Unique breeds of dogs are ones that were bred for highly specific purposes – and often these breeds are rare because their modern 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. Responsible breeders do their very best to warn people who inquire about puppies, but often, these warnings are overlooked as the breeder being snobby. Anyone trying to educate people on these breeds and help prospective owners walks a fine line of coming across dissuading, vs just trying to be helpful.
One of the best ways to get the straight up facts about a breed, and how it fits into life as an average “pet,” with all we expect of our “pets,” is to look at the profiles of rescue dogs of the breed. Especially for rare breeds that have a high price point. Go look at the rescue profiles for rare breeds that are in high demand, and you will see very clear patterns in the quirks of the dogs who were bought as happy and healthy puppies.
Many of these dogs that end up in rescue were failed by situation, and/or in some way or another, by the people or families 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 the behavioral challenges that resulted in the people not understanding how to work with the breed. The misfortunate 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. For rare breeds of highly instinctual working dogs, an ill-suited home is rarely a bad home. These homes are often incredibly loving and well-meaning, and demographically from what I have seen, well off. Miles is as wonderful as they come – but he too could just as easily be listed on a rescue site, with a laundry list of difficult behavioural problems, looking for a new home.
If you are interested in a unique breed of dog, search for longer descriptions that aren’t on sites or in books that discuss multiple breeds of dogs, and talk to as many experienced people as you can with an open mind. Don’t seek what you want to hear – listen to people who know. And again, 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. Pay special attention to the people giving up a dog that they loved, and wish they could keep. Because at one time, they too were carefully seeking out a very special puppy.