Thursday, February 11, 2010
By Suzanne Alicie
All over the world people have misconceptions and yes, even stereotypes about dog breeds. Over the centuries dogs have been bred for certain uses, including hunting, working and sport. The breeding has led to certain characteristics that are common for each breed of dog. For example, Labradors are considered water dogs because they were bred for retrieving. But the type of behavior, skills and abilities that come from breeding are traits that run in the bloodlines.
Personality traits are entirely different from breeding traits, and many breeds have common personality traits. One example of this is the Samoyed. These dogs were originally bred for working outside in cold temperatures. Yet somewhere along the way this breed also developed a loyalty and personality that is very unique to their breed. They want to be close to the people that are their family and are almost comedic in their effort to gain their persons attention.
The question is, do all dogs of this breed have this type of personality? The answer is that while breed-wide personality traits are common, and considered to be the norm, in reality each dog is an individual and may develop a different personality because of the way it is raised.
For example, if a dog breed that is generally regarded as friendly and great with kids, is raised in a home where there are no children and the dog has little contact with people other than its owners, this dog could be quite unfriendly, territorial and scared of children.
A common claim these days concerning personality traits is in regards to the Pit Bull. These dogs have a reputation for being fierce fighters, dangerous to have around your children and a scourge in the community. Yet when a puppy of one of these breeds is raised in a family filled with love, a family that trains the dog and raises him to be gentle, they can be one of the most protective and loving dogs. This isn’t to say that you can cross out centuries of breeding traits that involve fighting and defense. Those instincts are still there, but in the family situation when the dog isn’t threatened he may have a wonderful friendly personality.
On the other side of the realm are the tiny dogs. Poodles and Chihuahuas have a reputation for being annoyingly yappy and nervous dogs. This can be because of the breeding that has made them so small and seemingly insignificant in a big world. I used to have a fair amount of disdain for what I called yappy dogs, and then my children got me a miniature poodle for Mother’s Day.
From the first day when he curled up in my hands I fell in love with that little white ball of fur. I didn’t turn into Paris Hilton and carry him around with me in a purse, but I allowed him to be with me wherever I was around the house. I taught him tricks and let my children play with him. My poodle didn’t bark unless a stranger came to the door, and no one was a stranger for long. He loved everyone and exhibited none of the nervous yappiness I had come to expect from that breed. Health problems did arise that were part of the poodle’s breeding traits, but the personality traits were all from how he was raised.
So the basic idea is that breeding traits are ingrained in your dog, and can at times override personality traits. But if a dog owner assumes that a dog will have a certain personality due to its breed, then that is probably the type of personality it will have because they will make no effort to train it differently, chalking the personality up to the breed.
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie