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Recently, an exasperated dog owner contacted me about her out-of-control, “aggressive” Labrador retriever. On the contrary, it is impossible to generalize about canine temperament based on breed alone. The researchers demonstrated conclusively that there is a very high degree of behavior variation within each dog breed. Early intentional breeding by humans focused on function—hunting or ratting, for example—rather than the visible ascetics that are the focus of today’s breed standards (often to deleterious effect.) Dogs are not machines but rather animals with all the variability and chance inherent in, well, heredity. So while we can’t backpedal the “nature” aspect of any given puppy, we can have a profound impact on future behavior by making sure we get the “nurture” part right. Normal canine communication often appears to humans to be “aggressive” when in fact the apparent ferocity may simply be a dog clearly making her point, like a human couple having a heated argument. As for effects of on-going training and management, many behavior issues can be improved with training that is consistent and fair.
Having owned well-trained dogs all my life, I started Better Nature Dog Training to exploit decades of experience teaching across a number of fields.
I teach people how to effectively train their dogs by clearly demonstrating that every interaction counts when training a dog to come when called, for example, or instructing a puppy how to best get along in life.
Training a puppy or dog can be a most rewarding life experience; it can also be stressful and perplexing. This entry was posted in Dog stories and information, Dog Training and tagged dog breeds, dog temperament, dog training.


She was trying to understand why her 2-year-old dog actively challenges other dogs, men and children with growls, snaps and threatening postures. Researchers Kenth Svartberg (Stockholm University) and Bjorn Forkman (University of Denmark) analyzed a huge dataset that included over 15,000 dogs from 164 breeds in an attempt to better understand dog personality. There are many facets in addition to genes that go into constructing the temperament of any given dog, including maternal nutrition during gestation, the birth process, interaction with siblings (or a lack of siblings), and events early in life.
On the contrary, certain characteristics of the dog’s wolf ancestors have been intentionally amplified in certain working breeds, such as circling prey (herding) in Border Collies and endlessly chasing vermin (ratting) in Yorkshire terriers. If your dog is leash-reactive towards other dogs, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this issue. But I also look to provide context and tools for management when training alone cannot ensure the safety of all affiliated people and dogs. I am nationally-certified through the highly-respected Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and am a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. The scientific aspect comes from understanding dog psychology from an evolutionary perspective, knowing how dogs are both similar to and distinct from their ancestors, including the grey wolf.
One of the best services I provide is taking the guesswork out while lending a sure, guiding hand in successful dog behavior development and modification.
Even having been as diligent as possible in socializing your puppy—and irrespective of breed—your dog may still have temperament issues that result in less-than-desirable behavior, including fearfulness and reactivity. Regardless, whether through responsible breeding, socialization, training or management, the goal is a happy, healthy dog who understands how to best get along with humans and other beasts in this man-made world we share.


The holistic component derives from taking into account all facets of any particular dog’s situation, including upbringing, prior training, traumatic events and—most importantly—the characteristics of his home and family life. I wish more breeders and puppy buyers would read it, especially those who are beginners in breeding dogs. But if we’re playing on the beach and another dog tries to take her ball, she will growl and bark and chase them away.
But if, for instance, your dog never met a child until he was a year old and shows fearful aggression toward the first one he meets, you will probably never be able fully relax around small children.
I would counter that she is clearly telling the other dog to leave her resource (the ball) alone.
If the dog has been well-socialized, he will understand her point, leave the ball and mind his business; if not, he might misunderstand her communication, persist in his rudeness and escalate the encounter. These sorts of misunderstandings are the type that can usually (but not always!) be avoided by early socialization to other puppies, when the nuances of dog “language” are practiced and mastered.



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