Understanding Dogs - Temperament in Dogs - It's Role in Decision Making. By Dr. Radcliffe Robins.
" What is meant when we speak about the temperament of a dog? This term is very often used, but very little understood by the users. It is however clear that by using the term an attempt is being made to define or describe certain attributes of the dog’s behaviour. What specifically is being described?
The concept of Temperament that is highly recommend is defined by Wayne Davis of the West Virginia K9 College as:
“The physical and mental characteristics of an individual dog, made evident through its reaction to stimuli in its environment.”
The physical and mental characteristics or peculiarities of an individual dog, made evident through its reaction to physical and situational stimuli, that is, any change in its environment.
This definition is not just a theoretical concept it is a practical working tool. Davis’ concept of temperament has certain characteristics that cannot be separated from it.
Characteristics of Temperament
Temperament is primarily a function of the dog’s neurological makeup
Temperament is 100% genetic; it is inherited, and fixed at the moment of the dog’s fertilization/conception/birth Temperament in the dog cannot be eliminated nor transformed from one type to another. It cannot change during the dog’s lifetime. It is the permanent mental/neurological characteristic of the individual dog. But there may be an overlap of different temperaments in the same dog. For example sharpness may be seen with over aggression or submissiveness with being temperamental.
Environment, Socialization or Training can modify the expression of an individual dog’s temperament, but they cannot transform it nor eliminate it. The dog will die with the temperament with which it was born. In other words, the sum total of the dog’s neurological and physical matrix that finds expression as a result of environmental change (people, animal, physical context or situations), is its temperament. This view of temperament is objective in its definition, and clear in its physical expression, and for this reason will form the platform of our subsequent discussion.
Temperament is divided into two broad categories: Sound Temperament and Unsound Temperament.
The dog with a Sound Temperament is confident and self assertive. He is sure of himself and investigates what he is unsure of. He handles his environment with confidence and without fear. His approach to life and his environment is curious, assertive and investigative. If startled or frightened, he recovers quickly from his fright.
This wonderful ideal is not without its concerns. This dog makes an excellent pet and worker, when under control, trained or managed by a handler who is a secure pack leader. However if uncontrolled his self-assertiveness could lead to significant management problems. Nonetheless the mental balance of this kind of dog makes him a joy to own, and more persons need to learn to learn the skill to manage this exemplary canine. Having said this, it is clear that an older couple seeking a companion may be better served with a more submissive animal.
The dog of Unsound Temperament does not display the above calm, confident, self assertive, non-fearful behaviour. There is a range of behaviours considered to be unsound, but the following list can be taken as a complete or almost complete list of the variations: Sharp, Shy, Sharp-Shy, Submissive, Temperamental, Hyperactive, and Overaggressive.
A dog with a sharp temperament reacts (immediately) to individual environmental stimuli without thought. The dog does not consider consequences. It may jump sideways and run far away if startled by a slamming door, very reluctant to return, if at all. The sharp dog recovers, but slowly. The sharp dog may fearfully bark forever at the play of shadow across a doorway, or the light pattering of a small branch on the roof. If the stimulus is innocent and continuous, the sharp dog does not settle down and accept its innocence. It continues to react without thought. It will not investigate.
This dog may seem at first to be an excellent alarm dog, but extreme sharpness, coupled often with a lack of confidence, could make it a perpetual nuisance to neighbours and household members.
The shy dog is afraid of unfamiliar people, places and things. He is sensitive to noise and movement, and does not take initiative. The shyer the dog is, the greater will be the amount of fear displayed. This genetic/temperamental shyness cannot be cured. Shyness may also be caused by improper environmental socialization or people experiences. This shyness may be reversed to some extent by proper handling and training, but avoiding such an outcome right from the start is preferred. Shyness must not be confused with submissiveness.
The Sharp-Shy dog displays aggression based on fear, he is the classic “fear-biter.” Being sharp, he responds without thinking, and being shy, he is fearful. This combination produces a dog that bites at any unfamiliarity without thinking. Fear is a normal reaction in a normal dog to a perceived threat, but when the threat is over, the dog should recover quickly. The sharp-shy dog recovers slowly; its fear may even paralyse it, and it may bite if touched. It may be taught to adjust in a particular environment or situation, but when that situation changes, it will react again in fear and the behavioural cycle starts over again. The Sharp-shy dog can never be fixed.
The submissive dog readily surrenders authority and control to it leader; in other words, he easily accepts human leadership. He tends to be meek and mild and nonthreatening. He has no desire to be in charge, and readily does what is asked. This kind of dog makes an excellent pet and companion for most first time dog owners and the average family. The temperamentally submissive dog may be, but is not necessarily, a “wimp.”
Submissiveness is also a trait that may be produced invironmentally, by abuse. This should not be confused with the genetic submissive temperament.
A dog with this temperament suffers from failure of its central nervous system. New environmental stimuli so overwhelm this dog that it may shake uncontrollably or roll over. The temperamental dog will empty its bladder and bowels seemingly unaware, in unfamiliar or stressful situations. This dog is not just afraid - it cannot cope - with the stress. Its nervous system is so overwhelmed that the dog loses control of its body and bodily functions.
The temperamental dog is not usually aggressive, but it is important to remember that there is a lot of fear in this dog, and the fearful dog may respond by biting.
This trait is one step down from submissive, and cannot be fixed.
What type of companionship can this dog provide? He may not be suitable for most homes but may be looked after by someone who feels generally compelled to offer and provide perpetual psychological coddling to this kind of dog. This dog is not recommended.
The hyperactive dog is constantly moving, and generally moving fast. He constantly wants to move by running and jumping. If confined, he will pace incessantly and leap at walls, walk in circles or wag the tail non-stop. This hyperactivity is not normal but is the result of a metabolic malfunction (of the brain) that controls the body’s activity.
This dog could be thoroughly destructive if kept in a confined apartment or small space.
In some cases it may be difficult to separate temperamental hyperactivity from normal high energy in some dogs.
The overaggressive dog reacts with more aggression than the situation suggests. This extreme behaviour is often directed toward the handler and is usually in protest for having been asked to do something the dog does not want to do. This dog does not turn off easily; he will come after you and hurt you. It does not accept human leadership.
An overaggressive dog should never be placed in a pet or companion situation. In fact if he is not in the hands of a professional handler, he should be put down.
Before ending this topic two other temperamental traits require our attention. They originate in the self-assertiveness of the dog (Sound Temperament) but may actually be looked upon as temperamental classes in their own right. These are the traits of Dominance and Independence in dogs.
The dominant dog strives to achieve pack leadership. The more dominant he is, the less likely he is to accept human leadership and training. He is confrontational. Such a dog requires a skilled handler who can maintain pack leadership at all times.
This dog does not want guidance or affection from other dogs or humans. He does not encourage companionship; he cares nothing for praise or pleasing his handler. The independent dog keeps his own company, is self directed and self reliant; he is not affectionate.
Clearly, the independent dog would not make a good companion, and may function best as an out door “yard” dog.
A dog with significant dominance and independence traits together, is just a slide away from being over aggressive.
Even though critical periods, socialization and training may affect the temperament of a dog, they will never eliminate any of its effects."
Dog Aggression. As trainers, we hear this term every day speaking with clients.
As always, you have GENETIC and ENVIRONMENTAL factors.
GENETIC is a part of your dog. Many breeds are predisposed to DA, and management techniques can be used. However, you will always live with your dog knowing they may be liable to hurt another living dog.
ENVIRONMENTAL is learned or lack of learning.
How do we tell what is genetic and what is environmental? A trained professional (such as Two Wheels Four Paws) comes in to show you the difference. In short, Genetic Issues do not show progress while Environmental boasts improvement.
MANAGING ENVIRONMENTAL ‘DOG AGGRESSION’
Many people are misinformed when it comes to the social structure of a group of domestic canines. There is no Alpha, no Beta. These are not wolves, these are dogs raised to work with humans after 30,000 years of domestication. Heck, humans made erect ear, long muzzled, double coated 110 pound wild beasts into short haired smushy faced 20 pound pugs! That is a lot of time to lose “traditional” social hierarchy we observe from wolves. Insinuating wolves and Dogs are the same is like saying Grass and Corn are the same. Yes they came from the same roots, but are vastly different in type. Dogs delegate a separate response to their interpersonal interactions with other dogs.
When dogs speak with each other, they have their own ways of conveying emotion. They communicate physically first using body language, which includes violent altercation, and for the majority of dogs this is a normal way to settle their more serious social issues. We have spoken of The Critical Socialization period in puppies- up to 16 weeks. If a puppy was taken from it’s litter, especially pre-8 weeks, they are not going to know how to speak dog very well. Even if the mother dog has ceased nursing, they learn from their litter how to speak, and even their mother correcting them. If your breeder has an excellent mothering female, who teaches her puppies up to say, 8-12 weeks. Showing them how to speak, play, even end interactions (by appropriately escalating pressure until a bite to stop it). It's all very important. However, if the puppy was taken too young, has a lenient or uncaring mother, or was always the roughest pup of the bunch with no consequence, you get a socially stunted dog. As that pup grows, he goes from a 12 pound terror to a 75lb monster who jumps other dogs or begins fights. If this dog has a good scrap, the issue will generally solve itself.
Living in a Multi-Dog Household can be rewarding, exciting, and full of great times. However, adding an additional dog can totally wreck a social group. Say you have a great group of 3, and add a wild pup with no stop. Suddenly your other dogs are exhibiting serious stress behaviors, humping, attacking other dogs, not eating, not sleeping, etc. You’re enjoying a movie when suddenly a dog fight breaks out. The young pup has finally made the stressy middle aged dog snap. What is your first reaction? Break it up before anyone gets hurt? WRONG. That puppy needs consequence for his actions. Let him get bit. Unless you have a dog who doesn’t know how to stop (genetic dog aggression) - you will be doing even more damage to your social situation. If you pull the two apart, you are drive building. Since each dog didn’t get their desired result, next time they see each other they will remember that unfinished altercation. Now, if they had fought and the middle age dog said his piece, and made the puppy realize their annoying behavior was unacceptable. The puppy will remember that before trying that behavior with that dog again.
In our home, we let our dogs scrap. They get punctures. They tell each other how they feel. The photo I used is from today. Boden was a dick, and was bitten on the face. I guarantee he thinks about being a dick now before he acts.
If you do not think you can handle an altercation in your home, there are options. You can seriously monitor and manage your group through training (recommended first!), crate and rotate life (second recommendation), or rehome your disruptive family member.
Breed plays a role just as important as personality. Talk to professional breeders about their breeds attributes, even if you have found a shelter pup in need. While they are all dogs and all “speak” the same language, not every breed does so in the same manner.
When considering another dog, ask yourself if any of the above options are in your budget or lifestyle.
New Beginner Group Class Package
Two Wheels Four Paws is now accepting spots for a group class located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We currently have 4 slots available for dogs over the age of 6 months. Package includes 4 classes to be paid each day of class.
-Leash manner (leash reactivity management included)
-Introduction to "place" command
What you will need:
-6ft comfortable leash. Leather, soft nylon or biothane.
-Prong collar or choke chain. We will provide for you to purchase.
-Your dog's favorite treat. Preferably hotdogs, or other cooked meat. You want the reward to be something special they don't get very often.
-A blanket or bed for place command.
Class Schedule and Location:
Date: To Be Determined when class is full.
Classes will be once a week at same day & time during weekdays.
Class 1: Private Session ($50) at Cosner Park
Class 2: Group Lesson ($25) at Cosner Park
Class 3: Group Lesson ($25) at Lowes Southpoint
Class 4: Group Lesson ($25) at Petsmart Southpoint
Please contact us today to book your pup! First class to be paid upon booking. Dont forget, we love photos!
Lets take a minute to talk about Socialization.
Socialization is NOT taking an older pup or dog out and meeting every person or animal.
Socialization is NOT bringing a young puppy out and letting them meet every person or animal.
Socialization is NOT letting your puppy eat out of stranger's hands.
Socialization does NOT start and end with meeting people, dogs or going in public.
These are common issues we see with socially stunted or socially inept dogs.
Critical Socialization begins at 4 weeks and ends at 16 weeks. Anything after 16 weeks is no longer socialization, it is simply desensitizing dogs to certain stimulus.
Socialization is letting your puppy see, hear and smell the world without having any negative experience. In Critical Socialization, a bad experience will stick with them for life, unless you have professional guidance on the situation before 16 weeks.
We carry our puppies to be in full control. This also allows them to have the best chance of staying disease free at these susceptible ages.
Socialization allows your dog to experience the way of the world at a young age, so it normal to them and not a shocking or scary experience.
Some things to consider socializing your puppy to:
-Surfaces in a safe environment. Slippery, metal, different terrain.
-Water (large bodies, streams, rivers)
-Noises. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, the noises of a city, gun fire if possible.
-People. Seeing all types of people, from all cultures. Even elderly and young children or babies.
-Animals. Other dogs, cats, farm animals, small animals such as birds, fish, rodents and reptiles.
These are things we do with young puppies at TWFP when you elect to work with them younger. This gives them their best possibility at living a rounded life well adjusted.
This article started off as a Board-In introduction and FAQ, but as I was writing it, I felt the need to talk about things we commonly find ourselves explaining in hopes to have something as a written referral.
Understanding Your Dog + Board-In FAQ
Many people worry about sending their beloved friend for 2 or more often than not 3 Weeks at a time.
Will he be mad at me?
No, he wont. Dogs are complex emotional feeling creatures, but they do not realize that their family "left" them- all he will know is he's here and it's fun! But the fun stuff comes with boundaries and structure.
What will she learn?
Anything you want that is reasonable, really. Sit, Down, Leash Manners, Come When Called, 'Stay', and all of this Off-Leash and around distraction/in public. This encompasses basic manners, no jumping, no darting out the door, crating and crate manners, etc.
Do you offer a guarantee?
No. Dog Training has too many variables after the dog has left our hands and is transferred to yours. We have no control of any situation. Dogs are thinking, living, breathing individuals, and the world around us can be frantic and hectic. It is up to us to set our dogs up for success and be in control of what happens to them, even form outside forces.
What if the training regresses?
Most of the time that's failure to communicate between you and your dog. Yes, there are some environmental and genetic factors when it comes to dogs, but once you how to properly speak with your pup, you should be fine setting boundaries and reinforcing them at home. After all, with Board-In we get the consistency and repetitions in to teach them what we want.
Genetic vs Environmental? What?
We use these terms a lot and it is important to go over them with their families.
GENETIC is something that does not change, it is hard wired into the dog and is traits from breeding practices poor or reputable. How do we tell if the issue is genetic? It does not change under any circumstances- there is no improvement to the behavior. This can come with fear, aggression, submission, shyness, hyperactivity, or true steadiness!
ENVIRONMENTAL is something that is learned, or lack of learning. Environmental and Critical Socialization can run hand-in-hand. Environmental issues can improve over time with proper handling, training, and consistency.
What is Critical Socialization?
From ages 6-16 weeks you have a very important window of socializing your puppy. Yes, many people get puppies at 8 weeks (which later like 12 weeks is more preferred from a dog-social aspect) - however many people are afraid of disease and the large world to take their baby out and give them the start they truly need.
-Socializing does not mean walking your puppy into a dog park or Petco & turning them on every dog.
-Socializing does not mean forcing your puppy to let people pet/hold them, or letting strangers offer your impressionable puppy treats for approaching them.
Critical Socialization is letting your puppy see people and friendly dogs from a safe distance, only interacting if it is a happy, positive interaction. It is letting your dog smell things, be in the company of a busy store while being carried. Hearing loud noises, seeing strange animals. Like I said above you want these all to be super happy, yet informal greetings. Puppies do go through Fear Periods and can be impacted negatively by socialization, making it look genetic. If a puppy has a negative experience, in or out of a Fear Period, it will stick with them for life.
What is a Fear Period?
Puppies go through fear periods about two times going through Critical Socialization, where things that would normally not phase them are suddenly scary. The most common ages are 9 weeks and 13 weeks, but it is not decidedly so in every puppy. My advice for a puppy in this time is keep them home and keep it very happy for the few days to a week they are uncertain.
We do offer a crash-course in puppy rearing as a private session!
I got my dog at 6 months, can we social her now that she's a year and a half? She is scared of people and dogs.
No, socialization has long passed. However, we can desensitized her and build her in situations she needs help, and correct the negative. At this point it becomes Behavior Modification Training, which is no extra cost to regular Board-In, but we will update on you and what you should expect. This will take EXTRA time on your end at home to make sure she has the consistency needed to excel!
I hope this helps with the most common questions we receive in regards to dogs and our Board-In Programs.
Do not fret if your dog has an environmental, genetic, or socialization issue. Majority of dogs can be trained nonetheless. Just love your dog, reward them when good and give consequence when they are not.
As always, everyday is an adventure!
Amanda (and Boden pictured)
Seriously, I forget we even have this feature. A lot has happened since we acquired Fury. We had a really successful stint of working dogs, pet training was slammed, we moved 2 times, got married officially, and have since seen the death of 4 vehicles. What a time we've had!
With the dogs, at our peak we had 12. Working dogs, companions, and rescues for others. I have actually started a page for our GSD Rescue happenings, and a website for our (Garmrskyn) German Shepherd Breeding Program!
All in all, quite exciting! Sure we've had some serious low points, cancer took hold of my Doberman, Juno summer of 2018 and I lost my imported working male, Baxy. We lost a litter of working puppies. Our highlights included training and selling a Dual Purpose dog (K9 Anna!), selling 3 working Personal Protection Dogs (Go Sokka, Thyrie and Cynic!), training and selling a PTSD K9 for a veteran (Service K9 Killian from our A litter) and rehoming 5 dogs in need (Beau, Ringo, Mabel, Dino and Leif).
2018 also brought me a surprise. My best friend. My K9 Partner. Pictured above, Boden. His first accomplishment at just 9 months old is his CGC, but we have many many more adventures ahead of us.
Now in 2019 we are temporarily located on a beautiful 800 acre property where our own dogs and training dogs alike have room to roam, explore, and gain new sets of trained skills. We have plans for breeding and raising working dogs , in addition to helping Owners build a better relationship with their dogs. Thank you everyone who has stuck by us making TWFP and Garmrskyn K9 a success! We cannot wait to share 2019 with you all.
Every day is an Adventure.
Amanda here again!
No, I'm not raging or ranting, but this bitch is!!
"Fury" is a Colorado Shepherd come to Virginia with prospects of becoming a Utility Protection Dog. She is 13 months old and comes from Czech/DDR lines. She is petite and will probably mature to be 60 lbs, but don't let her size mistake you. She is cunning and FAST! She shows the ability to think while in drive, has immense hunt drive, ball drive, prey drive AND defense drive! Fury is independent and loves to get into, on top of, and under everything she can manage. She is a button pusher, but makes friendly overtures. She enjoys getting in people's face and jumping all over them, but is very sweet and cuddly to her handler. She is weary of strangers. All around a good example of a working line Shepherd bitch.
My two favorite personality traits she possesses:
1.) If you mess with her, she messes with you back. Blow in her face? She will jump in your face and clack her jaws at you.
2.) When she sees me, she smiles. It's tough to get a picture of it because she's constantly moving!!
We have had her home for a little less than a week now and she is showing promise and progress in bite work. She is picking up her obedience nicely; she's even trying to outsmart the game already. I am very excited to see where we go together as a team.
Until next time! Remember, Every Day is an Adventure. :)
Hey everyone, Amanda again. Here to talk about what we train when you opt for our Board In Programs.
If you’re having a specific issue, of course we will address those first and foremost, otherwise, this is what we usually start with.
We’re going to assume the dog I am talking about is over 8 months old and very much into adolescence, or the “teenage years”. With puppies, we use purely motivational or “all positive” techniques. With these teenaged dogs, we see a lot of the “I don’t wanna” or “I don’t have to” – that’s where corrective training is your friend. Yes, motivation is a good place to start, but especially with higher drive or higher intelligence in dogs, they will learn what they can and cannot get away with. Dogs will also learn who they can play and who they have to obey.
Tools: Hot Dogs, Leather Leash, Prong Collar, Dogtra Electric Collar
Leash Manners: I can’t tell you how important everything is transferred once we teach respect down the leash. A dog that is dragging you, sniffing everything, blowing off every command, running up to other dogs, or barking at passing people is a dog left to his own devices. Yes, you may have him leashed but are you really in control, or a leadership position? I expect all my leashed dogs to walk right beside me, not sniffing anything, not greeting anyone unless I tell him to, and most of all I want him to be RELAXED! Not concerned, not “excited” (worked up), not possessive (barking). We use a prong collar and hot dogs to show the dog the right and wrong way to walk on a leash. We’re going for a WALK! Also, walking in “heel” position is one of the most exhausting things to do. Not just the physical excursion, but the mental aspect as well. I teach the dog how to follow me; left turns, right turns, walking, jogging, stopping, about turns. The dog has to follow my every move and pay attention to it. Its hard work! A dog that is “with me” is a dog I have control over, a dog that is following me and looking to me for guidance or leadership. This is taught with either of our Board In Programs. I teach off leash heeling in my Two Week Program.
Heel Position: I teach dogs who to come into heel in either program. The dog approaches, and sits at my left side before strutting off into the sun set.
Down means Down: I was going to use “sit mean sit” but that’s also associated with a company I am not. Anyways, this applies to sit as well, and I often train this with pet dogs as a “sit” since that appeals to most people. I use down as it’s a more comfortable position for a dog to stay in. Essentially this command is a two-in-one, “down” and “stay”. Stay is extra. Down in black & white. I figure, why not go all the way? Instead of the dog getting up after I say the command, the dog should stay in position until I say otherwise! Down is also lifesaving, I’ve had my personal dogs out on my property, off leash, and they see some critter they NEED. Zoom! They take off towards the neighbor’s house, who doesn’t like dogs. I yell “DOWN!” and my dog is conditioned to drop down and stay there until I say otherwise. Of course, that takes a fair amount of consistency, but it’s definitely achievable. Used to teach this is hot dogs and a collar (either corrective or a regular flat collar) – so the dog learns the initially behavior is greeted with food but once they have learned the command consequence comes in, showing them they have to. I teach both in my Two Week Program but often opt for just one of these with my One Week Program.
Recall: Come when called. I used food to show them when they get to me, it’s worth it. Once they are conditioned, I used a long line and maybe a prong collar to show them the consequence for not coming in my One Week Program. The dog is still rewarded with food when they return, to show that blowing off the command sucks but coming back to me rules! In my Two Week Program, we do this Off Leash with food and an E Collar. We don’t do Off Leash in the One Week Program (unless it’s the focus of the single week) because I like to have more time with the above training. This stuff is tough for them, and I have a small window of bonding to do with your four legged friend.
This may not seem like a vast list of tricks or complicated behaviors, but this is what we teach. I like to send my client dogs home being able to pass your basic Canine Good Citizen Test. Unless out rightly aggressive or unsound, every dog should be able to pass a CGC, and it’s a good thing to have. It also helps you as the handler/owner, you should be able to perform with your dog!
I hope you enjoyed, tune in on Monday 7-10-17 as we have an exciting announcement to make!