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Some Misconceptions about Dog Breeds

Some dogs must deal with a “ruff” reputation based entirely on what breed they are – or just look like.  Bull terriers, rottweilers, and Dobermans are a few can get called out as aggressive, dangerous or problematic based entirely on their looks, before they ever show signs of a snarl.

This can cause these dogs to be surrendered more often, hinder them from getting adopted quickly and limit opportunities for socialization related to other pet parents not wanting to be near them. 

As a photographer who working with dogs, I have found there are both myths and truths floating around about dog behavior.  Genetic and non-genetic factors influence a dog’s temperament and appearance. Let’s consider some of the following.

white and black dog
white and black dog

Misconception -“All that matters is how you raise them

It’s not safe or fair to either a dog or their dog parent to lay a puppy or dog’s entire temperament upon training.  I think proper training is the best way to help dogs and their families achieve their best lives together as it helps each understand each other.  Most dog breeds came to be because people were purposefully attempting to breed certain characteristics for certain jobs. So dogs can’t escape every single aspect of that long, long, history of purposeful breeding.

Border collies tend to have the characteristics of herding, while Labrador retrievers have made great guides.  While training can certainly steer the natural impulses of certain breeds so that we can better live and work cooperatively together, we still can’t expect that training will turn a puppy bred for high activity into a couch potato.

Misconception -“You can know some dogs will be aggressive simply because of their breed

Every day dogs prove to us that their breed doesn’t live up to their stereotype. Some dogs historically bred for protection welcome every stranger into their home, and some dogs of a breed known to be gentle can become unpredictable and snappish based on socialization and past experiences. It’s important to understand the needs of your dog’s genetics to help them do best in life. So a high energy, highly intelligent dog that is bored is likely going to find a not so great way to occupy themself unless you give them something to occupy them. However, too many dogs have been maligned and passed over in shelters because of negative stereotypes created by the media that have no basis in fact. This is a great opportunity to look at senior dogs. Adopting an older dog you will more likely have a history, and be better informed as to what the personality type is of the pet you are adopting.

Black dog
Black dog

Misconception -“A good dog is always a good dog” 

We all have bad days— we become short tempered with a family member, we lose our cool with a cashier.  “Good” dogs can have bad days, too, which is why it is important for dog parents to take the time to learn about canine body language.

Just as we humans can’t really know how we’ll react in a crisis, we can’t be sure how our dog will react if they are injured or frightened.

Misconception -“If a dog is “bad” it’s because they have lousy parents

I have a reactive dog.  We have gone through multiple trainings to help with the situation.  Although he has improved, he continues to be reactive and will probably never be able to have a carefree play date with other dogs.

So where does a doggy’s nature end and nurture begin?

We’d love to say it’s easy to tell, but the fact is, a dog’s behavioral tendencies are complex. It certainly helps – and is fun – to research your dog’s breed background, for insight into their behavior and possible natural strengths. Some of those strengths – for example the historically quick mind of a Border Collie or Belgian Malinois – will mean you have a responsibility to be prepared to provide extra mental stimulation and physical activity to meet those “natural” needs. If your Malinois mix grows up to be a gentle goof instead – at least they’ll be a well-trained goof instead of a bored, destructive Einstein!

We should give every dog the very best opportunity to grow up to be a well adjusted dog through good nutrition, thoughtful socialization, and learning opportunities that keep their minds engaged. Every dog deserves help in learning to navigate what humans expect of them – no matter what breed they happen to be – or just look like.

Are you dealing with a behavior challenge with your dog, or need help understanding what your dog is trying to tell you? Check out CNY Pet training & Behavior for some help.

Meet Callie!

Sweet Callie is around 2 years old and she loves everyone she meets. She is crate trained, likes to play with other dogs and is the happiest being by your side. She is an active girl who would love a home with a yard so she can run and play.

Please contact Friends of Second Chance.

Friends of Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter 6660 E. Seneca Turnpike Jamesville, NY 13078 315-435-5584

Capture your journey with your pet. Nancy Kieffer is a pet and nature photographer serving  Central New York, the Adirondacks and Beyond.  Capture how you share your life with your pet! It may be a vacation adventure or curled up on the couch. Travel assignments welcomed.