Watching the interaction of dogs and other species is both interesting and educational. Uncertain about the outcome, dog owners generally wonder…will they be aggressive, fearful, confused, have a peaked interest or will they be remotely fazed? Considering the many characteristics of different breeds, it’s interesting to think about a dog’s response to a “foreign” species and if it varies or remains consistent with all dogs.
The old wise tail of dogs and cats despising each other has lessened in accuracy, as many have lived together peacefully through the years, even becoming best buddies. There are a few breeds that generally still do not appreciate a feline companion, however. Sled dogs, for example, are known for not being a fan of cats, simply because of their prey drive. Other breeds and mixed breeds fall into this category, as well, probably because the cat is viewed as a threat, a form of prey, or even unruly and disruptive. So while there are many that cohabitate in peace and friendship, the old wise tail is not a total farce.
So how does this transfer to dogs and other species? If you look at the characteristics of breeds it can provide some insight.
Dog breeds are broken down into “groups” that represent specific attributes. The groups are generally listed as the sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. The traits of each may describe both the reaction and relationship of dogs and other species.
Working breeds have traits that include guarding/protecting. As a result, when faced with a species that is different, the animal could easily be interpreted as a threat. Livestock Guardians (e.g., Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, and Kuvasz) become vicious and angered by coyotes, wolves or even birds because they are viewed as predators. When it comes to goats, sheep, etc., however, those that they are meant to protect, they are nurturing and kind.
Herding dogs prefer order and proper conduct. If an animal not included in their herd causes disruption, they can respond negatively. Yet with their cattle or sheep, they have no fears or concerns.
Retrievers were bred to retrieve fish and ultimately game, honed into fine experts of catching and returning both to their owner. If a bird flies too close, a retriever may react on instinct and try to catch the bird…yet many do fine living with horse and cattle.
Hounds were bred for hunting and pinpointing raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and more. Whether by sight or by scent, often their instinct is to react with barking or baying. See a critter scurrying through the yard? A hound is going to let you know…rather loudly and persistently.
Terriers are known as feisty vermin hunters, and as a result typically have an interactive response with other animals. If they see an animal that is not familiar, they may very well stick their chests out and charge, even if the terrier is 10 or 20lbs. These dogs and other species can easily have disagreements.
Non-sporting dogs are a group with varied ancestry and dispositions. Their reactions may be formed by their heritage. For example, a Bulldog was originally bred for bull baiting, and this fearless, unstoppable fierceness can be transferred over to other species. This is probably why they are not commonly found on working farms with cows and horses…it’s quite possible their bull baiting roots would emerge and prime an attack.
Toy breeds are often fearless and lively. They are considered a family dog full of devotion and kindness, focusing and depending on the bond with their human. So, considering these traits you must wonder if they would befriend or, due to their size, be fearful of another species. Would a protective force emerge due to their love for the owner? A Pug rescue filmed a video of a Pug and Papillon with a bird demonstrating nothing but curiosity and good manners from the dogs. On the other hand, Fox Terriers and Manchester Terriers do own the terrier traits for hunting and killing, reiterating that regardless of size, dogs and other species can participate in dangerous encounters.
Owners should always consider the characteristics of any breed of dog when there is any sort of interaction between animals as a means of preventing negative outcomes. When choosing a dog, for instance, taking into account other species of current pets (e.g., guinea pigs, hamsters, and iguana) and their activities (e.g. bird allowed out of cage) will help to prevent any disputes.
Animal relationships are never set in stone, and we never know when an unusual friendship may form. Regardless, whether it’s a love or hate relationship, dogs and other species are fascinating to watch as they react to one another. While safety is imperative and a priority in any situation, studying the actions of dogs and other species can possibly help us to understand the thoughts and actions of dogs, as well as their perception of the “foreigner.”