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Dog Word of the Day: Biddable Dog

Biddable Dog

Biddable dog: You may have heard this word sometimes in dog circles, but may be wondering what this word is all about. The word is also utilized sometimes by the American Kennel Club when certain characteristics of dog breeds are described, and from the sound of it, it is quite clear that the word biddable must be something that is desirable. So what does "biddable dog" exactly mean? Let's take a closer look at this word and its meaning and discover also some fascinating tidbits of information.

 What does biddable dog mean?

What does biddable dog mean?

A Closer Insight

What does "biddable dog" mean? Merriam Webster dictionary informs us that the word biddable means "easily led, taught, or controlled, docile." Oxford Dictionary says: "meekly ready to accept and follow instructions."

A biddable dog therefore sounds like every dog owner's dream, the ultimate dog who has a wonderful temperament, learns fast and is eager to do things with their owners. Not so fast though...

Of course, not all dogs are biddable. Biddability is a trait that has been selectively bred in certain dog breeds with a long history of working very closely with humans.

These dogs were primarily bred to learn and follow the cues of their handlers. Biddable dogs have a strong willingness to interact with their owners and they find this innately reinforcing. These dogs thrive on being guided and told what to do mainly due to their genetic predisposition to be compliant and cooperative.

For instance, examples of biddable dogs may include dogs selectively bred to retrieve (bringing back to the hunter downed fowl), dogs selectively bred to herd (following shepherd's cues to round up livestock), dogs selectively bred to flush (flushing birds out of a bush), just to name a few.

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On the other hand, non-biddable dogs include dogs who were selectively bred to work independently from humans. These dogs tend to be more emotionally detached and gain reinforcement from engaging in activities that often may not involve the owner. Pleasing owners is not at the top of their agenda.

Examples of non-biddable dogs include dogs selectively bred to kill vermin, dogs selectively bred to hunt in packs, dogs with a history of "fending for themselves" living with livestock and guarding them from predators.

There are then dogs who are middle-ground, being somewhere in between being biddable and non-biddable. There can be quite some variability among these dogs.

A List of Biddable Dog Breeds 

The Gamekeeper, by Richard Ansdell (1815–85)

The Gamekeeper, by Richard Ansdell (1815–85)

Although this is a list of a biddable dogs breeds, this list needs to be taken with a word of caution. While a dog may be genetically predisposed to being biddable, the role of the environment in which the dog is raised is important as well.

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Also, worthy of considering is that, although these dogs breeds may appear to be easier to train, they have a tendency for being quite exuberant, especially when young and this pose some challenges especially to novice dog owners. What dog breeds are considered biddable? Here is a general list.

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Border Collies
  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Poodles
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Golden retrievers
  • English springer spaniel
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Papillons

Pros and cons of biddable dogs: biddability in dogs is overall, a very positive trait to have in a dog you are planning to have as working partner, but while biddable dogs are intelligent, happily follow directions, seek guidance and are eager to be with their humans, there are also some drawbacks which might not make them the easiest pets to own. This often comes as a surprise to many dog owners. Smart dogs tend to get bored easily, once they learn a new skill they may seek more challenges, and, on top of that, they tend to demand lots of attention from their owners.

jack russell

A List of Non-Biddable Dog Breeds

Although this is a list of non-biddable dogs breeds, this list as well needs to be taken with a word of caution. While a dog may be genetically predisposed to being non-biddable, the role of the environment in which the dog is raised is important as well.

Non-biddable dogs need the right, nurturing environment for training, which means that you need to motivate them. All dogs need motivation to a certain extent, but these dogs need more and you need to put yourself a bit in their mind to figure out whatever floats their boat.

Non-biddable dogs breeds instinctively like to do what they want and don't seem to care whether it's something their humans like or not. This is because they lack a history of having a close working relationship with their humans.

Instead, they have a natural tendency to work and solve problems independently on their own and almost become obsessed at times when they are exploring or desire getting something. They are lively, interested in their surroundings and gain reinforcement on their own engaging in activities that they seek out. What dog breeds are generally considered non-biddable? Here are just a few.

  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Cairn terrier
  • Rat Terrier
  • Bull terriers
  • Airedale terriers
  • Basenji
  • Beagles
  • Afghan hounds

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Pros and cons of non-biddable dogs: while a history of working independently, a need for strong motivators and a certain level of detachment may seem like many flaws, there are also several advantages in owning non-biddable dogs. While it may take some motivation and time to train these dogs, they won't likely seek more challenges once they have learned a new behavior as they'll stick to it rather than seeking further challenges, as the biddable dogs may do. On top of this, it's nice for a change to have a dog with an independent spirit who enjoys activities on his own and doesn't need you to pay attention to him all the time.

Something Worth Emphasizing

Biddability shouldn't be confused with intelligence. All dogs are smart in their own ways, and need to be appreciated for their own individual intelligence. When training dogs, it's important to think in terms of the individual dog rather than focusing on certain labels or "stereotypes." It would therefore be unjust to label certain dogs as smarter or easier to train, while labeling others as being "less bright" or impossible to train.

Take for example border collies. There is a strong belief that border collies are easy to train and this often ends up creating strong expectations in novice dog owners. Yet, the same border collies, the "poster childs of easy trainability" can often be a handful in inexperienced homes. Just because some dogs are smart, biddable and easy to motivate, doesn't necessarily mean they are easy to train!

And dogs with a reputation for being difficult to train, shouldn't be portrayed as impossible to train or even worse, not suitable as being kept as pets. Given the right incentive and starting with a high-rate of reinforcement, these dogs can bring loads of satisfaction to dog owners willing to get over the initial hurdles. And even if some of these dogs may never gain oodles of obedience titles, it can be equally rewarding just watching them persist and engage in their favorite activities as long as they are safe and happy.

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