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Does Your Dog Have What It Takes to Be a Mentor?

Canines are remarkable when you consider the qualities and characteristics of each breed.


Some months ago, I was walking my son's Australian Shepherd around the neighborhood. Chief appears as a content but curious dog, and he loves to meet other dogs.

We approached the end of a street to turn and make our way back home. A frantic owner was in her yard trying to control what appeared to be a Golden Labrador puppy—a bundle of boundless energy.

"Hi, baby puppy!" I said. Chief is a gentle giant, and I remember the puppy was at first apprehensive but then welcoming. The owner and I saw that the puppy became calm and deferred to the mature dog. We both laughed when I said, "Chief will be his mentor and show your puppy the ropes."

So was it Chief's gargantuan size, his gentle nature, or something else that calmed the pup?

Personality and Character

"Many Aussies today still do the work they were bred for, and even those that have never seen sheep or cattle usually have a strong herding instinct." Personality and Character by Kathleen Cole for The Australian Shepherd Club of America is a trove of information about the breed. No rest for the weary when ". . . the temptation to herd dogs, children, and traffic can simply overwhelm them."

Appenzeller Sennenhunde, Bouvier des Flandres, and Berger Picard are exotic names for breeds. Like the Australian Shepherd, they are protective, intelligent, and energetic. More than thirty-five dog breeds belong to the herding group category.

Near to my own heart is Lassie of film and television fame. Lassie is intuitive and seems to understand the English language better than most English speakers. The Rough Collie Lassie is prepared for any emergency. He was a friend and mentor to both man and beast. Bless the writer Eric Knight for creating the fictitious canine hero.



Puppies are cute, but sometimes, working with them is like trying to calm a tornado. Who better to manage this situation than an adult dog. By nature, he or she has the ability to corral the puppy into a state of calm.

"Proper handling of puppies during their critical socialization period is essential to the prevention of behavior problems." Behavior Guide for Your New Puppy by Dr. Meghan Herron is an A-Z reference guide for puppy owners.

She specifies that the age of three and twelve weeks is the crucial socialization period for a puppy.

"Early socialization allows for healthy social behavior development, and can help prevent acts of aggression based on fear of other dogs, people, or new environments," says Herron.

Pups Need Role Models Too

Puppies with chronic behavior issues are often rehomed. This includes those that are surrendered to animal shelters and rescues.

Normal aggressive behavior like chasing, barking, and growling are necessary for development. Puppies are like human infants and children who learn by instinct and example. A part of the learning evolution includes testing boundaries.

"Problem behaviors are prolonged, deep tone growling, a fixed staring" gaze, stiff posture and lip curling. The ears are more likely to be pinned back." Puppy Play or Aggression? explains the difference between aggressive play and chronic, abnormal aggression.

The knee-jerk reaction of an owner to a pup's problem behavior is to punish. This may result in reinforcing the behavior instead of alleviating it.

An adult dog may influence behavior by distracting the puppy and modeling behavior. Interrupting negative or aggressive behavior is the goal.

The breed of a dog determines the length of the developmental phases. Moving from puppyhood to adolescence is anchored to hormones. The teenage phase is the opportune time to introduce the canine to aspects of training.


Dog breed distinctions may disappoint when they fail to perform according to reputation. But the moniker "man's best friend" is the result of more than one thousand years of study in temperament.

Heightened sensitivity but not vulnerability describes the Labrador Retriever and the Australian Shepherd.

"Their high sensitivity to human emotions and cheerful nature makes them excellent service dogs, therapy companions, assistants for the disabled, or friends for scared children." 7 Most Sensitive Dog Breeds expands the description to include that the Labrador Retriever is ". . . compassionate, empathetic, and gentle."

Labrador Retrievers don't reserve their innate characteristics for humankind. A puppy will only benefit from the association and eventually mirror the behavior. Of significance is that the Golden Retriever puppy mentioned will soon reveal the same qualities.

Mentor means to "advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague)." In the world of canines, the relationship may be that of collie-gue.

Breeds that are kid-friendly are likely puppy-friendly as well. When you introduce a puppy to an adult do, there are specific qualities that can create a mentor relationship. Strive for patience, intelligence, sensitivity, and empathy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Sharon R Hill