Catahoula Leopard Dog

One of the best things about being a veterinarian is all the different dogs I get to meet. Of course, I love the Labs and Beagles and Boxers and Poodles, not to mention those crazy Canine Cocktails, or what my parents used to call Heinz 57s. They are among the more popular dogs out there, and I see a lot of them. In fact, it used to be that it was rare to see anything else.

But there are some new breeds in town — well, new to me, anyway — and I find them fascinating when they show up in my exam room or I see them on the street in my travels. It’s a real treat to get to know them and learn more about the amazing canine species.

Here are nine dog breeds I sometimes see now that I didn’t see in the past.

Unusual Breeds

1. Tibetan Mastiff. I was a little taken aback the first time one of these dogs walked into the waiting room. They are big! The Tibetan has a calm and majestic manner, but it’s easy to see that he’s more than capable of protecting his family — something he considers Job One. 

2. Carolina Dog. This is one of the more interesting breeds around. He’s an American native who was found living wild in South Carolina’s swamp country and was developed into a recognized breed by biologist I. Lehr Brisbin. Carolina Dogs look like dingoes and have some of the same traits as primitive dogs, including pointy ears and a wedge-shaped head, a tail that curves kind of like a fishhook and a habit of digging holes with their snouts.

3. Catahoula Leopard Dog. In Louisiana, where they come from, Catahoulas are nicknamed “hog dogs,” but not because they’re fat. It’s because they wrangle hogs and other tough livestock. You tell the Catahoula where you want the animals to go, and he’ll make sure they go there. Lots of Catahoulas make the leap to family dog, too, because they can be both gentle and protective — at least with their own people. They can also be star athletes in dog sports.

Goldendoodle Puppy

4. Goldendoodle. What a fun dog! It’s no surprise that this cross between a Golden Retriever and Miniature or Standard Poodle is smart and trainable. He’s awfully cute, too, with a coat that can be shaggy, curly or wavy. Some Goldendoodles have jobs as service dogs, and they can also be canine athletes in agility, rally and other dog sports.

5. Chinook. He looks like he might be some sort of handsome mix, but the Chinook is actually a historic sled-dog breed that helped Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, an American naval officer and explorer, on his first expedition to Antarctica. He’s still happy to pull a sled — a useful ability in Idaho’s winters — but the Chinook is also known for being a friendly and playful companion for kids. 

Large Munsterlander dog

6. Large Munsterlander. Lots of hunters have cottoned to this German gun dog, which is both beautiful and versatile in the field. I’ve found the dogs to be friendly, and they are great companions — but they sure do love to hunt. Lots of breeders will place them only in homes where they’ll be able to exercise that talent, and I think that’s smart.

7. Thai Ridgeback. This fascinating breed is what’s known as a pariah, or primitive, dog. His prick ears, wedge-shaped head, wrinkly forehead and spots of pigmentation on his tongue are all signatures of early-type dogs. And, of course, he stands out for the unusual ridge of hair that runs along his back, like that of his cousin, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. He’s a handful, though, and is best suited to a home with an experienced dog owner.

8. Azawakh. The supermodel of the dog world, this sighthound has legs that seem to go on forever, a beautifully muscled body that is just barely wrapped in a short, smooth coat, and eyes that gaze far, far away. You can tell I’m half in love with this dog — it’s so different from my own and so intriguing. The only difficult thing about them is that they are so bonded to their own family that they don’t want much to do with me — or anyone else. 

Otterhound on Grass

9. Otterhound. If you want someone to talk to, the Otterhound is your man — er, dog. He mutters, groans, sighs, sings and bays. This is one of the more entertaining dogs out there: rough and tumble, funny and friendly, but a bit of a klutz. Keep him in mind if you live in the country and don’t mind a shaggy dog who likes to dig, hunt and howl.

It’s always tempting to get an unusual breed like one of the dogs listed here. Who doesn’t want a pal who’s not the dog next door? But though they often have great qualities, sometimes there’s a reason a breed is rare. Be sure you do your homework before bringing home any dog.

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