Published 8:52 am Wednesday, May 10, 2017
BY HELEN PALMER
A while ago I listened to a talk show on the car radio. One caller said, in so many words, “I guess you would call me a ‘macho’ man. I like big dogs that intimidate just by their size and I don’t like little dogs.” The program host agreed; no little dogs for him either.
People say they don’t like little dogs “that get under your feet,” or “yap all the time.” They don’t think that little dogs can do anything except eat, sleep and take the owner for walks. But there is another side.
When I first started in dog training, my instructors told me that the breed they respected most was the dachshund. When I asked why, the answer was based on the breed’s history. These are ‘badger dogs’ and as “The Complete Dog Book” says, “The badger is a formidable 25 to 40 pound adversary. Strength and stamina, as well as keenness and courage above and below ground, were required of badger dogs.” Sounds “macho” to me.
One of the best stories of how a little dog can do the job of a big breed came from the Dog Hero of the Year nominees a number of years ago. A little papillon, a breed which weighs around six pounds, was keeping its aged owner company as she huddled close to her television in order to see and hear it. A robber entered the house and was preparing to club the old lady from behind when the papillon charged and bit him. The man screamed, the old lady dialed 911 and the robber was arrested for breaking and entering and attempted assault. Papillons are normally gentle little dogs, but they obviously have big hearts and lots of courage. (“Paps” happen to be my current breed of choice, so I will probably never forget that news item.)
Another small breed that can intimidate when necessary is the Lhaso Apso. I used to visit New York City twice a year and I saw only one dog with a muzzle. It was a Lhaso Apso. Unmuzzled bull terriers, Dobermans, Tibetan mastiffs and all other breeds and mixed breeds stroll up and down the streets and avenues with their owners with no problems.
This brings up the point of training. Many New York City dogs are walked daily by professional dog walkers. Wearing wide leather belts with huge “D” rings in front these walkers snap up to 15 leashes to the belt and start off. To compound the sidewalk space problem, there may be four walkers striding down the street with a possible 40-60 dogs in tow. Rarely is there a grunt, whine or bark from these animals. It’s all in the training.
Small dogs can be trained to stay out from under people’s feet, just ask a blind person with a small house dog. These same dogs also can be taught not to bark. Deaf people are often told how quiet their pets are. Why? A deaf person doesn’t reward the dog with attention when it barks.