Know your breed: Fox Terrier

So here’s a fact I bet you didn’t know: the only dog to have won Best of Show title at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show three times was a Fox Terrier. In fact, it was a chap called Warren Remedy, a smooth-haired foxy who won the title from 1907–1909. Which just shows that the Fox Terrier has been a darling of the people for a long time now. A classic as it were: a breed that’s been popular from one generation to the next. Even Tin Tin’s famous dog, Snowy, is a Wire-haired Fox Terrier.


Its popularity is easy to understand. Few breeds have a larger personality than this live-wire of a little dog. Originally bred to flush foxes out of their holes during the traditional British hunt, fox terriers are fearless, feisty and have the extraordinary ability to get through any hole or underneath any fence. They’re also not shy to tell their owners when they see or hear something interesting or threatening  — resulting in a sharp, loud bark that can drive neighbours insane if your foxy is not properly exercised and socialised.


Small size, big personality


Indeed, the Fox Terrier is one of the most energetic breeds out there. Always keen to play, it needs regular and strenuous exercise, and a firm, consistent owner. Be warned: Fox Terriers are smart and mischievous and will figure out ways to get up to no good: whether it’s escaping out of the yard or getting into the rabbit or hamster cage. Fox Terriers were bred as hunting dogs after all, so no small furry animal is ever really safe around a foxy.



Fox Terriers are small dogs, weighing about 6.5 to 9 kilograms and standing no taller than 39cm at the shoulder. Two kinds of Fox Terriers exist: Wire-haired Fox Terriers (or Wire Fox Terriers) and Smooth-haired Fox Terriers. They are sometimes recognised as two separate breeds while three other breeds have also diverged from the original Fox Terrier: Jack Russells, Rat Terriers and Miniature Fox Terriers. In South Africa, most people assume you’re talking about the Smooth Fox Terrier when you say ‘Fox Terrier’.


Although the only difference between the smooth and wire-haired kinds are its hair, they actually look remarkably different, with the Wire Fox Terrier’s bearded snout giving it a typical grump-old-man appearance similar to Miniature Schnauzer. Both variants come in varieties of predominantly white with black and tan markings, although Smooth Fox Terriers tend to have more black in them then their wiry-haired counterparts.


Despite its small size, Fox Terriers make exceptional watchdogs and will furiously defend its turf. Its fearless temperament can also result in regular confrontational scraps in the dog park: There is a definite incongruity between how big a Fox Terrier thinks it is and how big it actually is — a fact that many a friendly Labrador or German Shepherd have come to experience first-hand.


Although the foxy can thus be a little confrontational with other dogs, it makes an exceptional and extremely loyal family dog and often bonds very well with children — especially if the children match the dog’s almost inexhaustible energy levels.




In general, Fox Terriers are relatively disease-free and live well into their teens, averaging a 15-year lifespan. Cataracts are common later on, and most Fox Terriers will pick up a bit of weight if their food intake is not monitored as they reach their middle years, but generally, foxies live long, happy lives until old age eventually catches up with them (which is no mean feat!)


Is a Fox Terrier for me?


If you’re looking for a low-maintenance indoor dog that will get along swimmingly with your cat and guinea pigs, then no. If you don’t like dogs barking or digging holes in your garden, then no. But if you’re looking for a protective, energetic and loyal companion with the heart the size of the Indian Ocean, then a Fox Terrier is spot on.

Know your breed: Bull Terrier

With its small sunken eyes, prominent egg-shaped head, and long nose that tapers into its powerful jaw, one could be forgiven for mistaking the Bull Terrier for a terrestrial shark. Indeed, when you watch a Bull Terrier, it’s like the whole powerful, compact body is merely an afterthought, an appendix to the low, sunken head.


I have yet to meet a person who is not a little wary of a strange Bull Terrier, and rightly so —  the breed makes an excellent watchdog. Yet, despite its intimidating appearance, a Bull Terrier is also a remarkably social and playful creature and enjoys nothing more than some energetic, friendly play with its owner.


A gentlemanly companion

The Bull Terrier itself is a rather English invention if ever there was one. The Bull Terrier’s predecessor, the Bull & Terrier was a cross between the now extinct Old English Bulldog and the English Terrier — bred for the purpose of catching vermin, but, unfortunately, also for the fighting ring.


A certain English gentleman called James Hinks was looking for a slightly more refined specimen — ‘a gentlemanly companion rather than a ring fighter’ and started breeding the Bull & Terrier with the (also now extinct) White English Terrier. The eventual result was a new type of dog called the Hinks Breed or White Cavalier which soon became very popular in England in the early 20th century.


Yet this breed still didn’t have the recognisable sloping nose with no ‘stop’. Breeders brought Dalmatians, Spanish Pointers, Rough Collies, and, incredibly, also Whippets and Borzois into the mix. And so the very first proper Bull Terrier was recognised in 1917. His name: Lord Gladiator. At this point, the purebred Bull Terrier still had to be pure white but today brindle and other colours are also accepted as pure.


Who’s the boss?

The Bull Terrier’s egg-shaped head is, for obvious reasons, its most recognisable feature. It is also the only dog with triangular-shaped eyes, while its body is as sturdy and solid as they come, with a tail that is generally carried horizontally. It’s not a tall dog, standing at about 55 cm at the shoulder, but it’s on the meaty side with an average weight of around 25 kg with males often even heavier (One does also get a Miniature Bull Terrier which is roughly half the size)


It’s this muscular build with oodles of brute strength, along with its robust energy,  that makes the Bull Terrier a dog for a very specific type of owner. A Bull Terrier plays rough, and he likes a lot of it and won’t think twice before knocking your ancient Chinese vase off the coffee table. A Bull Terrier wants to be the boss, and the boss of you too, and that’s why a strong and very consistent owner is essential. Frequent exercise and early socialisation are absolutely essential if you want a manageable Bull Terrier.


Bull Terriers can be happy in a family with energetic older children, but because of its robust and aggressive nature, it’s not recommended for families with young children. Of course, there are exceptions, but, generally, a Bull Terrier will not tolerate any other animals in its domain — especially not dogs of the same sex. Yet, despite its territorial attitude towards other dogs, Bull Terriers are surprisingly friendly to strangers who have been welcomed by their owner — often resulting in an amicable, boisterous welcoming.


Unfortunately, Bull Terriers have a number of health issues, including deafness, skin problems and obsessive tail chasing (which can be a form of epilepsy). Bull Terriers have short easy-care coats and might need a coat in the cold winter months to keep it warm.


Is a Bull Terrier for me?

In short, if you’re a first-time dog owner or have young children or other pets: definitely no. If you can be your Bull Terrier’s consistent firm leader, give it all the physical and mental attention it needs, and don’t mind a bit of rough and tumble, then this tough, energetic breed might just be your new sidekick.

Know your breed: Schnauzer

They say that dogs and their owners often show a remarkable resemblance. If this is indeed true, the stereotypical schnauzer owner would be an elderly gentleman, dressed in a tweed jacket and bow tie — proudly walking in the park with head held high and treating any attempts at friendly conversation with a moustached look of aloofness.


Indeed, the Schnauzer’s name literally means ‘snout’ — a colloquial term in German for a moustache. With its sassy beard and wild eyebrows, the Schnauzie (as it’s affectionately referred to) is the unofficial king of facial hair in the dog world. Yet, for a grumpy old gentleman, Schnauzers have remarkable energy. Extroverted, curious and eager to alert its owner to any threat, the breed often surprises novice owners with the size of their personality. Make no mistake — the Schnauzer is a terrier at heart: feisty, active and extremely loyal and protective.


The Schnauzers comes in three sizes: the standard, the giant and the miniature. Today, the miniature Schnauzer is the most popular as a pet, especially in cities and rates among the top 20 most popular dog breeds in Europe and the USA. People also sometimes refer to ‘toy’ or ‘teacup’ Schnauzers but this is generally a cross between a miniature Schnauzer and another breed and doesn’t fall within the breed’s standard description.


Sizes and colours

As mentioned, the Schnauzer comes in small, medium and large. The miniature Schnauzie is 33–35 cm tall at the shoulder and weighs about 4.5–9 kg. The standard Schnauzer is considerably larger, at 43–51 cm and will become a tad too heavy to carry in your arms at 14–26 kg while the giant variation is indeed a big dog at 60–70 cm and 34–47kg on average.


It’s interesting to note that it’s not a sliding scale of sizes, but rather three distinct breeds — each with its own set of characteristics. The breed can be classified as a ‘working dog’ and its role in rural Europe where it originated was to hunt rats, herd cattle and generally serve as a watchdog. The three variants developed in the late 19th century by first breeding the existing Schnauzer with the French Poodle to give it a more aristocratic appearance and then crossing the Standard Schnauzer with the Miniature Poodle and Affenpinscher to create the Miniature Schnauzer. The Giant Schnauzer was bred by crossbreeding with a host of bigger dogs including the Great Dane, German Shepherd and Bouvier des Flandres.


The Miniature Schnauzie is the only one that comes in four colour variants: pure black, black and silver, pepper and salt (a kind of nuanced grey) and white, although there is some controversy surrounding the acceptance of white Schnauzies at dog shows in the USA. The reason for this is that the two larger breeds only come in black or pepper and salt and the white is seen as a diversion from Schnauzer tradition.


Personality and health

Whatever colour your Schnauzie is, it’s sure to be smart. Schnauzers are also known as ‘the dog with the human brain’ and are highly trainable. Your bearded gentlemen or lady will be sure to learn tricks quickly and obey a variety of commands. The flip side is that they can get bored quite easily and need to be exercised and mentally stimulated regularly.


They are extremely loyal to the point where they can be a little aloof and stand-offish with strange people or dogs until they get to know them. However, individual Schnauzers’ personalities (especially the popular miniature ones) can vary greatly to the point where two Schnauzies can almost seem like two different breeds. Some are very terrier-like (feisty, scrappy and stubborn) while others are much calmer and sweet-natured. All Schnauzies will want to be close to their owners and part of the action on a constant basis and while the two bigger variations might be fine outdoors, the smaller pooches need to sleep comfortably inside.


Even the calmest Schnauzers’ beautiful snouts are made for barking though and they will alert to anything they think is a threat. For this reason, a Schnauzer is not the type of dog you want to leave alone for long periods of time if your neighbours have sensitive ears.


Schnauzers are one of the healthiest dog breeds around. They don’t really drool, but their muzzles will become dirty from eating and playing, so be sure to keep those wet wipes around. They also need to be groomed on a regular basis (either by hand-stripping the undercoat’s dead hair or by clipping the top coat to reveal the soft undercoat. Enthusiasts tend to agree that there are few dogs as good-looking as a well-groomed Schnauzer. Yet despite their long hair, they actually shed very little and are hypoallergenic.


Traditionally, the Schnauzer’s ears were clipped (cut to form an upward point) and their tails docked, but this practice is now actually illegal in a number of countries around the world. Besides, a Schnauzer with natural, floppy ears looks much friendlier…


Should I get a Schnauzer?

If you’re looking for an energetic, smart and alert family dog that’s great with children and will patrol your house and yard like it’s the proud owner, then this breed is for you. If you’re sensitive to barking and don’t want to spend time training and grooming your dog, then this elegantly moustached dog should rather be left to all the Schnauzie enthusiasts out there.

Know your breed - Chow Chow

Know your breed: Chow Chow

In his later life, the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s Chow Chow called Jofi attended all his therapy sessions with his patients. The story goes that Freud could tell quite a lot about a patient’s state of mind by Jofi’s behaviour. If she positioned herself close to the patient, the patient was in a relatively calm state of mind. If she lay down on the other side of the room, it was obvious that the patient was anxious. What’s more, Jofi had an exact internal clock that went off after exactly 50 minutes, when Jofi would start yawning and stretching, letting Freud know that the session has reached its end.

From this little anecdote, one can deduce two things. One, the Chow Chow is not as thick as it looks (although its fur is extremely thick) — it’s actually pretty intelligent. And secondly, Sigmund Freud had a very strong personality. The Chow Chow, Chinese Chow or simply Chow as it’s often referred to, is notoriously independent and strong-willed — adapting best to a dominant and consistent owner, although its temperament appears to have many sides. One source describes the Chow as follows: ‘The Chow combines the nobility of a lion, the drollness of a panda, the appeal of a teddy bear, the grace and independence of a cat, and the loyalty and devotion of a dog.’


Origins, appearance and health

Well, with its unique looks, the Chow certainly does look unlike any dog you’re likely to cross paths with. Its very straight back legs give it a stilted, gracious gait while its short, compact face with handsome mane certainly warrants its comparison to a lion. In terms of size, though, it’s considerably smaller than a lion, standing around 45 cm high at the shoulder and weighing in at 18 to 31 kg.

Today the standard colours for a Chow Chow include red, black, blue, cinnamon and cream, with lighter shades of the same colour on the tail and mane (of course when dog breed manuals talk about ‘blue’, they don’t actually mean blue as in Smurfie blue, but rather a dark grey with a hint of blue). Two types of coat variations are also present in pedigree Chows: rough and smooth-coated, with the rough-coated variety having that recognizable thick parka fur look. Unfortunately, the comparison to parka fur is not far from the truth, well, at least it wasn’t in ancient China and Mongolia where the breed originated. Apart from their function as hunting dogs, the breed’s beautiful fur was also used to line coats whilst their flesh was considered a delicacy! Fortunately, the cruel practice of eating dogs was outlawed in China in 1915.

Interestingly, the Chow has a unique black-blue tongue and in China it’s actually called the black-tongue dog (hei shi-tou), wolf dog (lang gou) or bear dog (xiang gou). Incidentally, the western name, ‘Chow Chow’ refers to the miscellaneous items aboard a cargo ship, a term used in the 18th century when the first Chows were brought to Europe where it was recognised as a breed in the late 19th  century. In China, though, the breed has existed for centuries with imagery of Chow-like dogs appearing in art works as early as 200 BC. The Chow Chow is, in fact, one of the 9 ‘ancient’ dog breeds more closely related to the wolf than all the other dog breeds.

In terms of general health, the Chow is a relatively healthy breed, apart from being prone to eye irritation caused by its abnormal eyelids — although this can easily be corrected with surgery. Most Chow Chows live up to about 15 years.


Is a Chow Chow the dog for me?

Apart from looking a bit like a small lion, this breed indeed also has a similarly strong personality which requires an owner who is willing to take the alpha role in the dog’s ‘pack’. Chows tend to become attached to one or two owners and can become fiercely territorial towards other dogs and humans if they feel their space or owner is being threatened. They can also be quite aloof, stubborn and hesitant to interact with strangers. For this reason, it is extremely important that a Chow is trained and socialised from an early age. When exercised regularly, the breed makes an excellent indoor dog.

In short, if you have small children or lots of other animals in your yard, this breed might not be the prudent choice. If you’re strong-willed and willing to lead the pack, a Chow Chow might just become your loyal china.






Know your breed: Basenji

The Basenji is a weird breed. Ever heard of a dog that can’t bark? Well, here you have it. A dog that whines, chortles, yodels and screams? Yup, that’s the Basenji. A clean, odourless dog. A natural escape artist. A stubborn, strong willed dog that will challenge you to be smarter than him or her… that’s the Basenji.




The Basenji is an ancient dog breed originating in the forests of the Congo and closely resembles the Tesem dogs that are depicted on the tombs of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Originally bred to hunt small prey in the dense rain forests by chasing and driving them into nets, these fast, agile creatures are highly alert and adept at getting through the tiniest gap. For this reason, it’s not recommended to keep a Basenji in a yard that is not very, very well secured and fenced off, or leave it alone by itself in your home. It will find a way to get out of the yard, and it will find some unsuspecting shoe, leather handbag, Persian carpet or new scatter cushion to hunt down and tear to pieces.


With regards to its peculiar trait of not barking, several theories abound. One is that quieter Basenjis were selectively chosen over thousands of years because the sound of barking dogs would give away the location of their owners in the forest to rival tribes.


Whatever the reason, the breed was admired by Europeans who first saw them in the Congo region in the 19th century and several attempts were made to bring them to Europe. A certain Lady Helen Nutting brought six Basenjis with her to England from Sudan in 1923 but the dogs wanted nothing to do with it and all tragically died from the distemper shots they received in quarantine. In the 1930s a small foundation stock was finally established in England and America and almost all Basenjis in the Western world descends from this small number, although some efforts were made at the turn of the millennium to introduce new dogs from Africa into the line.

In large parts of central Africa, the breed is, of course, quite common and referred to as ‘dogs of the bush’ or ‘dogs of the villagers.”




With its alert, big pointy ears, tightly coiled tail and diamond-shaped head, the Basenji is instantly recognisable. It’s graceful, light-footed gate reminds somewhat of wild jackals and like other sighthounds, it is capable of a double-suspension gallop, similar to a horse’s. It’s a small-sized dog, standing about 41-46 cm tall and weighs roughly 10kg, but is deceptively strong for its size — a fact that many an arrogant Jack Russell have come to accept the hard way.


Its coat is short, odourless, sheds very little and comes in red, black, brindle and tricolour. Interestingly, all Basenjis’ feet, tails-tips and chests are white.




Needless to say, raising and training a Basenji takes patience and a strong will. Some expert even refers to a ‘sense of humour’ needed to train them. Most owners agree that Basenjis are highly intelligent and often understand commands — they just don’t want to obey them unless they understand what’s in it for them.


They are extremely loyal and will often bond tightly with one owner. Their suspicious stand-offish nature will also require them to be well socialised from an early age to avoid skittish and aggression towards other dogs.


That being said, Basenjis are very social animals and want to be part of the action all the time and go everywhere with you. Leaving a Basenji by itself for any long period of time is not advised. Despite their inability to bark, they do make excellent watch dogs and are highly aware of what’s going on around them. Also, remember that they are hunting dogs, so they will need exercise, and lots of it, on a daily basis.




The breed typically reaches about 13 years of age and is generally a healthy breed although some kidney and liver problems, sensitive stomachs, hypothyroidism and eye disease can occur. A very interesting biological trait is that female Basenjis, like Dingos, only cycle once a year compared to twice a year for all other domestic dogs.


Is a Basenji for me?


Yes, if you’re looking for a clean, elegant, clever dog with a strong personality, and you’re willing to be its loyal companion and strong pack leader. If you’re looking for low maintenance dog that will submit easily and generally be obedient, then steer clear of this fascinating breed.


Written by: Eckhard Cloete


Know your breed: Saint Bernard

My first meeting with this breed was Josef, the friendly, faithful companion of Heidi’s grandfather in the TV series Heidi — the hit Japanese anime series that also made its way to South Africa in the 80s with Afrikaans overdubbing. True to its depiction in this children’s series, the typical Saint Bernard is indeed a gentle giant — intelligent, calm and a great companion dog if you can handle its size.



The Saint Bernard descended from a large, broad-muzzled dog originally brought to the Alps by the Ancient Romans as a working farm dog. The earliest written record of the St. Bernard as a breed was penned by the monks at the hospice at the Great Saint Bernard Pass in the Alps in 1707, although paintings depicting the breed date even further back. The breed quickly became famous as rescue dog — helping to save travelers on the treacherous Alpine passes of the area.

Interestingly enough, the original St. Bernard rescue dogs were smaller than the St. Bernard we know today. During the harsh winters of 1816-1818,  avalanches killed many of the dogs during rescue missions. In an effort to save the breed, larger Newfoundlands were crossbred with the remaining St. Bernards. However, the longer fur the dogs inherited from the Newfoundland influence froze during rescue missions and weighed them down, causing the breed to lose much of its prowess as a snow rescue dog.

Despite this, its reputation survived and to this day the breed is often depicted in movies and cartoons with the iconic small barrel of brandy around its neck — supposedly to give to avalanche victims to stay warm  (of course not a great idea at all, medically speaking!). The monks of Saint Bernard vehemently deny the existence of this custom but do keep a couple of spare barrels for tourist picture purposes…



Make no mistake: the Saint Bernard is a big dog. So big it’s classified as a ‘giant’ breed. In fact, the heaviest dog ever was a St. Bernard: Benedictine Daily Double weighed in at a massive 166.4kg! Most don’t reach these proportions though, with the average St. Bernard being 65-120kg. At its withers, the typical dog stands at 70-90cm.

The breed comes in both a short and long-haired variation and in either a shade of red and white, or a darker mahogany brindle and white, with darker marking around the face. Its short square muzzle will definitely drool a fair bit, so be warned if you don’t like slobber on your new pair of pants. It also sheds a pretty decent amount of hair.



Despite its enormous size, the breed actually makes a calm indoor dog and is happy to lounge around most of the day in adulthood. It has a reputation of being tolerant of children although it’s so big that a swipe of its tail can easily knock an unsuspecting child over. (It should also be noted that no dog should ever be left unsupervised with small children — no matter how relaxed they seem to be).

Saint Bernards are happiest around its family and much prefers chilling with its people to being left alone for long periods of time. Like all big dogs, and indeed all dogs in general, early training and a confident, firm owner will do much to curb any aggression and attitudes of dominance. In general, though, the Saint Bernard lives up to its name: being a saintly, gentle giant.



Saint Bernards generally live up to around 9 years and can, unfortunately, suffer from a variety of health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, heart disease, eye problems and eczema and epilepsy. Because the puppies grow so fast, special care must also be taken to make sure they get enough exercise to prevent bone deterioration. In South Africa, the summer heat is also a major concern, as the Saint Bernard is genetically conditioned to withstand extremely cold temperatures.


Is the Saint Bernard for me?

If you don’t like big, clumsy dogs that bring mud, drool and lots of hair into your home, then steer clear. If you can handle a humongous but loyal furry friend and can provide constant, calm companionship, the saint from the Alps might just be the K9 for you.


By Eckhard Cloete


Know Your Breed - Saint Bernard - JOCK Dog Food

Know your breed: Saint Bernard

My first meeting with this breed was Josef, the friendly, faithful companion of Heidi’s grandfather in the TV series Heidi — the hit Japanese anime series that also made its way to South Africa in the 80s with Afrikaans overdubbing.

Know your breed: Belgian Shepherd

Often confused with the more common German Shepherd (or Alsatian), the Belgian Shepherd is a unique breed that originated (yes, you guessed it) Belgium. The two breeds look quite similar, but that’s not where the confusion ends. The Belgian Shepherd itself has four different varieties. Oh, and then there’s the Dutch Shepherd. But let’s stick to the Belgian Shepherd for now.

The Groenendael (known as the Belgian Sheepdog in America) is generally solid black with a double coat — long course guard hair over a thinner, softer down hair. The Tervuren also has a double coat but is tan to brown coloured with a black mask. Then there’s the Malinois — basically like the Tervuren but with shorter hair (it’s this variation that looks most like the German Shepherd). Finally, there’s the Laekenois, the wiry-haired and fawn coloured member of the club.

All four variants are more or less the same size though. A male Belgian Shepherd stands around 60 to 66cm at the shoulder and weighs 25 to 30kg with the females averaging 4cm shorter and 5kg lighter. It has a slight sloping backside, similar to Alsatians, but not sloping as severely.



The Belgian Shepherd is a working dog, bred for herding. Like all herding dogs, it’s highly intelligent, and very active. Because of its fearless nature, they are also great watch dogs while their intelligence, loyalty and trainability make them popular police dogs around the world. Tracking, sniffing out narcotics, search and rescue operations — it’s all in a day’s work for this breed. Not surprisingly, the world’s most successful anti-poaching dog is a Belgian Shepherd. See The Poacher Catcher for K9 Killer’s remarkable story.

In North Wales the police has even harnessed one of the breed’s instinctual herding habits — head-butting — in an inventive way to subdue criminals. Trained dogs are muzzled and then instructed to forcefully head-butt wrongdoers in the midriff to knock them off balance!

As you might gather from the scope of the breeds’ talents, keeping a Belgian Shepherd as a house pet is not recommend for lazy pet owners. The breed needs regular exercise, and more importantly, needs to be stimulated mentally on continual basis to avoid frustration. It’s not the type of dog you just leave alone all day in the garden. The breed is also quite dominant and strong-willed which can make it very challenging for a first-time or timid dog owner. The breed is also known for standing its ground against other dogs and for being very protective of its owner and property.

For this reason, it’s not necessarily the best family dog — although this depends largely on the individual dog’s personality and the owner’s attention to the dog’s needs and training demands.

Of the four varieties, the black Groenendael seems to be a little more easy-going, while the Malinois can be the most resistant to typical family life.



The breed is generally healthy but is prone to develop hip displacement, epilepsy and gastric problems. They normally live to about 12 or 13 years, with cancer being the most common cause of death. And they do shed regularly.


Is the Belgian Shepherd the dog for you?

If you want a low-maintenance dog that will never growl at another dog and can be left to its own devices most of the time, this breed is not for you. If you’re looking for a brave, intelligent and active watchdog that’s eager to learn and be challenged all the time, a Belgian Shepherd might just become your best friend.




By Eckhard Cloete






Know your breed: Basset Hound

With its long ears and friendly nature, one might confuse the Basset Hound with the Easter Bunny around April — but make no mistake: the Basset Hound will sniff out every single Easter egg you’ve hidden in the garden if you don’t keep a close eye.  In fact, the Basset Hound will probably track down and follow the Easter Bunny as well if it ever catches a whiff of him. Bred as a scent hound to nose out hares, the Basset’s legendary sense of smell is second only to its ancestor, the Bloodhound. In short, the Basset Hound’s life revolves around following its rather big nose — merrily wobbling around with its big tongue out in search of interesting smells.



The Basset Hound as we know it today descended from the hounds kept by Saint Hubert in the 6th century. Around the year 1000, the monks of the Saint-Hubert Monastery in Belgium had bred a recognisable hound, the St Hubert’s Hound, or modern day Bloodhound. It’s from this hound that the smaller Basset Hound developed in France.

Until the French Revolution in 1789, the hunting of game on horseback was the sole right of kings and the aristocratic class, which meant that peasants had to hunt on foot. This made the slow, short-legged but stubbornly dedicated Basset Hound an ideal hunting companion for them.

During the reign of Napoleon III, the Basset Hound achieved some unexpected fame when a leading French sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet created bronze sculptures of the emperor’s hounds. In France today, five different variants of the Basset still exist. But it’s the English standard of the late 19th century that became the most popular and it’s this dog that’s known as the Basset Hound in most of the world today.



With its droopy, sad eyes and easy-going, clumsy demeanour, it’s hard not to smile when you see this breed. Its ears are huge, with puppies sometimes even tripping over them. The Basset’s very loose skin hangs over a heavy-boned frame, creating the recognisable frowning face. Its legs are short and sturdy and the adult Basset Hound will stand no taller than 36 cm at the shoulder. Don’t be deceived by its short legs, though — it has a looong body, which enables it to get its paws up onto a dinner table to treat itself to a snack.

Weighing in between 20 and 35 kg, Bassets have shortish, hard, smooth coats in almost any colour variations (although the tricolour of white, brown and black are the most common) and shed regularly. Its coat is also quite oily — giving it a recognisable ‘hound scent’. Interestingly, most Basset Hounds have a white blaze at the tip of their long, sable-like tails — a trait that traditionally served hunters well when they were looking for their hounds in the thick bushes…



Basset Hounds are well-known for their tolerance of and affection for children. They are chilled out and playful, and not nervous or aggressive at all if they’ve been well socialised and exercised regularly. Because they are pack dogs, they love to be around other dogs and people — the flip side is that they can get lonely if left alone too long, resulting in destructive behaviour and howling. And with the big body and mouth, they can howl and bark at quite a volume! Their stubborn scent hound nature makes proper puppy training highly recommended.



Basset Hounds live for 10 to 12 years and are generally healthy. However, it’s eager eating habits often results in obesity and bloating. Its giant ears need to be cleaned regularly to avoid infection while cases of eyelid problems and cherry eye are also quite common. Also be aware that the loose skin around its mouth results in excessive drooling, making your Basset Hound a messy eater and drinker.


Is the Basset Hound for me?

If you’re looking for a clumsy, lazy clown of a dog with a nose for adventure, and you’re able to tolerate its drooling and stubborn nature, the Basset Hound might just be the perfect friendly companion to fill your life with laughs and licks.


by Eckhard Cloete

Know Your Breed: Cocker Spaniel

With its long, wavy locks, floppy ears and cheerful disposition, the Cocker Spaniel is not the kind of dog you can imagine being of any use when out hunting. But this is exactly what these cute balls of fur were bred for in England during the 1800s.

The breed actually gets its name from the Woodcock, the type of bird that it was employed to track down, flush out and retrieve when out on a hunt. In fact, Cocker Spaniels proved to be so good at this that Americans imported them during the 1870s and started to breed their own variety.

This led to the two officially recognised Cocker Spaniels we have today, namely the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. The major difference between the two is that the American variety is slightly smaller than its English cousin, but every bit as cuddly.

Both American and English Cocker Spaniels are known for their beautiful fur, long ears and small round eyes. As mentioned, the English Cocker Spaniel is larger and comes with a longer muzzle, longer back and narrower chest. Males are about 38-43cm tall and weigh about 13-16kg when fully grown. Female English Cocker Spaniels are about 2cm shorter and weigh about 1kg lighter.

American Cocker Spaniel males are about 37-39cm when fully grown and weigh about 7-14kg. Females are only slightly smaller with an average height of about 37cm.

Both varieties traditionally have their tails docked. But this practise is now considered illegal in a lot of developed countries worldwide, including South Africa.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a friendlier dog than the Cocker Spaniel. It is loveable, playful, affectionate and gets along great with children and other pets. It is also extremely intelligent, which makes it easy to train and very loyal.

Like most dogs, they need a firm leader to become a well-adjusted pet. Cocker Spaniels are very sensitive to their owner’s tone of voice and will not respond if they sense they are more strong willed. This can lead to a host of behavioural issues, including shy-sharpness, which is a combination of fear and dominance that can lead to viciousness.

At Home
Both English and American Cocker Spaniels are energetic dogs and will need to be mentally and physically stimulated. They love to be active and will enjoy as much exercise as their owner can give. A long, daily walk should suffice, but owners can increase their dog’s activity level if it becomes restless, overexcited or barks excessively.

Cocker Spaniels will do well in apartments if they are sufficiently exercised, but are better suited to homes with a yard. They are indoor, pack animals and won’t cope well with living alone outside in a kennel.

These dogs are also average shedders and will need regular combing and brushing to ensure their coat remains tangle free.

Because of their long ears, Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections. Owners are advised to look out for the dog shaking its head or scratching at its ears more often than usual.

Other health issues can include cataracts, glaucoma, blindness, hip and elbow dysplasia, and gastric torsion. The breed also gains weight very easily, so owners are advised not to over feed them.

In terms of life expectancy, both the English and American Cocker Spaniel can live to be around 12-15 years old.