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Rogue Bullies asked in PetsDogs · 1 decade ago

Question about genetic temperament in dogs?

This question was inspired by Jens question earlier about genetic issues in dogs. I would like to get off on a good start and say I an not trying to argue with anyone or disagree. I am simply confused a bit on some issues and would like pleasant responses from respected members.

If a dog has a genetic fault (genetic not caused by anything else) can it be worked with at all on any level?

The only thing I can relate it to that I have experience with is dog aggression in bully breeds. Example the APBT is a dog aggressive animal genetically. However I know from experience raising the dog from a young pup and socializing it with others can help the to get along well with other dogs. So how does this work if you can't change genetics and the breed is genetically prone to being dog aggressive?

Please give the best explanation you can. Thanks for reading!

Happy Earth Day :)


So the big question comes down to you can or you can't change genetics?

13 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I fully agree with Basset. Temperament is genetic and can be shaped by its environment which is why correct socialization is important to ANY dog.

    Certain breeds are bred for certain GENETIC traits that do affect their behaviors in life. I want a dog that has a TON of hunt drive...that will cause the dog to exhibit certain things that many people may find distasteful.

    There are breeds that have huge amounts of prey drive and some people want that in their breed while others find it bothersome...

    Then we can have negative genetic issues such as fear aggression that can be managed, with the patience of a Saint and a house with not that many visitors, but never changed.

    Hope I helped!!

    Source(s): Realist
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  • 1 decade 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.

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  • *****
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Depends on the specific issue and dog. There's a wide spectrum of genetically rooted behavioral issues.

    I do think you are confusing general breed personality traits with an individual dog that has a genetically unstable temperament. Yes, the bully breeds, in general, are often dog aggressive as they have been bred to be in many cases. But not every bully breed dog born is individually predisposed to dog aggression. I have worked with plenty of bully breeds in shelters who had little or no socialization or training who got along very well with other dogs.

    Firstly, you have dogs with less than ideal temperaments that don't have anything especially 'wrong' with them. For example, within a single litter of puppies, from an early age, each puppy will have its own personality. Some may be shy and apprehensive about new things- even with socialization- while others may be fearless and outgoing. The shy dogs, while socialization can HELP to overcome that, are probably never ever going to be as outgoing as the confident puppies.

    Then you have puppies that are born with somethng like a serious chemical imbalance in their brain or other disorder with major impact on their temperament. I'll give you an example: Someone was on here a few months back with a question about a litter of 8 week old puppies they had. One of the puppies had been regularly attacking the other puppies and other dogs in the home since 6 weeks of age. She had to take two of them in for stitches, and one was nearly killed. Puppies that age simply do not behave in that fashion unless there is a serious and genetically rooted issue with their brain chemistry. The mother was also severely aggressive, and the father was unknown (the mother was a shelter dog the poster was fostering). While this puppy could have her behavior managed such that she did not have the opportunity to attack again (with use of muzzles, isolation from other dogs, and intensive training to ignore other dogs), she will not ever be safe around other dogs. Personally, with issue of this nature, I would opt for euthanasia. This dog will never live a full and happy life, will be a constant legal liability, and could very well kill another dog when it is older and larger, or seriously injure a human who attempts to intervene.

    And then you have conditions like "rage syndrome" which is a form of epilepsy that, rather than the traditionally thought of convulsing, causes the dog to display fits of unprovoked and uncontrollable aggression during a seizure. This is not curable, manageable, or modifiable in any way, because the dog literally can not control their activity.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I'm going to answer first and then read the other answers, so I might have to add something...

    The best way to prevent genetic flaws (at least ones that lead to dog aggression) from becoming a problem is proper socialization at a young age. As you suggested, puppies that are well socialized with other dogs, even if their breed tends to be dog aggressive, can learn to get along well with other dogs.

    But, and this is a big but, not everyone owns their dog as a pup. Also, the majority of dog owners only see their sweet little puppy and do not realize that most dogs do not show serious aggression or really come into themselves completely until they are a little older. There are also all those dogs that are socialized well and STILL don't get a long with other dogs.

    My Shiba/Corgi mix is dog aggressive with hyper, in your face dogs. He prefers his space, and if its not given to him when he gives a warning growl, he will bite. He was well socialized, and he absolutely adores dogs that play at his pace.

    I see it as MY responsibility to keep him under control, to understand his body language, and avoid him running free with dogs that I KNOW he will not play well with. Whether or not his aggression is a genetic flaw, I will never know, but considering he was from a puppy mill raid, I wouldn't doubt it. Again though, its my responsibility to know my dogs personality, his triggers, and to either keep him away from them or have him under my direct control whenever there is the chance we will cross a trigger (meaning leashed with his prong on).

    So overall, to answer your question, from my limited experience, there is only so much you can do. There are steps that can be taken to prevent a seriously screwed up dog, but whether or not a dog with a genetically flawed temperament can do whatever a completely stable dog can do, I am not convinced of. If you are looking for a dog that can go to the dog park with you every weekend, don't pick a breed that tends to be dog aggressive or go to the shelter and rescue something you aren't prepared to deal with.

    Yah, I'm glad I'm done so I can read the other answers ;-)

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  • 1 decade ago

    You can definitely work on and improve it.

    Take Tobo.. he's had some bad experiences with several things, and would completely freak out and panic, even slamming himself into the wall.

    I also remember giving him a leash correction, and he peed himself a little.. there was a time when I scared him and he was wary around me for a week.

    Now, he's completely normal, if I get the vacuum (Or something else he was scared of) out, he goes to his bed or just completely ignores it.

    As he's became older he's not as soft, maybe I have a fluke dog but, he doesn't shut down anymore, I don't think he's peed himself again either. Alot of the time he ignores a verbal correction too, he's pretty much completely changed.

    I know that all dogs won't have such a big improvement but, I think in general most things can be managed.

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  • Jesse
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I am with Basset, Greek and Memphis Belle on this one.

    The only thing I am not completely convinced about is dog aggression in American Pit Bull Terriers.

    IS it in their genetic makeup to be this way? Or is it actually NOT and because of poor breeding over the decades the breed has become genetically inclined to be dog aggressive?

    Food for thought.

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  • 1 decade ago

    If a dog is genetically wired to exhibit a given behavior (aggression, for example, or shyness) that doesn't mean the dog is a lost cause. Overcoming these behavior issues does take a lot of work and probably will require management throughout the dog's life. I think of it as similar to alcoholism. A person may have the greater likelihood of abusing alcohol because of his genes but that doesn't mean he must always do so. With treatment he is able to control his behavior and not drink. A dog that is wired to be afraid of people may continue to be suspicious once socialized and trained but his reaction should not be as intense or prolonged as if he had no training at all.

    Source(s): animal behavior specialist
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  • 1 decade ago

    A dog's basic temperament is set by genetics, which means it is immutable & cannot be changed. If a dog is born with a genetically weak temperament, that is the way it will remain until the day it dies & in some cases, training can control, but never correct a dog's behavior.

    Every dog is born biologically predisposed to exhibit behavioral strengths & weaknesses, & a weak nerved dog will have a lower threshold to environmental stimulus & a higher level of reactivity to it, than a mentally sound dog would have in the same situation.

    Genetics sets the range of possible behaviors a dog will exhibit, but for the weakness in a dog's temperament to be triggered environmental factors have to come into play.

    For example, if you have a dog with a genetic predisposition to fear based canine-aggression but never came into contact with dogs to aggress against, the weakness would not be triggered & manifest itself in defensive fear based behavior.

    In my opinion there is a scale of weak nerved dogs, with the most extreme being those that have severely defective temperament & would be a threat to their safety of its human pack, & dogs who are so weak nerved, that they shut down & cannot function in the real world.

    At the other end of the scale are dogs with mild to moderate, weak temperaments, & in some cases the behaivor of the dogs can be controlled with leadership, training, learning to read the dog's body language & controlling its environment.

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  • Of course. A genetically...slightly nervous puppy with the proper socialization can put it behind him 100%.

    A genetically dog aggressive adult dog can't be taught to be friends with dogs it doesn't like. But it can be taught that fighting another dog isn't worth his handler aka you BRINGING THE UNIVERSE DOWN ON HIS BACK. You make it clear that "You will wish you died before you were freakin' born" to a dog with genetic issues such as fear aggression, dog aggression, and other dangerous habits that are results of poor genetic temperament, they can be managed quite well...but never fixed. Because the dog is avoiding doing what it wants to do, it's not "cured".

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I have spoken to many trainers about the nature versus nurture issue. I have a shar pei/mini dachshund mix I have raised since he was 5 weeks old. Both dacshunds and shar pei's are known for being stubborn, difficult to obedience train, very self-aware (hates nail clippings, anything pointed at them, on a leash, etc), and they are both aggressive by nature. My dog is currently 1 1/2 years old and he is hands down the most stubborn dog on the planet. I have put him through rigorous training courses, used every training method possible, and yet he refuses to walk nicely on a leash, have his nails cut, or do any sort of trick if I do not have a treat in my hand. He did not get an ounce of aggression though, he is very very social but that is likely because we have taken him everywhere we go since he was pint-sized. My other dog is a golden retriever who is the easiest dog in the world even as a puppy, completely obedience trained and never had 1/2 the socialization the mixed dog has had.... naturally knew how to obey on a leash and loves her grooming.

    SO... to answer your question, genetics play a fair role in the overall temperament of dogs. Responsible owners recognize this. Although my shar-shund (smiles) has never as much as growled at me I watch him very closely because I know that aggression is in his blood. Even the best socialized pitt bull needs to be watched when around other dogs, that is simply the fact of the matter. Some dogs by nature have issues that need to be addressed and monitored in order for them to be the most ideal companion for humans. It does not make them a "bad dog" just not quite a golden retriever :)

    I will continue my training with my little stubborn doggy for his entire life and one day I have hopes that he will be much more obedient, but even if he never listens to me I will love him just the same. :)

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