Companion Dogs in Real Life
In this third installment of the American Alsatian Temperament unit, we will discuss how a large breed companion dog works in real life. Let's put all of the science behind us and really look at how a companion dog of this size can be in the day to day reality of our modern human existence. Since it is such a new and unique breed, based on temperament before looks, we should have a good idea of how that temperament effects people as they go about their lives.
As we saw in the first post of this unit, a companion dog breed is bred solely and specifically for companionship and nothing else. That means that the founder intended (and each American Alsatian dog breeder follows her lead) to breed only the very best dogs for family companionship that could possibly be developed through artificial selection. She asked people all around her what their ideal dog would act like and then she set about shifting dog temperament traits until she was able to achieve the type of dog that fit the need.
People shared that they couldn't handle a working dog activity level, but didn't want the drooling of the English Mastiff or the health issues of the Great Dane or the Irish Wolfhound. No large/extra large dog seemed to fit both the mellow requirement and the health requirement. So, Lois set about choosing puppies that were the mellowest pups in their litters. She chose a mellower Alaskan Malamute to tone down the hyperness of the working German Shepherd Dog. She chose the mellow, calm, easy-going English Mastiff, but went about selecting away from the loose mouth and bad feet that that breed is also known for. People wanted a menacing wolfish dog in appearance, but a sweet, mellow dog in temperament. Families all across America wanted a dog that was easy to train and highly intelligent, but they did not want the barking, hyperactive tendencies that came with the German Shepherd Dog.
When one combines an extremely intelligent dog that is highly alert and aware of its surroundings with a calm, mellow ability to pay attention, one finds an almost uncanny shift in a dog's ability to communicate with its owners. Many have described this as a "thinking" dog. I often find myself describing this type of dog as a "problem solver". A dog that is both mellow, calm and highly intelligent and pays attention to its surroundings can easily notice and take in all the sights, sounds, and activity around it. Contrast that with a dog that is intelligent, but highly active and wanting to do something every minute... such as the Border Collie. These are two very different types of dogs.
American Alsatian dogs are also balanced, but on the submissive side instead of the dominant side. This means that they do not generally require much correction in order to shift their behavior. Lois realized that many families struggled to discipline their dogs and the more dominant the dog, the more difficult the family had in overcoming the dog's will in order to achieve compliance from their dog. So, Lois worked to produce a dog that was more submissive in order to curb that difficulty for the average family. However, a dog that is more on the submissive side may more easily wilt like an over watered house plant. A highly submissive dog also holds a grudge for a while and may be seen to pout in the corner while it sulks at being scolded, even if your correction was not too harsh. Only an evil eye can wilt the most submissive of dogs. So, a good balance between submissiveness and dominance should be the American Alsatian breeder's goal.
Another companion dog trait is a dog that is aloof to strangers. One of the most difficult things for families to navigate is how to handle a dog that loves everybody; however, it is equally challenging to have to make excuses for why your dog cannot be approached if it is too shy. Oftentimes, people in our society are severely put off and even seem offended by a dog that doesn't care to be pet by a stranger. But unsuspecting mild-mannered families can also have a difficult time reigning in a dog that exuberantly pulls its owner down the sidewalk to meet and greet everyone or every dog that passes by. Both extremes are a menace, which is why Lois chose to stick with a dog that was neither too friendly, nor too averse to strangers or strange dogs.
However, many in our society mistakenly believe that a friendly dog is a well-socialized dog. This is patently false and I, personally, hope this notion changes for the better sooner rather than later. Instead, the well-socialized dog is the one that walks calmly on the leash, ignoring other dogs/people unless they are calmly introduced. Both a overly friendly dog without boundaries and the overly avoidant dog with immovably strict boundaries are not properly socialized. It is the innately aloof dog that is bonded to its owner and is confident and self-assured that is the ideal. But, it is extremely difficult to consistently achieve this combination of traits in perfect unison. That is because an aloof dog is not always interested in others and most have some level of appropriate socialization training to achieve security within itself.
Here is an extensive video explaining American Alsatian puppy behavior and proper socialization for the breed: