Do dog breeds have predispositions toward certain behavior?

I meant to mention as a side note about Chows that German Shepherds aer similar. They are firecely loyal to their family and fantastic with their own human children around. The only time I had any of my Shepherd’s hurt me while growing up was purely accidental through rough-housing wiht the dog and the dog looked decidedly upset when it was apparent that I had been hurt (and never more than a scratch at that). With a bunch of kids growing up in my household it was amazing the abuse our dogs would put up with and never ever retaliate.

When it comes to stangers German Shepherds’ are reserved. If theri owners seem at ease then they will be too but they remain wary till they get to know the stranger.

Where the ‘trouble’ with German Shepherds usually arises is when you have your kids friends over. If the kids start playing rough as kids are known to do on occasion the dog may interpret the play as an attack on one of its own and will move to protect its family. German Shepherds are quite intelligent but they are still only a dog and they have a hard time discriminating between play and a legitimate threat when kids are wrestling, crying and the like.

As a result German Shepherds get a worse rap than I think they deserve as they don’t generally attack without some reason (of course there are some in any breed that might). Just keep what I said in mind if you have kids and they go over to play with the family that has a German Shepherd.

I will note that once our German Shepherds got to know my friends we could play rough all we wanted and she knew all was good. We even had a game that involved tackling the dog that my friends participated in and they could full-on grab her and take her to the ground and she didn’t mind (in fact she loved it…we played that game often and the dog was always up for it and usually she would leave us eating dirt instead of holding her when we tried to tackle her).

I believe dogs very much have predispositions towards certain behavoir. I’ve got two border collies that follow me around the house, always underfoot, and that will naturally circle any group of moving objects. Pit bulls are, by thier nature, more likely to be aggressive. It doesn’t help that a lot of thier owners (not all - probably not even the majority) relish this aggressive behavoir and own the breed as a symbol of “toughness”.
My wife is a vet and worked in the UPenn animal hospital in downtown Philly. She saw a lot of pit bull attack victims (other dogs), more by far than any other breed. At the same time she’s seen some really nice ones as well. She would never want a pit bull though - we need a dog that’s social.

As for the spiky leashes - she wouldn’t recommend them when you can get a gentle leader that will work just as well if not better and will not hurt the dog at all.

Can I chime in about “pinch” collars? The ones with prongs.

Yuck. I don’t like them at all. Not for the cruel-looking aspect, but for the training aspect.

A training collar (“choke” chain) has been a much better option for us, in that the message is immediate, and so is the release. We have giant breed dogs and we exclusively use training collars.

I have not found pinch collars to be a good training tool, and in fact our dog obedience trainer didn’t allow them in class.

I have a 4-year old male English Springer Spaniel. He’s a great, very smart and affectionate dog. However, he does some pretty strage things sometime:
-he will howl when my stepson plays his saxophone.
-he shows some aggressive behavior when people attempt to leave the house! He welcomes people into the house all the time…even sytarngers get a bark or two, then they are accepted. However, when you try to leave-he will bark! Why he does this I have no idea.

Interesting. Our dog trainers despised choke chains. They wouldn’t sell them and wouldn’t allow them in class and considered them cruel. They did sell the prong collars though and pushed their use if they felt a dog was being too recalcitrant to take its training well.

However, they did not allow prong collars in class either since we were supposed ot get our dogs to respond without the need for a more ‘forceful’ correction device on the dog.

I’m glad that my obedience class instructors didn’t have this rule. My dog (a Norwegian Elkhound) used to pull and gag himself on a standard choke (aka slip) collar to the point where he would cough up bile. He wasn’t getting the message at all. We changed over to a prong collar and he was immediately a different dog. He stopped pulling and became a lot more attentive. My dog is not always particularly food or praise motivated, and can be stubborn. I definitely needed an effective negative reinforcement tool, and the prong collar was very effective.

As for the OP, I would say “yes” along with virtually everyone else. My dog does not retrieve - the only way I could train it would be via a forced retrieve, and frankly I wasn’t that interested since I didn’t want an obedience title. I have a friend who used to breed Golden Retrievers for field work - most of the puppies would retrieve a sock for her at 5 weeks.

Also, here’s an FAQ about the much-maligned American Pit Bull Terrier.

Certain breeds absolutely have a predisposition toward certain traits. That doesn’t mean those traits automatically come to the forefront any more than having a predisposition toward cancer means you’ll develop a tumor.

That being said, I think a lot of people confuse trained behavior with instinctive behavior, and some breeds get an undeserved bad rap because of it.

Pitts are, in my experience, far more likely to be animal-aggressive than human-aggressive. They’re pretty easy to train to be people aggressive, though, and they’re pretty protective. Combine this with drug dealers fighting (or people trying to break up dog fights) and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of bites to humans. Then the whole breed gets a reputation for being vicious.

Personally, as a vet tech, I’d much rather work with a pit bull than a freaking chihuahua. Little dogs like that are far more likely to be spoiled rotten in a bad way, and I’ve had far more of them try to bite me than pits, chows, and shepherds combined.

I have no problem with prong collars; they’re remarkably effective training tools for some dogs. No one device will work on every dog, any more than any one teaching method will work for every kid. Some respond really well to the gentle leader, others respond better to prong collars. You just have to find what works best for that individual animal.

We’re supposed to take advice on dogs from a CrazyCatLady? :wink:

Just kidding…nice post.

raises hand I do! My #1 dog Sasha is a “hard” dog – shes’ stongwilled and stubborn, and shrugs off choke collar corrections like they never happened. The prong collar was about the only thing that worked on her.

Before I used it on her the first time, I did actually put it around my own neck (as well as my arm) to see what it felt like. It’s really not too bad, considering that I have no ruff of fur around my neck like she has on hers.

It did get her attention though. We also tried one of the head halters. Sasha spent most of her time with it on trying to paw it off, and people will ask you why your dog is “muzzled.” (It’s not a muzzle, it’s a halter, like you use on a horse.)

Hmmm. How can a dog choke itself on a choke chain unless the owner is hanging him with it or dragging him? :wink:

The way I was taught to use them was not to pull on the thing constantly. One quick jerk straight up on it, not back towards the shoulders, to punctuate the command. Then release! The main reason we have to pull straight up on our dogs rather than back towards the shoulders is that they are heavy working dogs, and hitched up correctly could pull a Volkswagon! Pulling backwards? Hell, the dogs wouldn’t even notice I was there.

Eh, different strokes for different dogs!

My pit bull Genghis is very game toward other male dogs over 40 lbs. The bigger the male dog, the more he wants to fight it. Toy dogs he has no problem with, same with cats. He likes to play with them and learned as a puppy to be gentle with cats.

I use a prong collar on him because he choked himself nearly unconscious on a training collar as a pup.

He is not agressive to ppl at all, quite the opposite! He is very loving and has to be the center of someone’s attention at all times. Like most pits, he rarely barks but whines a lot instead.

The American Kennel Club seems to think so. In their listing of breeds, they always include a section on temperament. e.g.:
Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland; this is the most important single characteristic of the breed.

I would echo the anecdotal evidence about Bassets. My brother owns one and that is the mellowest dog I have ever seen.

My brother refers to it as “a dog for people who want to have a cat”.

But I’d much rather be bitten by a chihuahua than by a pit bull. Aggressiveness does not directly correlate to dangerousness. Some dogs end up on “aggressive breeds” lists not because they bite much more often than other breeds, but because they do more damage.

I think I saw Droopy fire guns into the air once.

Yes, that’s how I administer a correction on a choke chain as well. My dog wasn’t gagging when I gave a correction. The problem was that my dog insisted on pulling as far ahead as possible from me for minutes at time, gagging himself. Remember I said he is not particularly food or praise motivated - he wasn’t necessarily interested in heeling, even if I did have a tasty treat, because there was always something much more interested over there. Using a prong collar solved the problem almost instantly. I don’t understand why he was able to make the connection with a prong and not a slip collar, but had I not used the prong, I’d probably be stuck with a pretty unruly dog. There were some people in class who could train their dog with a flat collar and a tennis ball or toy - they seemed to mainly be retrievers (both goldens and labs, no Chessies in class, though), which of course tend to be “mouthy” dogs, so getting the ball was enough reward.

This we definitely agree on.

I have often wondered about this myself. If the question came up about the characteristics of different races of people there would be a bunch of people quoting various scientific authorities showing how the concept of race was a social one not a scientific ones and there are no real differences in intelligence etc. between races.

Why do different breeds of dogs have a wide difference in temperament when different races of people do not?

The prong collars work well and are not cruel. Chow chows have thick fur and skin and they prongs cause discomfort if they pull, not pain.


Dogs have been selectively bred by people for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years to perform specific tasks, and generally were culled if they didn’t perform, either due to health reasons or lack of ability. People, thankfully, haven’t been.

IANAM, but I think perhaps any further discussion is a topic for GD.

I am still smiling at the mental picture of a bull terrier named Genghis!

porcupine, I can totally relate to having a dog that isn’t much interested in whatever you’re offering, but in what’s over there! I had a shepard/doberman cross who was like that. She was a handful.

The sweetness of temperment in Newfs is exactly why we started sharing our home with them. The baby can be sitting on Angus, or pulling on his lip, or biting his tail, and he won’t bat an eyelash. He will throw some seriously pitiful long-suffering looks our way, but he would never buck the baby off or snap at him. He’s a doll. And our family bitch, Holly (a rescue of sorts- long story) is pregnant! We will have a new puppy soon if we decide it’s time! Our breeder already has homes for most if not all of the pups- the dad is a champion and one of the best all-around Newfs I have ever seen.

Hey, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (with my favorite announcer, Joe Garigiola) is on next week!

[hijack]EJsGirl, Newfies are great dogs - the folks who taught most of the classes I attended showed Newfies, so there were always lots of Newfies in class (both theirs and people they knew from the show circuit). Not the breed for me (too big and too drooly), but every one I ever met, with one exception, were real sweathearts. The couple who taught the class got a new puppers when I was still taking class, and everyone fell in love with the bear cub. Of course, no such thing as an ugly puppy.[/hijack]