Every dog is an individual
Everyone has heard that statement, especially lately with all the Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) media. And I absolutely agree - every dog is an individual. BUT...and here is the but everybody wants to argue with...breeds do matter. You can't just wish that all away. In all the years that I have been doing Doberman rescue and had tens of Dobermans in and out of my house, no two have been exactly alike but they all have shared general breed characteristics. And I would be remiss if I just ignored that fact.
I understand where AFF is coming from because today's pitbull (and I use that term loosely) isn't a breed, it's a conglomeration of breeds all judged on physical appearance. But all that aside, we have the breeds of dogs we have today because of selective breeding (good and bad) and those breeds were bred for specific purposes that require certain skills (good and bad, LOL). Taking those characteristics into account when picking a canine companion for your family will certainly help you make a correct and lasting match. Sadly, most people bring a companion home based solely on their looks.
|Monday and Vito are both 'pitbulls' in the eyes of the public - but have two|
very different breed backgrounds.
Behavior is complex, no denying that, and there are no easy answers when it comes to modifying behavior and explaining problems related to learning. Individual characteristics, variables in the way they are trained, and breed differences all play important parts in successfully teaching new behaviors or changing the existing behaviors of any dog.
Breeds - They Really Are Different
Making generalizations about any breed of dog is sure to seriously offend someone :). If you say sporting dogs are active, someone will undoubtedly say that their Weimaraner is a calm couch potato. If you talk about the general tendency of terriers to be tenacious, someone will surely describe theirs as an easy, go-with-the-flow kind of dog. While there are exceptions to every rule, the truth of the matter is that different breeds have developed as a result of hundreds of years of selective breeding for specific characteristics and temperament. Maintaining and preserving common characteristics within a breed is the whole point of purebred dogs.
Now obviously heredity affects a number of traits and genetics is mostly a crap shoot for the average person, which is where you will get the differences in individual personality. But, for the most part, it is important that dog owners understand the histories of breeds and specific breed characteristics if they want to fully understand the animal they are living with.
It's All Relative
Because there are individual differences within breeds and one dog may not behave exactly as the breed was intended to, you can benefit from interacting with knowledgeable breeders before acquiring a canine companion. Especially if you have specific goals you want to accomplish with your dog. A word to the wise, all the backyard breeding is ruining our purebred characteristics. You will see much more variation in individual dogs from these unscrupulous (although sometimes well-meaning) breeding practices. Please do your research to make sure you are interacting with a responsible breeder. Responsible, experienced breeders can tell you what is normal for the breed and what the range of variation might be.
Mixed breeds are a whole different ball game :). Sometimes, knowing the breeds that contributed to your dog's ancestry will provide some valuable information, but generally you don't have that luxury. And that's okay! Canine behavior principles still apply, so training your dog shouldn't be any issue - you just won't have the ease of any background understanding on breed characteristics. But breed characteristics aren't everything, they are just one piece of the whole puzzle, and give you an edge when selecting reinforcers and training methods that best suit your dog. There are DNA tests that you can submit to find out what breeds are in your dog's history, however there have been interesting and varying results with these.
It's important to remember that ALL dogs are trainable, regardless of breed. When operant conditioning techniques are applied correctly, all dogs can learn :). As I said before: Individual characteristics, variables in the way they are trained, and breed differences all play important parts in successfully teaching new behaviors or changing the existing behaviors of any dog.