When it comes to dog behavior, a prevalent and misleading mantra often echoes through the dog-owning community: "It's all in how you raise them." While responsible training and socialization are undoubtedly crucial, this oversimplified notion can be dangerous and ignore a significant piece of the puzzle—genetics. In this blog post, we will delve into why this mantra is misleading, explore the importance of considering a dog's genetic makeup, and use examples from various breeds to illustrate the impact of selective breeding.
The Myth of "It's All in How You Raise Them":
The phrase "It's all in how you raise them" suggests that a dog's behavior is solely a product of its upbringing, dismissing the role of genetics in shaping temperament and predispositions. This oversimplification can lead to misconceptions about certain breeds, potentially putting both dogs and owners at risk.
Understanding the Role of Genetics:
Different breeds were selectively bred for specific traits, whether it be herding instincts, hunting abilities, or guarding tendencies. Ignoring these inherent traits can result in unrealistic expectations and set up both the dog and owner for frustration.
Examples from Different Breeds:
a. Border Collie:
The Border Collie is renowned for its intelligence and herding abilities. While proper training can enhance these skills, it's essential to acknowledge that a Border Collie may inherently have a strong herding instinct, which can manifest in behaviors like chasing.
Greyhounds were selectively bred for speed, making them excellent racing dogs. Their genetics contribute to a high prey drive, and owners need to be aware of this natural instinct, especially when in proximity to smaller animals.
c. Guardian Breeds (e.g., German Shepherd, Doberman):
Breeds like the German Shepherd and Doberman were bred for protection and guarding. While training can shape their behavior, ignoring their genetic predisposition to be vigilant and protective can lead to issues if not channeled appropriately.
The Pit Bull Conundrum:
One of the most misunderstood breeds, the pit bull, often falls victim to the mantra of "It's all in how you raise them." The American Pit Bull Terrier, for example, has a history rooted in bull-baiting and later as catch dogs. Despite being loyal and affectionate, their genetics may predispose them to certain behaviors that responsible ownership must address.
While responsible training and socialization play crucial roles in shaping a dog's behavior, dismissing the impact of genetics is a dangerous oversight. Owners must recognize and respect a dog's breed-specific traits, understanding that genetics shape predispositions that training can only modify to a certain extent. By acknowledging both the environment and the genetic foundation of our furry companions, we can ensure a more comprehensive and realistic approach to responsible dog ownership. Remember, it's not just about how you raise them; it's also about understanding where they come from.