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Working Like A Dog: 4 Things To Consider When Adopting a Working Dog Breed

working dogThinking of adding a German Shepherd, Rottweiler or maybe a Mastiff to the family? Well then congratulations! Now, before you run out and adopt your new bundle of joy, make sure you’ve put some thought into whether a working dog breed is right for your family lifestyle…and whether you will be able to meet all their needs from a growing, active pup to a senior dog.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies the following breeds as “working dogs”:

Alaskan Malamute
Anatolian Shepherd Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Black Russian Terrier
Cane Corso
Doberman Pinscher
Dogue de Bordeaux
German Pinscher
Giant Schnauzer
Great Dane
Great Pyrenees
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Neapolitan Mastiff
Portuguese Water Dog
Saint Bernard
Siberian Husky
Standard Schnauzer
Tibetan Mastiff

These dogs preform tougher jobs than herding or hunting. They’re bred to be guard dogs, sled runners, or work alongside law enforcement or rescue workers. These tasks involve lots of focus, intelligence, strength, and above all – loyalty.

Here are four things most people don’t take time to consider (but should) when adopting a working dog breed:

1. Temperament
These breeds are protective of their owners, since many of them are bred to be good guard dogs. They also have a need to follow the pack leader, so if you do not quickly establish yourself as the leader, they will assume the role instead (as many unprepared dog owners know). This is often the cause behind dog attacks involving a child or owner. Proper dog training and socialization is of the upmost importance to ensure your new puppy successfully assimilates into your home.

2. Energy & Exercise
These dogs are bred to work – that means they need lost of exercise and a “job” to do. Because of their high intelligence and instinct to work, these breeds are full of energy. Agility and obedience training are great for these dogs as it helps them express their need for mental stimulation and physical work.

3. Children
In general, the dogs listed above as “working breeds” are not well suited for families with children. Their protective, guarding instincts make them skittish around the types of loud noises and erratic behaviors that are common with children.

Growing up, our family had a Rottweiler, Pit Bull, and a German Shepherd – all of which were loving households pets…but these dogs were well-trained from puppyhood. My dad made sure to quickly establish himself as the pack leader and taught my brother and I not to play rough with the dogs. We also learned to watch for stress signals in the dogs: body stiffening, yawning, licking of lips, or general avoidance. These signs meant that the dogs needed some “alone time” and were to be left alone.

4. Food
One thing you’ll notice right away is that the physical size of the average working dog breed falls into the large and giant breed categories. Coupled with the need for these dogs to be worked/exercised more than other “indoor” or small dog breeds, you should be aware that the volume of dog food these pooches will go through will be significantly more than a small or medium breed dog.

Unfortunately, many people overlook this very important fact…leaving the dog to suffer with an inadequate diet of cheap carbohydrate-laden kibble. This inevitably causes these dogs to suffer a myriad of health problems like allergies, obesity, digestion problems, and dental issues later in life. Feeding large breed puppies a high carbohydrate diet can cause the puppy to grow too rapidly, risking growth and skeletal issues, like hip dysplasia.

Opting instead for a biologically appropriate diet for your puppy (like the BARF Diet) will ensure your dog has a better chance at proper development and excellent long-term health. A raw food diet may cost more than kibble, but it’s a great investment in the health and longevity of your pet.


2013-08-15_1120Amber Keiper is the Marketing Coordinator and Raw Pet Food Specialist for BARF World Inc. She is “mom” to two animal rescues – a spoiled Havanese mix named Chewy and a sassy tabby mix named Chiquita. For more holistic pet health, nutrition and wellness tips, go to barfworld.com or sign up for the FREE weekly newsletter, The Intelligent Pet.

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