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  • #5830

    Much of our presumptions when talking dogs, and talking breed, is that their genes (nature) ultimately inform their behaviors — which then a proper education (nurture) may correct, redirect, or inflect. The thorny and problematic question of nature vs. culture has no easy answer. Yet, to what extent do our expectations actually shape our individual understanding of an animal’s behavior? Knowing what we think we know, we may thus focus on these traits we identify with our animal’s genealogy, while discarding others which don’t fit (we do the same with astrology!)

    Many of us have probably heard of people who thought their mutt was XY (and therefore was stubborn, intelligent, wary of strangers, etc.) only to learn that it was in fact a ZEE (and then re-adapt their description, now sticking to the new genetic scenario … “Oh that explains it!”). And I sure do not want to go into the “Pit Bull” debate and breed exclusion / mass euthanasia consequences of the belief in genetic ineluctability (http://globalnews.ca/news/2527882/torontos-pit-bulls-are-almost-gone-so-why-are-there-more-dog-bites-than-ever/).

    So, as I submitted my data for my two dogs … as I wonder why it is that my mutt, rescue dog without a past, struggles with anxiety and aggression (genes? cage craze after 7 months behind bars at young age? guard dog training and little socialization?) … as I wonder why my “uncle” who is a pure breed Lhasa seems so true to his “breed” in temper and in health… I just wonder how we might complicate the genetic question … How social but also other environments (food, exercise, owner’s temper, etc.) actually might shape our make-up, and even induce different genetic programmings (Linda in another forum on Darwin’s Dogs evokes the question of “epigenetic modifications, or “tags,” such as DNA methylation and histone modifications” and receives an answer).. How our reliance on genes might affect our ability to fully comprehend and understand social behavior and psychological .

    #5831
    dawn miller
    dawn miller
    Participant

    I mentioned this Darwin’s Dogs study to folks on our favorite breed’s forums board. One person brought up that even within the same breed there are some differences in behavior tendencies between bloodlines. I have two from the same breeder but two different sets of parents. They behave like their breed, but there are still some big personality differences. These differences seem more part of their internal package than their socialization, although I’m sure that has “flavored” it.

    #5832
    pamela ohearn
    pamela ohearn
    Participant

    I wonder about that, as well. my dogs have had a charmed life. nice rural area, walks without leads, lots of exercise, hunting, etc. They have also gone through a lot of training…canine good citizen, rally, hunt test. Up until a year ago, it was a rare occasion that the dogs would be left alone at all. That has changed since my husband died, but the rest is still there. My dogs are calm and content more than other dogs of their breed, but when I babysit friends dogs, mostly labs, I can see their dogs relax beyond their normal level if they are here for at least a week.

    #5833
    dawn miller
    dawn miller
    Participant

    I suspect the question of dog bites is more training than genetic. Much of our society has moved away from farming and animal husbandry. We don’t understand animals like we used to. Too often the idea of having an animal in our homes is lead by a romantic notion of affection and loyalty. We lack the once common wisdom of how to teach our dogs and cats to behave in a human world, be it a lap dog or a working dog, a window sill cat or a barn cat.

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