"She's from hunting lines," the woman boasted over the phone. "What seems to be the problem" I asked. "I can't control her, she's crazy" said the desperate owner. We made an appointment for a few days later and I went to see the Labrador from hunting lines. As soon as I saw her I knew that she was no regular household Labrador. The first sign was her color; she was dark amber color. Next was her legginess and then, her craziness. I sat at the table with the very elderly and feeble owner and discussed the dog.
Again she blurted out "she's from hunting lines." As we discussed the issues that the owner was facing it became quite clear that the "hunting lines" were too much for the woman. I felt bad for her as she told me about the dog she'd lost only months before getting this new one. She'd been a gentle soul; kind and sweet as the day is long. Then came the new one; nothing like the Labrador that the woman had before.
When she went to see the dog; the breeder did tell her that she would make a great hunting dog. "She's a lot of dog" he had told her. She didn't understand what that meant and just needed to mend her broken heart; so this new "hunting" girl came home with the woman. It was a mismatch right from the start.
This Labrador was a very pushy, head strong girl. At only six months of age she was running the house; and very literally pushing the owner around. The woman had called a yank and choke trainer which had made matters worse for the woman. She did not have the strength to yank the dog around and the dog knew it. So now she had an angry, hard headed dog with drive and energy off the charts.
I see this often and it is sad. The owners want to love the new little bundle of joy but it is just so difficult.
There are hunting dogs and then there are hunting dogs.
Elsa would have made an amazing hunting dog and I believe that several of her siblings are actual hunting dogs. Elsa is a hunting dog in every way except for the guns and prey. Her prey is a ball and in lieu of a gun I have a chuck it. :) She is highly trained to go after the ball, down mid field and finds a ball when it has gone astray. She has a great deal of prey drive but has a nice off switch. She is a hunting dog. She does need an outlet to be a happy dog; but, she is not a hunting dog that you cannot live with. There is a huge difference.
It is just like any other drive trait that breeders are selecting. Some take it to extremes and there is fallout damage. I know many people who breed terriers for "go to ground" competition that no one could ever live with in a normal home. There are people producing such bat crazy Border Collies for flyball that they border on insane. Others who are taking the craziest of the Jack Russells and mixing them with the Craziest Border Collies for flyball.
But what happens to the ones that make it into the hands of regular folks? The dogs are quite often surrendered. I know that many performance people are looking for dogs like this; drive, drive and more drive. But there is too much and not every single puppy can end up in a home that wants that kind of drive.
Breeding dogs who have drive, work ethic, wonderful temperaments, sound structure and an "off switch" is essential. Stability is imperative; people need something that they can work with. Breeders also need to turn people away. The woman with the Labrador should have never been allowed to buy that puppy. She couldn't even walk her own dog; which was just a recipe for disaster.
I think when breeders put too much emphasis on one specific trait like drive, much of the other great things about a dog fail. When a dog has so much drive that they cannot turn off, listen or do anything normal; it is a sad life for that dog. Believe me when I say that I have seen crazy dogs who cannot stop doing whatever it is that they were bred to do. They are like robots in constant motion.
There are so many wonderful things that make up our dogs. Choosing just one trait to single out and continue to breed for over and over; litter after litter causes very imbalanced dogs. Those poor puppies who don't make it into a home that is not ready, it rarely works.
Breeding well balanced dogs who can work and snuggle on the couch happily is wonderful. Breeding dogs that only know one thing with no turn off switch; and placing them into unsuspecting regular pet homes is very, very wrong.