The American Alsatian

Iroh

Iroh, pictured above, is an American Alsatian. They are a relatively new breed of dog that is still in development, but they are unique from all of the cockapoos and labradoodles that are making a name for themselves right now. They are a large breed companion dog. So what does this mean? What I like to tell people is that all the things that drive you CRAZY about a normal dog–be it digging or barking or chewing or ‘for the love of GOD will you just SIT DOWN AND BE STILL FOR FIVE SECONDS’–is not (or, upon the completion of this little genetic adventure, will not be) shown in this breed.

Before you jump down my throat–they are still dogs, okay. They still do doglike things. What I believe the breed creator, Lois Schwarz, is aiming for is to take away the obsession that some dogs experience to make way for their ability to think. My dog, Iroh, makes decisions. You can ask him questions and get answers. He thinks about things. He has a full spectrum of emotions. And I think it is because he doesn’t get hung up on the kinds of things some other breeds do.

So what do I mean by obsession? Well, I mean that dog that, upon meeting you, brings you a ball. And then you throw the ball, and she eagerly runs to retrieve it, and she brings it to you, and you throw it, and her eyes are just locked on you. Or on the ball, rather. She cares about nothing other than that ball being thrown and retrieved over and over–I’ve met some dogs who will do this to the point of literally vomiting from working so hard and they still won’t stop. These dogs are just as intelligent, just as wonderful and loving as any other dog, but their minds get clouded by obsession over whatever their “thing” is–and it’s not a ball for all dogs. It could be food, it could be guarding their owner, it could be digging, anything really.

Now, back when we were first domesticating dogs, and breeding them for specific things, these obsessive qualities were encouraged. If you needed a shepherd, well then that dog better think of NOTHING besides guarding those sheep. They’re your livelihood after all. If you were a hunter, that dog BETTER keep an eye on that bird, because that’s your meal for the night for your family. All our dogs were bred to have a job, a purpose, and then they came with the amazing perk of being affectionate companions that people want to have around.

So flash forward to the typical American family. You have… kids maybe. A job that makes you work a lot. Maybe you aren’t really active yourself. Maybe you don’t have a lot of experience with dogs. I mean, I don’t know your story, but for the most part, people don’t have time to engage a dog bred for a job. And these dogs become destructive and they end up in shelters and everyone feels bad. (Some people, however, DO have the time and need for a dog bred for a job, and those dogs should be given to those people). People with apartments get huskies, people with small children get rhodesian ridgebacks, and again, before you jump down my throat, well, I had a husky in an apartment and they were fine. Yes, of course, there is always that one person. But for most people, that doesn’t work. And the animal suffers for it, and usually the owner doesn’t have a swell time with it either.

Lois knew all about this little problem, where people wanted, say, the look of a particular dog but didn’t know or care about what the dog’s inherited traits were like and ended up with something terrible. So what she wanted to do was create a dog that was so amazing down to the genetic level that none of her dogs would ever end up in a shelter. Sounds pretty incredible, right?

Well, thanks to the way we understand genetics now, and her TIRELESS work of charting and graphing and interpreting how traits are passed on, we have a dog that looks like a wolf (or a lion, or a bear, depending on who you ask) but has the temperament of an angel. Or as close to it as we can possibly get. This is THE dog for an American family. They are beautiful, they are loving, they are responsive.

Why?

Because THAT is their job. All the other dogs in the world have a job, and so do the American Alsatians. Their job is to be your best friend. To take care of you. To be taken care of by you. To be with you. And they do it amazingly. You make a move or think a thought and they are responding to it. Their attention is always on you in a subtle way.

Iroh and I were bonded before he was even born. He understands what I want usually before I ever say anything, before I ever give a command, and I understand his reactions to things–his reasons behind acting a certain way–because I know that dog inside out. And he looks amazing–we can’t go anywhere without compliments–and I don’t really have to spend time on his coat. This isn’t a Newfoundland we’re talking about. I get him groomed every once in a while, I brush him when I think about it, but his coat stays clean, mat-free, and nice-smelling.

I’m a single girl who lives alone. This dog is SCARY looking. And when I am afraid, when my energy changes, he is on his feet, defending me. That’s something else American families want. A loving, affectionate dog that you can trust around children or cats or rats, that will also protect you if the need comes. This dog can part a crowd like nothing I’ve ever seen when he’s at a heel with his head high. But the worst he would ever do to a person is knock them over with enthusiasm.

I’ll be posting more about this breed, but I wanted to ramble a bit about what the American Alsatian is to me as my first post. If you have any questions or want me to elaborate or if there’s something in particular you want to know about, I have access to a lot of American Alsatian resources, so even if I don’t have the answer myself I’ll find it for you. 🙂