Sunday, March 09, 2008

Looking for an all purpose hiking and skijoring dog.

I am thinking of buying a dog. This will be a hiking companion and skijoring dog. Plus an all around all purpose type dog to have with me out in the Bush when I go to Alaska. I really like huskies in terms of sled dogs. That would be a good choice for skijoring. But in my experience, huskies, especially siberian huskies and more primitive type alaskan huskies aren't especially good "all around dogs."
Generally they can't be trusted off leash, have no watch dog ability, they have a prey drive, but not in any kind of a way that I have seen, that can be channeled into being a hunting dog.

What I mean, by an "all around dog" is basically an all purpose farm dog. There is a breed of dog from down south that is more of a "type" than an established breed, called a "cur." there are different varieties- "Black mouth cur" "Yellow black mouth Cur" " "catahoula leopard dog" "mountian cur" They are used as hunting dogs, cattle and sheep herding dogs, and watch dogs. They can tree coons like a coon hound, or be used to hunt wild hogs.

They are obedient and somewhat protective and can also be used as a "varmint dog" that kill rats and other pests around the farmstead. The ancestors of these dog seem to be the ancestors of the Great Dane that came to the Americas with the Spanish, that were then crossed with local indian dogs. They are actually quite similar to Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Which are a cross of the same type of Great Dane type dog with indigenous dogs from Africa.

The Great Dane is just a show dog and a pet today, with little or no working ability. But originally it was a bear and boar hunting dog combining the best qualities of mastiffs and sighthounds.

Curs are kind of like a smaller more driven version of a great dane. They are lithe and muscular, with a learn wiry build and a bigger sized head and strong jaws. The catahoula leapard dog has an unusual coloring, related to the merel gene, similar to a harlequin Great Dane, but they also come in solid colors. The other cur varieties come in brindle or tan or red with a black mask.

These aren't cold weather dogs. They have a coat like a pointer or a hound, so it would sleep indoors with me. I was considering a german Shepherd also, but they have so many horrible health problems. Its really sad to have a beautiful German shepherd with a great temperament totally break down and become a cripple after just a few years. This has happened to me and to so many other people I have known. I had one I paid $1,200 for from German import parents that had to be put down at 4 years because of severe hip dysplasia. I had a neighbor with one that lost all its fur to allergies, and also knew a person with two that could barely get around due to various structural problems.

Just seems like too much of a gamble.

I would imagine that a cur with have similar abilities as a pointer in skijoring. They are similarly athletic and driven and probably even have higher intelligence than a pointer since they are used for herding.

Speaking of herding dogs, I have also considered a border collie or a blue heeler, but I tend to like bigger dogs. I have also considered a Chesapeake bay retriever or a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I exclude labs, because I like hiking dogs that are a little aloof with strangers. Its inconvenient to hike around with a dog and have it go berserk with affection every time I encounter another person on the trail. Plus they are just so darn common. I'd like something a little different.

I would also consider a mutt with the above characteristics I am looking for or even an alaskan husky with the right qualities. There are so much variation with alaskan huskies. I have encountered some that were trustworthy off leash and very trainable and intelligent. I have also seen some that were very much like a typical siberian in temperament and some are dumb as rocks. Which in a sled dog, its not always bad to have a dumb dog as long as it is a good runner that is an easy keeper that eats and drinks well and keeps its line tight. Thinking too much isn't always a good thing.

I imagine a Russian Laika, might be what I am looking for, they are similar to a cur in purpose, but with beautiful husky looks. Seems like it might take some doing to find one, though and would be expensive. I also have never seen one in person, and it may be they they are not as trainable as some other breeds.

The few belgian sheepdogs I have seen were nice. Having a similar temperament as a good German Shepherd in a slightly smaller package without the massive amount of health issues.