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Dog myth 14: I can judge a dog's temperament based on its breed

Dog myth 14: I can judge a dog's temperament based on its breed

How many of you have considered a specific dog breed because "The Book" says that their behavior suits your specific lifestyle and is perfect for you?

While there are evidence that different breeds tend to have varied temperaments due to inherited behavior(s) from their ancestors, dog breeding have come a long way and many of the claimed personality are slowly diminishing over the years. The reason I've decided to bring this point up was due to seeing a question on a post, where a user had asked about general poodle behavior. So here was my reply:

"It will be best not to predict the temperament based on general breed info(they have not been up to date for a very long time lol), and with all the mass breeding and stuff their temperaments are most likely messed up.

Many have purchased a poodle thinking that they are affectionate, intelligent and easy to train, but in my opinion it varies greatly, you can have one poodle that likes human attention and easy to train and suddenly the second poodle turns out independent and learn things slowly (takes years to housebreak, barky etc).

Own with an open mind and slowly learn the characteristic of individual dog, then you won't be disappointed"

I then got a direct reply from someone to my quote, who claimed that the temperament of dog breeds will never change even after hundreds of years. This is also implying that a breed, for example poodle will forever behave like what professional breeders had written in  books. To be fair, everyone can have different opinions and are entitled to it, so in my opinion I'd have to say that the idea that dog breeds will never change is very wrong, the poodle breed in Singapore is already a very fine example.

Intelligent, Affectionate, Energetic

The above labels are what most books will tell you when considering a poodle, Intelligent can mean that this breed is easy to train. Affectionate, obviously mean that they are friendly and get along well with their companions. Energetic, could be their stamina, and also to measure their level of activeness. Poodles are known to be bred as a gun dog, so these traits mentioned often benefit the owner in their area of work, then they are selectively bred for generations to retain good traits, that was in the past by the way.

If you know a little bit about genetics, you should learn that the above mentioned traits are considered dominant genes, which means that it is very likely for 2 poodles/dogs with the same traits to produce offspring that carries yet again the 3 traits - Intelligent, Affectionate, Energetic. It is no wonder that many people, including professional dog breeders/trainers would believe that these traits will never change no matter what.

Now here's my opinion, there is another type of gene, which we call recessive genes, are the one that changes the bloodline. Recessive genes can include both good and/or bad traits, but are harder to repeat even if both dog possess the same traits. For example, if Poodle A has skin problems(recessive) and is bred with Poodle B that is completely healthy, it is very likely that skin problem won't be carried down to the offspring, that being said however, it is NOT impossible. 

Imagine an inexperienced breeder, have Poodle A with skin problems(recessive) and is bred with Poodle C with skin problems(recessive), the chances of the offspring getting skin problems increases, but it is still unlikely that skin problems will be passed down directly at this point of time. Now the offspring of Poodle A and C, whom I will call Poodle D, might not have skin problems, but the gene passed down from its bloodline (A and C) will still be a part of it. So one day, the inexperienced breeder finds that money is easy to earn from breeding his poodles, he then breed Poodle D with Poodle F that has skin problems, with this in mind you should figure that the chances of skin problems being passed down slowly starts to increase. And after 5 to 6 generations of inbreeding with his poodles, skin problems will soon become part of their bloodline, and this "Recessive" gene may just turn "Dominant" soon. Now I want you to imagine again, if this is not just skin problem, but also other unwanted health and behavioral traits - patella, aggression etc, which are very common with puppy mills and unethical breeders, would the bloodline become messed up, creating new poodles with different traits? The answer is most likely a yes.

In Singapore, the law for dog breeding is still at its early stages, which means that unethical breeders are all around you. If you've bought your dog locally, it's very much possible that your dog is born at a puppy mill (shop/home based breeding factory), where inbreeding of dogs happen over and over again everyday. I've trained many poodles and frankly speaking, their behavior varies a lot, some are lazy and do not like a lot of exercises, some prefer to be independent, some takes much longer to learn even simple commands and of course there are also very aggressive and fearful poodles. You might argue that it is the owner that caused them to be like this, this I completely agree, owners play a big part in the mental growth of their dogs, however the 'natural' personality of the dog can be quite clear if you have experience in handling them. For a 2 months old poodle that had just been taken away from the mother to start getting aggressive, biting anyone that touches it, I can't possibly blame the owner when it's just been brought home days ago. I also can't blame an owner if the puppy start developing patella issue at young age just because they are allowed to run. What I'm trying to say is, sometimes it's all in the gene and what you get does not depend just on the breed, it depends largely on individual bloodline, which goes back to the breeder in charge. Even if we just talk about appearances, you can take a look at breeds like Bulldog, German Shepherd, Daschund and Pug, they looked very different in the past and many breeders do not want you to know about this - their health and body structure are getting worst due to bad breeding practices. Extremely short legs, flat faces, excess skin, awkward joints should not even be encouraged, but because of politics and acceptance of public, these poor dogs are now a normal part of our lives.

Well my theories might be flawed in some ways as I am no scientist in gene modification, but based on my experience training dogs all these years, I strongly believe that different dogs have different personality and it's not because of their breed labeling.


Lastly before I end this post, please tell me, aren't most dogs supposed to be Intelligent, Affectionate and Energetic? 

Cheers,
Jeryl

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