I have only ever been involved tangentially with focus groups but I know that advertising types are fond of asking this question. “If X organisation were a dog, what sort would it be?” they’ll say, assuming their audience’s familiarity with dog breeds. I’ve wondered whether focus group members who have no idea about dog breeds just say the first thing that comes into their head like “Labrador!” or “Poodle!” or “Definitely a Staffy,” and so the research is forever skewed and X organisation goes away thinking they are perceived as a Rottweiler when in fact they are more of a Chihuahua. I’ve no idea why I started thinking about this the other day, but I did.
Now, you’ll be familiar with the actual canine in our family, the gorgeous Flat Coated Retriever called Oscar. This is an excuse for a gratuitous picture of him here:
Apart from Oscar, there are four of us. My husband is, I think, a German Shepherd. He likes to keep us all in order and guards us and barks when things aren’t quite right. People can be quite intimidated by his intelligence and aloofness, some think he’s quite scary, but underneath he’s a softy with a sense of humour. Highly intelligent, very hard working, loyal to just one person, he likes things to go his way and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But, of course, he needs to be trained, and training is an ongoing process.
Then there’s the Boywonder, also known by Oscar as Big Puppy. He’s definitely another Flat Coated Retriever. Intelligent, easily trainable, charming, full of humour, but not very obedient and with a mind of his own. He has an uncanny way of doing exactly the opposite of what’s expected, just for the hell of it, and then giving us a big smile so we forgive him. Flatcoats are wonderful creatures but they are quite a handful and push your buttons if you let them. The Boywonder is friendly with everyone, vocalises a lot, loves to make music, never bites.
Darling Daughter, Puppy, is a Golden Retriever, I think. Also very intelligent and trainable, she’s a more reliable, harder working and less random than her Flat Coated relation. She is anxious to please and tries to anticipate commands. Yet she too can have an obstinate streak and can possess a touch of anger.
Or is she a hardworking and intelligent poodle, or a tenacious terrier? I’m not quite sure. She’s only 13 and still in development, so it’s hard to tell. But you don’t get on the wrong side of her.
And me? Well, I did think I was a Labrador-Retriever at first: intelligent and capable of training and working at the highest level but also prone to lying around at home eating everything in sight.
HOWEVER, on reflection, I think I’m more like a Catalan Sheepdog. I’m a more recent import from a different culture. There are still few of us in this country and it’s taken some time to be accepted as a proper breed by the Kennel Club. I am intelligent and active and spend much of my time chasing and herding other animals. Rustic looking, I could often do with a bit of grooming. I need to be kept amused otherwise I will make my own amusement.
When I think about my friends, I can think of neurotic, perfectionist collies and energetic pointers who run around but will sit for hours looking up at the memory of a squirrel in a tree. I can think of terriers who won’t let go of an issue, whippets that are active outside and do nothing but sleep at home and beautiful but high-maintenance Afghan hounds. I seem not to have any spoiled lapdogs among my close friends, which I find curious. So, which kind of dog are you?