Friday, October 1, 2010


This week on a local radio show, the guest, a 'dog trainer' from a rather commercialized and popular kennel, was asked a question as to wether or not a certain breed of dog was still concidered 'nippy'.  Her answer was "Oh, no.  We've bred that trait out of the dog".  Now, I'm not here to discredit any other trainer... and we all know that not two trainers can agree on anything, but I had to share some insight on this topic.

As we all know there's two different factors that scienest have agreed on that affect the outcome of a living thing.  Nature vs. Nurture.  Let's look at a rather uncommon breed, the Belgian Malinios.  The malinios is much like your German Shephered, but they tend to be more intense by nature, more wolfish than our well known shepherd.  My husband has owned two Malinios since I've known him.  One bit me, sending me to the ER and later went on to military work, the other bounces around like a Labrador with our children. 

Now by nature both dogs love to work.  Meaning they'd rather be out doing obedience or chasing prey than sitting inside next to you on the couch.  Both dogs are cautious around strangers, always keeping one eye on them, and both were extremely loyal to their main owner.  These are common traits of this breed.  Something you will find in 99.9% of Belgian Malinois no matter who bred them or where they are from.  Just like the howl of a Beagle, these things are innate.

So if they are so alike, why did one scar me and not the other?  This would be your nurture side, or in the dog world, Imprinting.  The one who bit me was imprinted for intense work, the other to be a family dog.  The family pet was trained while a two year old was tugging on his tail, and with neighbors riding by on bikes.  Every aspect of their young lives formed what kind of dog they would become, even though at birth they were almost exactly alike.

This isn't to say that breeding doesn't affect a dog's outcome.  It can to a certain extent.  Two dogs with really good noses, who love to use them, usually produce pups with that same trait.  But you could take  two pups from that litter and train one to use his nose, while discouraging the other from using his nose as much.  By the time you were done you wouldn't know they came from the same parents.  In fact during school I met a man who had my German shepherd's brother from the exact same litter.  I had focused my shepherd's training on Schutzhund, and he had done no training with his.  My shepherd was confident and had high drives (wants) for balls and tugs.  His was very shy and very lazy, never wanting a ball at all.  The parent of our pups were both Schutzhund competitors, the father being a National's Champion.  Imprinting.

This is why you could very well have a pit bull around a new born baby without worry, and have a poodle attack it's elderly owner.  It's all in the way a dog was raised and trained.  Now of course I have to mention that you still need and have to do your research on a breed before you bring home a new pup.  If you go back to the Malinois breed and study about them, you'll find that they are not for a novice dog owner.  The chances of an inexperienced dog owner turning out a malinois that acts more like a lab is rare.  They are a challenging breed, quick to out smart their owner, and would never fare well in a sedate lifestyle.  An improper environment for this breed could and probably lead to am unwanted bite down the road.  But to say that all Belgian malinois are aggressive would be untrue.  Just remember it's nature and nurture that makes the dog.

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