Hi it’s Linda here behind the keyboard. Alfie and I received a long email the other day from one of our blog readers who is looking to get an Entlebucher Mountain Dog. The email was from a real dog lover – someone who’s had labradors all his life and he was trying to genuinely understand if the Entlebucher Mountain Dog Breed is the right dog for him. He suffered a dog bite and got injured but it doesn’t stop him from looking for a new dog.
He asked me about exercise, temperament and how to train them – and he mentioned he’d tried to do some research online but found little information about what its really like to own an Entle.
Before we brought our little Alfs home a little over three years ago we also tried finding information online and it was nearly impossible so I thought I’d reply in a blog post – for the benefit of everyone else out there doing research on the breed.
I’m not in any way an expert on Entlebucher Mountain Dogs, although it sometimes feels like we have a whole swiss army of tri-coloured mischief makers in the house we only have one – but I’m happy to share our experience. And to get a more balanced view I also asked our pawsome Facebook Entle friends for their views.
What’s the Difference between a Labrador and An Entlebucher Mtn Dog?
Q1: All of my experience with dogs has been with labrador retrievers, have you ever owned a lab? If so can you tell me what are the biggest differences I will encounter with the Entle?
I have never owned a labrador, my doggie background is a family Golden Retriever when I grew up, and a longhaired German Shepherd before we got Alfie. But I’m quite familiar with labs and we briefly considered getting one when we researched what dog to get three years ago. Back then, I thought Entle’s would be a bit like a short legged labradors in terms of temperament and behaviour – but after three years of owning an Entlebucher I’ve realised this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are known as the ‘der Lachen Hunden’ – the laughing dogs, and their positive outlook on life is contagious. In fact, a couple of years into owning an Entlebucher I’ve started thinking of it less as dog ownership and more of a lifestyle choice!
Entles were originally bred to herd cattle in the Swiss mountains and help out with a range of tasks around the farms, and I think in their hearts they still believe they have a very important job to do even if they live in a city as family dogs, far away from live stock.
Labradors on the other hand were were bred primarily to perform as an efficient retriever of game, with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of activities beyond hunting. They are known as gentle family dogs, and because of their aptitude to please their humans they excel as guide dogs for the blind.
How would you convince a cow its time to move?
Cows are big and heavy animals and not very easy to move if they’ve decided to stay put, so if you’re a herding dog – you would need to be incredibly persistent, brave, strong and stubborn to make that happen.
You couldn’t necessarily wait for exact commands before every move so you’d need to be able to judge the situation and make your own decisions.
Over the years that’s produced a very strong, fearless and somewhat stubborn dog that has an ability to think for himself. This means the Entlebucher Mountain Dog could be challenging to handle for an inexperienced or non assertive owner.
Entlebuchers never give up if they’ve set their mind on something whether that’s moving a cow, running an agility course or break into the trash bin. They listen to your commands – and in my opinion they also use their own initiative to solve problems.
Entlebuchers use their entire arsenal to get their way – including a deep bark that could move mountains, speeding, howling, body checking, nipping and if everything else fails – they turn on the puppy eye look to lure that cookie out of your hand. They quickly become experts in reading your body language and they will use it to get their way – and they have a great sense of humour!
‘If a cow refuses to move, Entles will first nip heels and, if that doesn’t work, they’ll leap up and slam into the stubborn animal’s side’ (AKC Gazette, Jan 2011).
As puppies their instinct tells them that they have to herd everything that moves, including your trouser legs, feet and hands. As you can imagine there’s quite a lot of ‘base training’ to be done before they behave around the house so its a good thing they look so darn cute those first couple of months because your hands and feet will be bruised and covered in scratches while you train away their ‘cattle leaps’, get their bite inhibition sorted and try and stop them from herding and nipping you. This is all pretty standard herding breed stuff – but if you’re not used to it, it might come as a bit of a surprise.
I think there’s a good reason most articles mention Entles are not a good choice for first time owners – they are incredibly good at getting their way and if you’re a pushover then you’ll be the one sleeping in the dog basket! If you know your way around dogs and have experience in training them – you will love their goofy puppy runs and quickly channel all that energy into something more useful.
Entlebuchers build an incredibly strong bond with their prime carer. In reality this means that they will follow you around the house, cuddle up on the sofa with you and follow you into the bathroom if you let them. It also means they really shouldn’t be left home alone, or in the garden for entire days while you go to work. They want to be with their people. On walks, as you can see in the video below, Alfie will always look back to check I’m still there. Entlebuchers really are the best companion you could ever ask for.
Entlebuchers are generally quite aloof with strangers, and can be selective in who they decide to hang out with – whereas labradors tend to love everyone they meet, especially if they bring treats. When we are out walking and someone leans down to give Alfie a cuddle, he’ll generally dodge them and run just out of reach. As with everything else in life, there are exceptions – some Entles love people and goes straight for the belly rub.
“You never need to call for your Entle – he is already there”.
Here’s what our Facebook Buddies said about the difference bewtween Entle vs. Labradors
“If no children are reading…I would say labs are greedy g**s, entles are clever little d***s” Marnie (this comment made me laugh out loud!)
“Entle’s are always a bit faster” Christine
“I’ve never owned a lab, and can’t say I’ve had a lot of close observation other than our neighbor’s lab who ate all sorts of stuff and pooped it out (good thing!) like socks, etc. Inga, our Entle, does not do that. However, unlike some of the other Entles mentioned in the comments, she is ALWAYS willing to work for food … any food! And, Inga does not like water. Only wading, not so much the swimming part. She would be happy to let the lab swim after the ball!” Kari
“I think Entlebuchers are smarter, but like a challenge more than a lab. Training with labs can be very easy as they’re usually very food motivated, whereas an entlebucher would have a whole thought process behind whether to take the food or not. Both VERY loyal, however a lab will be everyone’s best friend and an Entlebucher chooses his friends differently.” Sarah
“We had labs all through my childhood and I have always had family and friends with labs. Love them. I live on the water and can’t fence the property. Labs wander. I looked for a sturdy dog that would not wander and discovered the Entlebucher. Got Carl at 11 weeks, he is now two. There are major differences between Carl and labs I have known including a current one who is a close friend of his. Carl is cautious with strangers, most labs are ‘hail fellow well met’. Carl is a one person dog, he is fond of a few other folks but even with favourites he keeps one eye on me all the time. He looks intently at me whenever I am taking to him. Off leash he checks back to see where I am. He is addicted to his ball and retrieving, even more so than our labs. He is more intense than our labs but no bad habits. He has never eaten a non food item, chewed a shoe or piece of furniture, barked without reason or done anything destructive. He is a wonderful companion. He is a great dog, I am his very lucky concierge.” Dana
Entlebuchers in the Park
We live in the city so I take Alfie to our local parks all the time. As Alfie is bouncing around with a big smile on his face, enjoying every second of his walk I get complimented on my adorable puppy. He is three years old but because of his enthusiasm and big happy smile people continuously think he is a pup. Often people walk up to me and ask what breed he is, and walking to and from the park we quite literally have people telling us we have such a beautiful dog – Alfie just wags his tail and walks on. He’s used to the attention and he loves it!
Its nearly impossible to describe what Entlebuchers are like to someone who hasn’t met one. To get a real understanding of the breed you really need to meet several dogs, see them run after a ball, hear them play growl in a tug-o-war and get a feel for the incredible intensity and focus that they place on anything they try their paw at.
I hope you found this introduction useful, and that its given you a better idea of the differences between labs and Entles. In part two I’ll cover the Entlebucher’s exercise levels and then in part three their intelligence and trainability.
Do you own an Entlebucher? Tell us in the comments section below what makes them such a unique breed. What do all you lab owners think? Are there any similarities between the breeds?
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