Lv 7
Jessie asked in PetsDogs · 1 decade ago

How important is genetic temperament in a dog?

And right behind that, how important is socialization? Is it important when this socialization occurs?

How would you determine if a dog's behavioral issues come down to poor temperament and socialization, rather than it being a general training issue?

I have a very strong opinion on these matters, as anyone who regularly posts here knows. I'll weigh in later. I won't be TD'ng anyone.

21 Answers

  • Chetco
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I am going to give you an extreme example.

    My hounds have a notable sire in their pedigree, named "The Hermit". In his era, he had produced 63 he was top champion producing dog at the time..He had never been shown.

    I met people who had had Hermit, and they all told me he was a mean son-of-gun. Didn't want to be handled, a biter, and didn't have a show career because of his temperament.

    Well, most of my hounds have been just as an Afghan should be, "Aloof and dignified, yet gay.".

    But, 5 generations AFTER The Hermit, I whelped a pup who was spectacular in every way..probably the best and most typy I had produced, who was born a mean son-of-a-gun. She was born mean and stayed mean. .

    The Hermit's influence is still prevalent in my hounds, as I have one that is the spittin image of him, 6 generations later. Although only the one has reproduced his ill temperament, I know it can crop up any time..

    Socialization is extremely important in this breed, as they are so wary by nature. I have to get them out and about at every opportunity, or they will be wallflowers, only trusting their own family, and never comfortable around strangers or other dogs. ( I never! allow a strange dog to sniff any of my dogs, and I don't expect them to allow it)

    When I rescue one that hasn't been socialized, it takes months, and sometimes years, to get them comfortable in public.

    When anyone asks me for advice on choosing a new puppy, I tell them to see and visit with both parents, and make sure the parents are exactly as they want their dog to be. That new pup will most likely have the temperament and appearance of either or both parents, so its important that the parents are the dog that you would would want.

    As for the importance of genetics, It would be a bad move to choose any hound that had "The Hermit" in her ancestry to add to my that would double up the chances for poor temperament.

    This is also the problem with inbreeding. Our dogs can appear fine, have all manner of titles, but may have a "Hermit" in their history, and by breeding too closely related the chances are twice as likely for that trait to be reproduced.


    I have loosely translated, using bablefish, for our friend, Janpyerr, who wrote in French:

    Excuse me, Miss I do not master well the English I must reply to you in French. The dog is the animal by excellence that was conditioned by the man as early as his appearing on the planet, genetically speaking, this are all these indicators at once more physical, more geographic and more emotional that predominate with our friend the dog that of surcroit marked irreparably these cells that one rediscovers in what one call discomforts, the communication usually between living beings and d 'order vibratoire, inconsciement we wave emmetons (vibrations) that right away are obtained by our friends the dogs they are by same drive which one has conditioned there are more of some centuries, in any case I easily would do confidence to this friend that to a human, an all small considered precision that the dog is endowed with an intelligence to not to be protested Which means that we have it considered as a friend has friend and not of master to dog. Thank you Source(s): J 'had Labrador, Boxer, German shepherd and again of others that have each their characters but faithful to all point of view.

    Source(s): btdt
  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    You can't change genetics. You can change behavior- within the genetic possibilities for a particular dog. Most temperament issues aren't black and white, either/or, they are gray and there is a range of possibilities. A dog with great genetics might be poorly socialized, still end up being fairly stable, but not as outgoing as a dog with great genetics who was well socialized. A dog with poor genetics can be helped by good socialization, but will never be as stable as a dog with good genetics. However, we don't have markers for temperaments, so we need to do the best we can to socialize, but not stigmatize people whose dogs just don't have good genetics to begin with. That's the general picture, we need to learn a lot more about genetics in temperament! The only solid information we have is on shyness, which is very strongly genetic (puppies born of shy mothers but raised by non-shy mothers still end up shy- mostly.) When speaking of APBTs, not sure ALL of them are dog aggressive- after all, some were used as bait dogs, not fight dogs, and some breeders have been working to decrease this tendency in the breed. Since we don't have genetic markers for "dog aggressive" its hard to know if a puppy has that gene (if its a singe gene issue, rather than a constellation of genes that affect diffeerent things), or has one copy or two. Perhaps dogs with only one copy of the gene are more capable of being socialized, and its only when that gene has 2 copies that the dog becomes more dog aggressive.

  • 1 decade ago

    A dogs genetic temperament is of FUNDAMENTAL importance.

    Genetics sets the basic temperament of a dog & will shape the way the dog thinks & behaves. An owner can only work with what nature has given the dog, because temperament cannot be changed however much you love, mollycoddle or train a dog.

    If the dog has a rock solid temperament, with the correct characteristics for the breed, it has the POTENTIAL to be a well balanced dog capable of doing whatever the breed was created to do.

    The behavior of a dog with a genetically unsound temperament COULD possibly be controlled depending on the behavior & the owners ability to control the behavior & manage the dogs environment.

    Socialization is extremely important because a dog needs to be exposed to as many learning experiences & social situations as a puppy, to develop into a confident adult.

    Reading a dog's body language is fundamentally important to understanding if it's a genetic rather than owner made problem.

    If a dog lunges at another dog with hackles raised growling or stands beside their owner growling, that is defensive aggression which is fear based bbehavior

    If a dog is not clear in its head about its place in its human pack because it hasn't been given clear boundaries of what is aacceptablebbehavior& it therefore refusing to come when called, get of the sofa ect, that is an owner made training issue.

    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Socialization is critical between birth and six months, these are the months that the dog is forming his little brain and learning. I am pretty sure the brain shuts down between six months and two years old while they are adolescents.

    A general training issue can be solved with a behaviorist or trainer and working with your dog consistently to resolve an issue. Socialization of an older dog takes longer than it would for a puppy but late socialization can overcome a lack of experiences as a pup and improve the behavior of the dog.

    The dog that just has poor temperament has been trained and retrained using different methods, multiple trainers and just can't move forward. It doesn't happen often, I've only seen it once personally, but these dogs are only safe in the hands of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist, or at least a capable adult handler that won't put up with bad behavior at all. I'm not talking about the dog won't sit/down/stay/recall, I'm talking about dogs that are food aggressive, human aggressive, possessive, excessively submissive, etc. If behavior hasn't at least started improving in six months of consistent work you've just got a dog with a poor temperament.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Genetics is HUGE! It's every thing- even if you socialize a dog well. If it genetics are screwed up then the dog will never be "right"

    I have a mastiff- She was socialized. I had her in a show. I took her every where with me, However she is terrified of strangers- She just has this "fear" inside of her- It totally changes the dog that I know when we are out in public. It breaks my heart to see her like that- BUt what can I do- I have her- I love her, She's a great dog besides that- But I do feel like her life isn't what it could be.. She doesn't get to be a normal dog..

    After doing some research I found out that her mother was extremely Territorial and was a "Guard Dog"...

    I assume it's because she was "unbalanced" herself.

    I also would add. Before I had Violet- I had no Idea about "Genetics" I had two pits, a mastiff mix and a golden. Never had a problem. I had no idea how important "genetics" are to a dog personality- She is a gorgous dog on the out side- But inside- I know her brain isn't quit right,

    It's aweful. I know that she is unbalaced and she is not fit for society- But how can I put her down when she has done no wrong?

    I have seen what is wrong and now I have to do whatever it takes to keep her safe and public. You can never trust a dog that is unbalanced..

    And what is a dog if you cannot put your trust in them?

  • 1 decade ago

    I found this one kinda late tonight--you've got some great answers from some great dog people on this one--Temperament is what you want--It defines a dogs abilities and how well it can handle the socialization process later on. Both are important but without the genetic temperament then socialization is going to be a problem for the dog.

  • 1 decade ago

    I believe genetic temperament is one of the most important things to look for when selecting your dog - I wouldn't want a lab that wasn't soft mouthed. The ability for the dog to bounce back from situations is all genetic temperament and it helps me to train them to the best of their ability.

    Socialization is vital - as soon as possible in the puppy's life - and continuing exposure to other dogs and humans of all ages / sizes.

    I train my dogs, but I'm not an expert and I've never had this situation personally (knock on wood) - I would never pretend that I know what which issue was caused by poor temperament or socialization. But, I'm smart enough to work with trainers who do - I believe I would have a fairly decent guess - but I'm still learning.

  • 1 decade ago

    I don't think its black and white, and that its more complex than the question you're asking.

    Socialization (done right, not just getting the dog out and exposing them willy nilly regardless of the dog's reaction) can move the dog to a better place on her genetically and epigenetically determined range of abilities as far as social skills go. Epigenetics refers to other elements such as chemical, hormone, and temperature that can affect genetics output- for instance, identical twin calico cats express their genes differently resulting in different looking coats. There is evidence of certain elements in utero affecting dog's abilility to handle stress later in life, and although there isn't evidence yet, I've heard from enough people that their raw fed pups don't go through fear periods that I suspect nutrition has a role also.

    Since genetics are involved in breed differences, its pretty easy to see that genetics play a role- much easier to socialize a typical golden than a typical tervuren. The golden meets a man and has a good experience, thinks that men are great. The terv meets a man and has a good experience, thinks THAT man is great, the jury is still out on men who wear beards, different hats, taller, etc. And intra-breed differences exist as well, but are more difficult to pinpoint. Some lines are more prone to shyness (well established genetic component), others to different temperament issues.

    Determining where the issues are can be complex, and sometimes difficult or impossible to determine. Certainly good training can help, but often isn't the complete answer.

    Source(s): Dog trainer, constantly reading and researching all things dog for the past 15 years.
  • 1 decade ago

    I am with Loki, Greekman and Belle.

    Genetics determines what potential the dog has and determines what drives it has and how strong those drives are. I think its the biggest % of what the dog will ultimately be. Human imprinting (until the teething stage is over) is important in figuring out how the dog will react to external stimuli (this is learned behavior) and how it will see you (the handler) and the rest of its pack. This is my opinion from my limited experience with dogs and some research.

    I also have a good example of this living with me at home. I have 2 dogs, a 2.5 year old doberman girl from show lines and a 7 month year old doberman puppy from working lines. both dogs are being brought up the same.

    the girl has 0 defense drive. She is not shy and doesn't care about noises, new situation, people etc, but will run away from assailant ( as i have seen with her in schutzhund training). she has some pray drive, but will never make a good guard dog. She likes people and loves other dogs. She is not pushy and would rather do something she really hates than face confrontation.

    My boy on the other hand has a lot of pray drive and defense drive, he will fall over, choke himself and do anything and everything to get to the helper at training. He has been this way since his first trip to the training field at 12 weeks of age, he is aloof to strangers and could care less about other dogs. He tests his boundaries daily and tests me all the time.

    Both dogs do very well with new situation, noises, mail man, vacuum cleaner, hair dryers, fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots. I think this is their learned behavior and early exposure.

  • Shanna
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Temperament is everything. I used to think that socialization made a good I understand that genetic temperament makes a good dog and socialization just takes a good dog and makes it better.

    I have seen this in my own dogs. I have one dog that was abused, documented abuse not just suspected, however you would never know it. I doubt she was ever really socialized yet she is happy, outgoing, friendly and STABLE. I would trust her in just about every situation. On the flip side, I have one dog that was socialized, was raised in a good home with no abuse whatsoever however she is a mess. She's anxious, dog-aggressive and all around unstable that no amount of training has been able to fix.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Genetic temperament is THE most important element in a dog. After that socialization of the proper kind and that right age and style is absolutely invaluable for a dog to grow up and reach his full potential as an adult.

    There is no easy way to tell the difference between the two as far as your second question unless you have a lot of experience with dogs or a natural ability to read them.

    Most issues that I run into with dogs I find to be genetic in nature and that is due to the crappy breedings that you see being asked about here every day. Loki did a great job of going into this further and gave you specific instances where genetic temperament plays a HUGE role.

    I am sure you see questions asked here every day about fear aggression and fear towards objects such as rain, cars, chairs, etc that someone would dismiss as a socialization issue, but, I believe they are rooted in genetics. Hope I helped!

    Source(s): Realist
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