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Nature or nurture(19 Posts)
So we're looking for a dog at the moment and I'm doing a lot of breed research, but I was wondering how much of all this is nature and how much is nurture. ...or guesswork.
For example some of the dogs im looking at are not super tolerant of children or may nip. - but surely this is training as well as having respectful kids?
Or another breed cannot stand any time alone etc. But surely this is about training and trying to avoid seperation anxiety?
Or another can't ever be off lead. Again is this recall training? If I get any kindof hound or terrier or almost anything it seems it can't go off lead ever?
Are these things to be aware of - a dog may be more prone to these issues. Or is it fairly certain?
Would be interested to hear people's experiences.
My own personal opinion is that it's a bit of both.
For example, you will get breeds that are bred to be or work closely with humans so naturally leaving them alone for long periods may cause more issues than those bred to work independently. However, training them to be comfortable and secure when they are left will also play a huge part with individual dogs.
I think it’s a lot to do with nurture and common sense . I have a patterdale x with a very high prey drive and he spends 90 minutes a day off lead but I just have to be sensible and selective about where I go ie no woods / forests , no livestock in the vicinity and no ponds with birds in .
The key to behaviour is firstly, to understand what type of breed the dog is: Hunter, Retriever, Guard, Companion, ... this should give you a basic understanding of your dogs needs and traits. After all, there are many years of selective breeding in the dogs DNA.
Than you have to home in on these traits, use them and utilise them while you train your dog to fit into your own lifestyle.
But remember a Hunter will always want / need something to chase, a guard dog needs something to guard, a companion dog will need company. So in effect, you need to be able to supply these things in abundance, especially at the puppy stage in order to have a balanced adult dog.
Instinct behaviour in dogs plays a major part in their DNA. You will probably have seen the 8 week old collie videos that will be able to herd sheep instinctively.
You can not train out "the behaviour" but you can work with it
We literally designed our dogs to have certain traits for many, many years, its inbuilt into there DNA.
A terrier will instinctively have a pray drive and natural instinct to kill because that was what we bread into it.
You cant get a loopy high energy spaniel and trian it to be a lap dog... (it might decide that's what it is but you cant change it as such just learn to work with it)
I think of it as probability more than anything - a particular breed may have a tendency to be neurotic (as in border collies), so on average you'll have to work on countering that harder than a lab.
A combination of traits may also lead to a tendency one way - for instance, a toy poodle with a high prey drive is going to be less of a problem to manage than a greyhound who has the same prey drive but can reach 40mph in 6 strides to do something about it.
FWIW, I have lurchers (who are mongrels with some sighthound), and my ddog1 who was bred for coursing has zero prey drive, can't be enticed to run after anything but a squeaky tennis ball, and is bullied by the chickens. He has brilliant recall as does my other lurcher.
What OverFedStanley said. This is a really good article on the subject that's well worth a read.
Thanks all, I figured some dogs would be 'more likely' but what I'm reading says things like 'they should never be trusted off leash' etc.
I was originally looking at a lurcher which is what got me thinking bout the off leash thing! It seems a bit sad if I can never let them run free! But then it became an issue with other characteristics we needed.
I really need it to be ok for a few hours occassionally whilst I run and do errands or whatever (spending a lot of time on working on not getting seperation anxiety etc first) and I need it to not want to bite my children!
Some of its dogsitters (PIL) if we're ever going to be out for longer, have cats too. MIL would never forgive me if my lurcher attacked her cat!
Again we can introduce them slowly but many breed profiles imply that it just doesn't matter, the dog will always try to hurt the cat.
Of you like a lurcher, how about a Whippet? I grew up with them, ours where fine with us kids. They are lovely couch potatoes...
Yes they did like a good chaise, but our cat was off limits, while neighbourhood cats where fair game! I think in a controlled environment, you can let your sight hound off lead ... or take it to a place where it can have a good run & chaise. I know my parents raced ours ... not uk and not for money. It was more a club for sport and fun, meeting at weekends ...
So, specifically with lurchers, I have had 40 or so living with me over the last 3 years as I foster puppies for a rescue. Of that lot, 2 were not going to be cat safe, 1 couldn't be with children (as she was so scared) and as far as I know all of them go off lead.
I can do you a lovely 12 week old boy he's gorgeous, good with cats and chickens, is recalling round the garden reliably, doesn't bite my teen, and is working on being left.
Oh, and obviously my own dogs live harmoniously with our 3 cats and the free ranging chickens
My terrier is very interested in small furries and thinks they're there for sport
It's innate for her as she's still reliable as I can call her back.
Are you thinking of a puppy or rescue dog?
If it's a rescue dog, I'd look at the dog in front of you more than the breed description, as both nature and nurture have already had a substantial impact. If it's a puppy, you'll have to rely on breed traits, what the parents are like, proper nurture, and accepting that there is a certain element of random chance with the personality of the individual.
In essence, you can choose between knowing what you're getting and doing the nurture yourself but taking pot luck on the individual personality.
Choosing a breed is really picking your poison. It's not, however, the case that terriers or hounds can't be let off - I have a (rescue) terrier x hound and he's always off lead in the park. That said, he has a prey drive because of his breed and I'd never trust him around livestock, cats or small furries as he'd chase and go completely deaf, though not actually catch them. There are very, very few dogs that won't come back reasonably reliably if you put in the training and make it worth their while with a tasty treat or equivalent every time (yes, every time, until they die!)
There are relatively few dogs that are seriously dangerous around sensible, reliable, dog savvy older children or teenagers - but they're often labelled as being unable to go to a home with children because they're big and boisterous and will likely knock a child over, because the rescue can't assess if the children are sensible, reliable and dog savvy enough to recognise and appropriately react to body language, or to follow rules like not going near the dog when it's eating if it's a resource guarder. The rescue can't have a situation where a dog bites a child who's done something unwise, so it's safer not to rehome with kids.
I think as long as you do your research (which its great to see you are) then that is the best thing. All breeds have pros and cons so its useful to know where you will need to focus with training. For example, we did lots of research before settling on a basset hound. Most people will tell ou they can’t do recall (high scent drive), can’t be left alone and howl. We knew this so focussed on these things and have a basset that does recall and can be left for limited periods of time.
My parents in law have a whippet and a lurcher, both are wonderful dogs although only the whippet can be off lead. They are like bassets, in that with good walks every day they will also just sleep. All great with young children.
I think a lot of it is a real mixture.
I have a beagle and he goes off the lead, but only in certain places. So we have enclosed woods near us with no livestock, so he can run around there. He's also fine at the beach - again because there's nowhere that he can disappear off to there. I wouldn't let him off lead anywhere that wasn't enclosed for his own safety (and my sanity). I think it's about acknowledging the traits of your chosen breed and working with them to your advantage.
However I do think breed line has a lot to do with it. My dog comes from a solid line of beagles - I can trace his history back to his great-great grandparents. His parents had all the appropriate health tests etc. So health-wise he was a good bet, but I also met his parents - they are both calm wonderful family dogs. I think the parents' temperament has a lot to do with how the puppies will turn out.
In my opinion it's why a lot of people have issues with dogs they've gotten from puppy farms - the parents could be anyone and are rarely socialised at all. They don't interact in family settings because they spend their lives in kennels being bred from. The pups are taken from their parents too young and are never given the chance to be raised "properly' before they're sold to their new homes.
I'm a member of a few Beagle groups on Facebook and the ones who have problems with temperament, aggression etc. are generally the ones who got their dogs from puppy farms or BYB's.
We're thinking a puppy, but also potentially a rescue puppy.
My worry with a rescue is the health thing - I'd never buy a dog without health clearances, but that's a bigger risk with puppies (though I know you can never be certain) and I'd be devastated if my dog was ill! As well as the lottery with the breed!
I once raised an orphan puppy from birth, thinking that maximum nuture would result in my ideal dog.
She turned out very normal, a mix of what I taught her and instinct from the breeds in her. She was retrieving toys, unprompted, at a few weeks old.