Ever wonder why your golden retriever isn’t interested in retrieving something? Why does your shar-pei, a breed known for its quiet demeanor, bark so much? Is there anything about your dog that you don’t expect based on what you’ve learned about his breed?
In fact, a new dog breed personality study by the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School challenges the idea that a dog’s behavior is determined by its breed. The dog breed was found to be an ineffective predictor of individual behavior in nearly 20,000 dogs from a wide range of backgrounds, leading researchers to conclude that it should be avoided when making pet dog purchasing choices.
Jessica Schulte, director of behavior and training at Instinct Dog Behavior & Training, and Sarah Fraser certified dog behavior consultant and co-founder of Instinct Dog Behavior & Training, shared their thoughts on the study’s findings with us.
In the past, it was thought that the breed of your dog and his behavior were closely linked.
Because dogs of a certain breed are known to exhibit certain traits, it’s easy to assume that all dogs of the same breed behave in the same way. Yes, some breeds have a higher prevalence of certain characteristics. Although the study found that only 9 percent of the variation in individual dog behavior can be explained by a dog’s breed, age or gender was the most accurate predictor of behavior.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink our understanding of dog breeds and their behavioral characteristics?
For Schulte, “a dog’s behavior is influenced by many factors: environment, life experiences—and genetics,” and “Every dog is unique in its own way.” When it comes to preparing a dog for success and making sure needs are met, “there are many pieces to the puzzle” as some breeds tend toward particular tendencies.
What pet parents need to know.
A dog’s actions can actually be detrimental to the dog if one assumes that a dog’s breed is solely responsible for his or her actions.
When it comes to modal action patterns and behaviors tied to original breed group functions like herding, retrieving, and so on, the breed can sometimes be a factor in behavioral outcomes. There are a plethora of other factors at play, however,” Fraser told us. “And it’s critical that we convey that message to dog owners. Because we can easily lose sight of the dog in front of us if we place too much emphasis on breed characteristics.”
Dogs fascinate us for a variety of reasons, one of which is their breed (dating back to when the concept was first introduced in Victorian England, just 160 years ago). Regardless of the findings of this research, it’s not going anywhere. But we can try to avoid putting too much emphasis on breed when it comes to training, socializing, and living with our pets.
“It’s so easy to want to attribute certain behaviors or issues to a dog’s breed because that makes things simple and clear cut. ” Nevertheless, Fraser pointed out that nature is a disorganized mess. As a result of that wonderful messiness, each dog is an amazing, one-of-a-kind individual, with a unique nature that is the product of their biology, individual traits, and past life experiences.”
No one ever thought the adage that you “don’t judge a book by its cover” could be applied to dog breeds or behavior, but that’s the way life goes, and pet parenthood is no different! Assumptions, on the other hand, aren’t always safe.