Table of Contents
Editorial: Defining the Inuit Sled Dog
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Sylvia Feder
All the Wrong Reasons
Last Trip of the Century to the North Pole
Bering Bridge Expedition - 10 Years Later
Ways of the North
Behavioral Notebook: Watching TV
Poem: Standing Invitation
Video Review: Dog of the Midnight Sun
Janice Howls: Observations
In My Humble Opinion: Work, et. al.
Navigating This Site
Index of articles by subject
Index of back issues by volume number
Search The Fan Hitch
Articles to download and print
Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis
Our comprehensive list of resources
Talk to The Fan Hitch
The Fan Hitch home page
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Some Observations on
Northern and Primitive Breeds
by Janice Dougherty
It has been said that the Northern breeds, the primitive breeds, the less domesticated breeds are "different" in many ways from the dogs that the average citizen is familiar with. Sometimes it is hard to explain how they are different, what specifically puts them outside the normal, sometimes wide variations that naturally occur within populations of other more civilized breeds and blends. Mark and Sue Hamilton have shared some of the behavioral differences in their tales of the Houdini genes in their dogs which are not dormant but prompt their dogs to "case the joint" for chinks in the armor of the property fencing, as well as their predilection for tree bark as a delicacy.
These differences and others are a result of, or a residual effect of rigorous selection for overall fitness and survival. We see these same traits occur in other species as well, such as horses, and also in plants. The markers most readily observed are disease resistance and/or faster recuperative time related to immune system response; thriftiness - being an "easy keeper"; hardiness - the relative imperviousness to extreme environments of cold, heat, drought, famine; athletic endurance and good natural muscle tone, as well as general survival instincts, and problem solving ability.
Notable variations have also been observed in blood work, such as samples taken from racing greyhounds and Iditarod/Yukon Quest teams. These have been noted by the American Canine Sports Medicine Association and the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association. The Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society is making a collection of behavioral data as well as inherited motor patterns such as head swinging. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has made similar observations regarding some breeds of livestock that were popular for these very reasons years ago.
Even if we, as modern owners of relatively few dogs, are not actively documenting these differences, they do manage to reveal themselves in our everyday lives. Last Summer my intact 8+ year old bitch (Turbo, a malamute) developed pyometra and had to be spayed. The first indication was a purulent discharge from her
vulva. There was no depression, no loss of appetite, no reduced activity. There may have been some increased thirst but that is not easy to see in a small yard of multiple dogs with shared buckets. Her blood work confirmed my expectations with a white cell count of 28.4 at a lab whose normal is listed as 6-17.
According to Volume 1 of Canine Medicine, edited by E.J. Catcott, a pyometra is classified into 4 stages. I - no clinical signs, blood cell values not abnormal. II - vaginal discharge, slightly elevated leukocyte count. III - animal is clinically ill although body temperature may be normal, with continued discharge, vomiting and diarrhea. IV - signs of illness are severe, often evidence of involvement with other organs, white cell counts are greater than 30 (these #'s are in 1000's), signs of shock may be apparent.
So here was my beast with very close to 30 and NO OTHER SYMPTOMS, and fortunately, no other organ, such as kidney, involvement. After the spay, she was discharged ahead of schedule at the vet's suggestion. This same dog's grandmother, at age 11, had developed a small growth on her eyelid that was beginning to ulcerate her cornea. I had it surgically removed. In a follow up visit, the vet, who was a respected eye specialist and excellent surgeon (but afraid of malamutes) gave her an injection, I assume of a tranquilizer, to calm her for his usual thorough exam. When he finished, he left the exam room while I stayed with her, to get an antidote, after all, she was an old dog. By the time he returned, she had recovered on her own and was pulling me toward the exit door. He expressed his amazement that this little old bitch shook off the medication (that is, her liver detoxified it quickly, neutralizing its effects). She lived to be 15 years, 4 months old.
I have occasionally boarded/baby sat for friends' dogs. One brindle blended breed, an athletic, well muscled, 2 1/2 year old neutered male weighs 40 pounds. To maintain lean/appropriate body weight, this dog, who lives indoors, requires as much food as my 60 - 80 pound mals living outdoors in Winter without straw in their houses. So, if you have any such observations to share, please send them in to the ISDI Fan Hitch for future publication.