier years, I’d seen a few Great Pyrenees walking around town or camped out in fields, but Emma was the first Pyr that I got to spend some quality time with. Her sweetness and gentleness certainly won me over to considering the breed.

Big Puppy Paw
That face! Come snuggle with me. Great Pyr puppy. Source: Flickr, user: Sonka

Pyrs belong to the AKC working group and they exhibit traits that are markedly different from the herding dogs. Even though these groups may both hang out with sheep all day, they serve different functions. A dog like an Aussie or a border collie would be responsible for keeping the sheep in line, as per the shepherd’s orders, but a Pyr would be the great white guardian of the flock. A representative Pyr should be gentle and affectionate toward people, but territorial over its flock when it needs to be. They are quite independent dogs and tend to be bred for the ability to make decisions on their own. Because of this tendency, they are not as extremely trainable as your average herding breed.

That said, here’s a list of the qualities that I love about this breed, and the qualities that I’m not so sure about.

Great Pyrenees pros:

  • Very sweet-natured.
  • Generally laid back.
  • Great guard dogs, especially for children and livestock.
  • Adoring.
  • Gentle.
  • Contented natures; don’t necessarily need a ton of exercise.

Great Pyrenees cons:

  • Not easily trainable.
  • Independent and often stubborn.
  • Having one would be like having a small Arctic bear in your house.

I’m not sure if I’d get a Pyr any time soon, mainly because of their considerable size, but they’re definitely at the top of my list once Guion and I get that farm we keep talking about…

Great Pyrenees links:

Breed Love: Border collie

Border collie chilling. Which is unusual. Source: Flickr, user idizc

When my dog obsession bloomed in my early youth, my mom was kind enough to take me to a local herding trial. I was about 11 years old and I fell in LOVE with border collies that day. Watching those black and white dogs fly over the fields and move those sheep with such grace and ease, well, it was a thing of beauty. I had also been reading James Herriot’s beautiful books since I was a small child. Herriot tells stories about his life as a veterinarian in the English countryside and his tales often feature heroic and preternaturally intelligent border collies (or perhaps English shepherds).

Childhood obsession aside, border collies have become somewhat well known in the public eye. By this point, it’s widely accepted that border collies are the geniuses of the dog world. Stanley Coren ranks them as #1 on his list of the most intelligent dog breeds. We’ve heard about Chaser, the border collie who understands grammar and can recognize more than 1,000 words. And if you’ve ever met a border collie or spent any amount of time with one, these statements come as no surprise to you. Border collies are always watching, always thinking.

A border collie’s unbelievable intelligence is a great asset to his or her shepherd. Working border collies need to not only make decisions about how to keep the sheep in line, but they also need to accurately read the behaviors and cues of their handlers. Border collies are the best at what they do and they thrive on the mental and physical stimulation that herding provides.

Toby's first time with sheep
Doing what border collies do best: Boss sheep around. Source: Flickr, user allyeska

I love the unreal drive of these beautiful dogs–but it’s also the drive that makes me slightly wary about getting one. I don’t own any sheep. I may never own sheep. To me, it would seem somewhat cruel to purchase a fluffy border collie puppy in my suburban setting and expect her to grow up content and well-adjusted. To a breed of this drive and overpowering intellect, keeping a border collie in downtown Charlottesville would be something akin to abuse.

I read a good deal of border collie blogs–there seem to be a lot of them–and these people are extremely serious about their dogs. Most of the border collie owners and bloggers live on farms where the dogs are training or working as sheep herders. If the collies are not herding sheep, their owners are running agility or flyball courses with them. The dogs demand that they be taken seriously. If you don’t give them a job, they’ll create a job of their own, which would probably be something like herding the neighborhood kids, digging trenches, killing bunnies, or barking at every animate object.

That said, here are some reasons why I love the breed, and some reasons why I’d shy away from getting one:

Border collie pros:

  • Smartest dogs around.
  • Athletic.
  • Loyal and trustworthy.
  • Fast.
  • Tons of energy!

Border collie cons:

  • Tons of energy!
  • Can actually be difficult to train if you’re not a very precise trainer. They’re so intelligent that they often won’t respond to simple but inconsistent training.
  • Very vocal.
  • Can be quite shy.
  • Must have a job to do or they’ll drive you and themselves crazy.

I think I just need a farm.

Border collie links: