Letter Re: The Best All-Around Dog Breed for a Retreat?

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Dear Mr. Rawles,
Hi, just wanted to say I loved "Patriots" and follow SurvivalBlog religiously.  Thank you so much for your efforts on behalf of the survival-minded community. A bit about retreat dogs:
 
A dog is two things - what its breeding have made it, and what its training has made it.  You can’t separate the two.  You can give someone a dog that is ideally suited to a purpose, but if that person doesn’t know the first thing about training and socializing a dog, they will end up with a train wreck that will make their life and the dog’s life a misery.  This is especially true when you figure in back-yard breeders or worse yet, puppy mills where breeding for temperament is the last thing on the breeder’s agenda.  That “purebred” dog you spent retreat money on may just be the worst investment you ever made, [if] done haphazardly.  Training dogs is not nearly so essential as training the dog owner.  A trained dog owner can bring an untrained dog up to speed.  A trained dog, given to an untrained owner, will quickly revert to his natural behaviors with unpleasant results.  A dog is an investment that will return rewards in many ways, but realize that it is an ongoing investment that requires upkeep and involvement from you on a regular basis.
 
I’m surprised at all the large dogs being recommended.  Sure, a large dog is intimidating to an unarmed person.  A dog of any size will simply be shot by an armed person with ill intent. If you just want an early warning system, a medium or even a small size dog would be better, less food consumption. How much dog food have you got stockpiled?  Remember dogs do a great job of soaking up our leftovers, but come SHTF are you really going to have a dependable supply of leftovers to toss to Rover?   If it came to feeding the kids or feeding Rover, you know you’d feed the kids first.  Then what?  Watch Rover starve, or put a bullet in him before he starts to think of your kids as food?  How would the kids and wife react to that hard choice?  These are the harsh realities we don’t like to think about now, but would have to face later.  Better to plan around them now while we have the luxury of planning. A medium sized dog would still be perceived as a threat by many, and even a medium sized dog can inflict a lot of harm, or at least give a bad guy something additional to deal with while you’re grabbing your gun.  And a medium sized dog can have a big voice.  I currently have a 55 pound mutt who sounds like 150 pounds worth of bad news on the other side of a wood fence or a locked door.
 
I am a student and a huge fan of the Doberman breed.  However, I have mixed feelings about their suitability for use as a retreat dog. No, I take that back – I think they would be well-suited for some scenarios, and poorly suited for others.  Physically, they have a short coat, and cannot be an “outdoor only” dog in a cold (ice and snow) climate.  Temperamentally, they are incredibly intelligent and trainable, but they get bored easily. Sometimes they are too smart for their owners to manage, because they have their own ideas, and they are strong willed, requiring a strong willed owner.  If bored and confined, they are likely to try to figure out a means of escape. Most dogs don’t like being left alone, in the Doberman this is more intense and they are apt to become very maladjusted if left alone frequently or for long periods even if infrequently. Having a second dog does usually help with this. The Doberman is an athletic breed, and needs frequent exercise or they are apt to become hyperactive and destructive when cooped up indoors. Hope you have rawhide and other chew toys stockpiled if considering a Dobie for retreat! They have a high prey drive, so keeping them in proximity to livestock or other pets (chickens, cats, etc) that run when chased may be problematic. They are very loyal to their “pack” (your family) and naturally protective and leery of strangers. They can also misinterpret aggressive play or wrestling from visiting kids as an “attack” on your children, and respond with devastating force. They can be highly affectionate and even “clingy”. Most Dobermans do not like getting wet, although they will occasionally play in the water (puddles or surf), especially on hot days. If your vision of a retreat dog is one to live indoors with the family, regular training and exercise, going out on chores and errands with you (rather than being left alone) then the Dobie may well be your ideal dog.  If your idea of a retreat dog is one who lives outdoors patrolling the perimeter or living in the back yard that can be left alone (without human interaction and minimal training) for long periods of time, I think you would have to look long and hard to find a worse choice than a Doberman. 
I wouldn’t recommend a Dobie as a first dog for a first time dog owner any more than I would recommend a full auto M16 for a first time gun owner. Too much of a learning curve. They were originally bred to accompany police, night watchmen and tax collectors on their rounds, and they are well suited to this and other similar duties.  Anyone serious about obtaining a Doberman, I recommend doing the homework to find a breeder that uses German stock, or breeding pairs that are from German stock.  The intelligence, trainability and temperament are beyond reproach, since all German breeding stock must pass Schutzhund to be allowed to breed.
 
Speaking of Schutzhund, this is a terrific sport.  No, it is not “attack dog” training to make the dog mean.  All dogs have aggressive and protective instincts.  However, we train our dogs not to be aggressive with family and friends.  In a real life confrontation, an untrained dog can become either confused or berserk with equally tragic results either way. Maybe that person coming up the walk is a bad guy, here to murder you and your family – or maybe just a poor lost soul looking for directions.  Makes a difference in how you want the dog to respond, doesn’t it? But the dog can’t possibly know the difference. Schutzhund teaches a dog how to turn its aggressive behavior on and off, to control it and direct it at your command.  Any intelligent breed will enjoy working with you, learning something, getting the mental and physical stimulation of this sport.  You and your dog will learn valuable skills and gain confidence that will be of great benefit if and when the balloon goes up.  In any kind of a large dog, I recommend considering this seriously.  The dog needs to understand not to shred the mail man, but when you call it into action, it needs to be able to exert exactly how much and just what kind of protective behavior you instruct. - Rusty

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on December 31, 2005 9:58 AM.

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