Unique breeds of dogs are ones that were bred for highly specific purposes – and often these breeds are rare because their contemporary populations are not far removed from their working origins. What does it mean to be part of a lineage that often is hundreds if not thousands of years old, for centuries performing the same duties and tasks? In the current marketplace for pet dogs, this history means a lot about the nature of such dogs and how well they stand to become family pets for the average person/family.
When I first looked into Welsh Terriers, my natural inclination was to read the breed profiles in books or online. I found the descriptions to be brief, and encouraging. The hidden language in these descriptions is telling to the experienced eye: words such as “spirited,” and phrases such as “excellent watch dogs” come to mind. But to the average person wanting to know a little bit about the challenges that a highly specific breed might bring to the role of “pet” – these descriptions aren’t strong or clear enough. Nor are the warnings of responsible breeders or owners of such dogs. Often, the warnings of these kind people are taken to be exclusionary and even “snobby.” I assure you, most people are devoted to the breeds they spend their lives with, and want nothing more than to help new people understand what makes these breeds unique and different.
One of the best ways to face reality about a breed, and how it fits into life as an average “pet,” with all we expect of “pets,” is to look at the profiles of rescue dogs of the breed. One need look no further. You can find these through kennel club listings — for example, here is the Rescue Website for the Welsh Terrier Club of America. You can also do a search on PetFinder for the breed you are curious about, leaving the “location” setting loose in order to view as many profiles as possible.
While there are always going to be difficult personalities in life (dogs, sometimes, people, quite often!), the dogs on rescue sites aren’t “bad dogs,” although some may be traumatized or damaged, and will require extra TLC and rehabilitation. These are dogs that were failed by situation, and/or in some way or another, by the people who chose them as pets. Maybe the people tried their best, but didn’t realize what they were in for. Maybe the people didn’t find a suitable breeder, a suitable trainer… The list goes on. What is left is one or two pictures, a positive description, and typically, several telling sentences that shed light on why the dog was not a good fit for the people – and even more so, vice versa. The dogs that result from bad combinations of an ill-fit can tell prospective owners a great deal about the breed.
As someone who has met and worked with many Welsh terriers, and as someone who has spoken with countless prospective, new, and seasoned owners, and as someone dedicated to the breed, I am always amazed at how I see my own beloved dog in each and every rescue listing for his kind. Miles is well-matched to me, well-adjusted, happy, and well-trained, but, every time I look through the current rescue listings for Welsh terriers, it is clear to me he could have easily become one of any of these unfortunate dogs, had he been improperly matched to a different and unsuitable home. Miles is as wonderful as they come – but he too could just as easily be listed on a rescue site at five years old, with a laundry list of difficult behavioural problems, looking for a new home with little luck.
If you are interested in a unique breed of dog, read as much as you can, and talk to as many experienced people as you can with an open mind and a tough skin. Don’t seek what you want to hear – listen to people who know. And, additionally, I urge you to read as many rescue profiles as you can. You can learn a great deal from reading why specific types of dogs are put up for adoption. There are so many stories of misunderstanding, and improper fit of such rare/working/unique breeds.
* If you read about Miles’ recent recovery from surgery here, you know how awful he felt, how weak he was, and how he barely could muster the strength to eat or to relieve his bladder. From reading this blog, you also know that Miles is a well-trained and versatile urban companion Welsh Terrier. The morning after surgery, I took Miles outside for a pee. He looked barely alive, shuddering and sadly squinting. Then, a squirrel ran by. It was all I could do to keep my arm in it’s socket in that instant. Miles could be on his death bed, and he’d still risk it all for one chase. That is the kind of ingrained drive that nothing can stop. It cannot be overlooked no matter who wants such a dog, and no matter how ideal the situation. We all live for something we can’t compromise on. Why is that so difficult for people to see in dogs?
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