Dogs are not meant to be your vanity plate

Published 11:18 am Friday, March 1, 2024

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Dogs sometimes get into trouble because they are miscast by owners who don’t know doodly-squat about dog breeds.

Let’s start with the top dog owner in America–President Joe Biden. His German Shepherd “Commander” is lucky to be alive because he has bitten enough Secret Service agents to have been shot. At least two dozen agents were bitten before he finally was booted out of the big house.

This is a classic case of a good dog thrust into a bad position because his owner didn’t stick to one basic rule: get a dog that fits your lifestyle and environment.

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But the President is just one of many who get a dog of a certain breed for reasons that defy common sense. Biden apparently failed to understand the most fundamental fact in the canine world–every dog breed has a purpose. German Shepherds basically fall into two lines–show dog and working dog.

Without being too general, the show dog shepherd is a love bucket while the working shepherd is kind of a Navy Seal, and a Seal without a job to do is bound to get into trouble. Biden’s dog is a working dog with a laser focus on guarding and protecting. Well, guess what Secret Service agents do. Guard and protect. Intensely. See the picture? We’re talking hormonal overload, both two and four-legged.

The humans won. Bye-bye Commander.

It happens a lot.

When the John Wick (Keanu Reeves) action movie series included two Belgian Malinois, we began seeing backyard breeders of these guard dogs everywhere despite the fact that the dogs are difficult to train and have a strong desire to take down anything that moves, like cars or children.

Game of Thrones and the Husky explosion is another example.

One frequent mismatch occurs when the human thinks they need a big, fluffy, white 160-pound livestock guardian dog (LGD) roaming around their three-bedroom home as a pet. Far too often the humans soon learn that these working dogs need a job to do. They need to be challenged and given the opportunity to work. Without that, they get stressed and escape their boring existence only to wind up on the streets, or on the side of the highway. Or worst of all, in a kill shelter.

The rare exceptions are the good people who adopt them from top-notch specialty breed rescues such as Carolina Pyrenees Rescue in Charlotte. They make those seeking an adoption jump through more hoops than human adoption, requiring they sign a legal contract and provide photos showing there is adequate space and fencing for the big dog to feel like he’s doing his job.

Or, the Cherry Mountain Farm and General Store in Rutherfordton, a tourist destination where the LGDs live with the goats, protecting them from predators and keeping an eye on kids out for a visit to pet the goats.

The whole pit bull situation is out of control. Like kids, pitties make great pets when raised right, but sadly many are not and the shelters are full of them.

The point here is that most bad dog behavior is caused by humans.

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at