The best word to describe me might be intense; with my feisty attitude I’m no fading wallflower. In fact, some say I have a bit of the devil in me, along with a sly sense of humor. Originally bred to work on barges, I like to run the ship at home—barking orders and taking care of mice and varmints. While not super affectionate, I do enjoy kids and am devoted to family; I make a loyal and alert watchdog.

Training can be difficult given my stubborn nature, but I’m generally eager to please and enjoy mental challenges and activities. A neighborhood walk or spirited game will keep my energy level in check. Give me a job and I’ll take it seriously; you might see me doing rescue work or sniffing for contraband. Left on my own I’ll get bored and destroy the house. Inexperienced dog owners may want to consider another breed.

My long black coat requires only weekly brushing; however, I do shed heavily twice a year for about a month each time, so be prepared. Baths can loosen shedding hairs, but generally I’m clean and free of odor. I’m a lot of attitude in a 12 to 16 pound package, standing 10 to 13 inches tall.

I’m a fairly long-lived breed at 13 to 15 years and am prone to only a few health problems. These include Legg-Perthes and eye problems. MPS IIB, a genetic mutation that impacts balance and affects only this breed, has recently been identified. Reputable breeders will test parents for it.