That Dog Will Hunt (No, Really!)
It’s easy to forget in this era of purse pups, but…
The story of the relationship between Man and Dog is a tale that predates agriculture. Nobody knows exactly when it happened, because it happened before written language, but at some point Homo sapiens sapiens made common cause with the precursors to today’s modern dog breeds…and that common cause was hunting. In the 21st century, the majority of American dog owners keep their dogs as family pets, and many don’t understand how their dog’s history as a hunter affects their behavior even today. So here are three dogs that will hunt—yes, really.
You hear the word “poodle,” and the mental image that arises is probably a pampered, overgroomed little fluffball. But the standard poodle—as opposed to the smaller miniature and toy poodles—is actually a fairly large dog that weighs in at around 50 pounds, often more. They were originally bred as retrievers assisting with both waterfowl and upland bird hunting. They’re highly intelligent dogs, and over the centuries have been trained to perform other hunting tasks, like driving deer. So many modern owners don’t realize that this breed requires a lot of exercise and stimulation to keep it from growing bored and anxious.
Have you ever noticed that, for such an adorable breed, dachshunds can be remarkably aggressive? They may not have much height, but they will bite the everloving Hell out of a ankle. And that’s not a bug—it’s a feature. Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers, which, like all mustelids, are basically about 50 pounds of attitude shoved in a 10-pound bag. The dachshund’s job was to crawl right into the badger’s den (hence the little wiener shape to their bodies), grab hold with their jaws, and then drag the struggling badger back out again. So, many modern owners don’t understand why their doxie can be so aggressive with other animals…even much larger ones.
Although you’d think that the existence of a certain Disney movie would help modern dog owners understand that beagles are hunting dogs, but it seems that if that information has sunk in, it hasn’t translated to what that means. And what it means is that many folks who own one and rent an apartment have neighbors praying for the day their lease ends. Beagles are smaller dogs, so people tend to think they’ll do well in small spaces—but nothing could be further from the truth. They were originally bred to chase game for miles and miles with hunters on horseback, so they’ve got tremendous amounts of energy packed into their little bodies. They require frequent, vigorous exercise to keep them from becoming anxious…and when a beagle gets anxious, all your neighbors are going to get anxious, too. That loud, ululating, persistent baying is quite useful to a hunter keeping up with a chase through a forest. Not so much for maintaining friendly neighborhood relationships.
None of the above means that these dogs can’t make terrific pets, of course. It’s just by way of saying that some overlooked hunting breeds need extra care and attention from their owners if they won’t be joining you in the field. But if they are, then congratulations on accepting the true beauty of man’s ancient partnership with our oldest (and still best) friend.
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