Professor Coldheart!: Borzoi/Russian Wolfhound temperament?
I'm planning on getting a dog in a year or two, and I'm doing a little preliminary research. I'm asking about a borzoi, because I met one at an obedience class and she was such a sweet dog. I was wondering if that is typically of the breed (I'd never even heard of them before) or if this dog was just an anomaly :) She was very patient with the more boisterous puppies, but was very quiet and demure. Her owner said that, while she is very playful outside, she mostly just naps in the house. She was also pretty affectionate and liked to be around people -- social, I guess you would say, but not really demonstrative with strangers.
Whatever dog I get will need to be okay with two other dogs (both about 45 lbs -- medium sized, I suppose). One dog would love a playmate, but the other one is kind of a loner. Both are definitely submissive and both are 2-3 years old and neutered. I'll be working from home, and I'd love a dog who will lay in the office and keep me company, but without needing constant attention so I can get some work done. The other two dogs belong to my roommate, and tend to hang out in her bedroom until she comes home, except when I take them out to play or for walks. I wouldn't mind a "velcro dog" who wants to lay at my feet or lean against me, but I won't be able to pet the dog all day and work at the same time.
I like large dogs, and was originally considering great danes or Irish wolfhounds (I grew up around very large dogs :), but they're health concerns definitely make me hesitate. How do borzois compare, longevity wise?
While I appreciate the googling effort, I was more looking for people's personal experience with the breed :)
Dogzzz -- Shorter than danes? Wow. Of course, all of the danes in my family were rescue dogs -- abandoned puppy-mill type dogs, and usually suffered from arthritis and hip dysplasia from a very young age.
Answers and Views:
Answer by Bentley
The borzoi is a quiet but athletic and independent dog. Most borzoi are almost silent, barking only very rarely. They do not have strong territorial drives and cannot be relied on to raise the alarm upon sighting a human intruder. They are gentle and highly sensitive dogs with a natural respect for humans, and as adults they are decorative couch potatoes with remarkably gracious house-manners. Borzois should never display dominance or aggression towards people. Typically however, they are rather reserved and sensitive to invasion of their personal space; this can make them nervous around children unless they are brought up with them from an early age. Despite their size they adapt very well to suburban living, provided they have a spacious yard and regular opportunities for free exercise.
A common misunderstanding about the intelligence of breeds in the Hound group stems from their independent nature, which conflicts with the frequent confusion between the concepts of "intelligence" and "obedience" in discussions of canine brainpower. Stanley Coren's survey of canine obedience trainers, published in the book The Intelligence of Dogs, reported that borzoi obeyed the first command less than 25% of the time. Coren's test however was by his own admission heavily weighted towards the "obedience" interpretation of intelligence and based on a better understanding of "working" breeds than hounds. Unfortunately the publicity given to this report has led to unfair denigration of breeds which are under-represented in obedience clubs and poorly understood by the average obedience trainer. "Work" for hound breeds is done out of hearing and often out of sight of the human companion; it is an activity for which the dogs are "released", rather than an activity which is "commanded". In obedience terms, borzoi are selective learners who quickly become bored with repetitive, apparently pointless, activity, and they can be very stubborn when they are not properly motivated. For example, food rewards, or "baiting", may work well for some individuals, but not all. Nevertheless, borzoi are definitely capable of enjoying and performing well in competitive obedience and agility trials with the right kind of training. Like other sighthounds they do not cope well with harsh treatment or training based on punishment, and will be extremely unhappy if raised voices and threats are a part of their daily life. However like any intelligent dog, borzoi respond extremely well to the guidance, support, and clear communication of a benevolent human leadership.
Borzoi were bred to pursue, or "course", game and have a powerful instinct to chase things that run from them. Built for speed and endurance, they can cover long distances in a very short time. A fully-fenced yard is an absolute necessity for keeping any sighthound. They are highly independent and will range far and wide without containment, with little regard for road traffic. For off-lead exercise, a borzoi needs a very large field or park, either fully fenced or well away from any roads, to ensure its safety.
Borzoi are born with specialized coursing skills, but these are quite different from the dog-fighting instincts seen in some breeds. It is quite common for borzoi at play to course (run down) another dog, seize it by the neck and hold it immobile. Young pups do this with their littermates, trading off as to who is the prey. It is a specific hunting behavior, not a fighting or territorial domination behavior.
Borzoi can be raised very successfully to live with cats and other small animals provided they are introduced to them at a young age. Some, however, will possess the hunting instinct to such a degree that they find it impossible not to chase a cat that is moving quickly. The hunting instinct is triggered by movement and much depends on how the cat behaves.
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