Shaping Temperament: Genetics

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© By Linda J. Brodzik, Dog Trainer & Behavior SpecialistDoctors John Fuller and John Paul Scott, in an in-depth study on genetics and behavior, concluded that both genetic predisposition and environmental experiences equally guide a dog’s temperament. As in humans, dogs have general personality types. Some are bolder, more inquisitive, and controlling. Others are shy, timid, and even submissive. These general traits are then strengthened or weakened through the consequences of their experiences.

Changing environment and contributing stimuli to a given environment could have a drastic effect on an individual’s general disposition and reactions to specific stimuli. Research done by Dr. Ian Dunbar showed that a particular male beagle, when housed with its litter, displayed extremely bold, controlling, and aggressive behaviors toward the other puppies. As the puppy was then integrated into a larger pack of dogs in an outdoor facility, this particular puppy became submissive. What are the determining factors in this dog that changed it from pushy to timid?

Considerations would be given to the change from a secure indoor environment to a more stimulating and less nurturing outside environment. It is probable that the demands of the older and established pack members were too overwhelming for this puppy to maintain his level of confidence.

Read about Learning/Social Periods in dogs.

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