Genes Count Too aka If I hear “It’s all in how you raise them” one more time… A rant by Fang

28 Jan

In pretty much the best giant eugenics experiment ever, we created dogs to do our bidding and refined, perfected, or destroyed (depending on your perspective) domestic dogs into very specific types and breeds with defined characteristics. If there is one thing breeds can tell us, genes count too, kids.

When we’re born, there are certain things about us that are relatively set in our genetic codes; We’ll typically have hair, we may need glasses, teeth should arrive at some point with a heart and lungs etc. When a dog is born it is a dog. Theoretically with ears, eyes, four legs and a tail. For some people, it all stops there. A dog is a dog and there are no difference beyond that point. For people who acknowledge the existence of nature (So, everyone who haz a smrt) it’s a lot more complicated than that.

There’s a weird myth in dog training, and I think we’ve all been guilty at one time or another, in telling another person that “It’s all in how you raise them”. For owners and handlers suffering under the constraints of BSL and often the little lauded shelter worker*** it becomes a truism comforting those who lack knowledge on their breeds or who’ve read into all the hype and media and simply come across as ignorant morons. For serious dog folk, sometimes it’s something we say just to shut people up, and for spectators and the unwashed masses, it’s often something they’ll say as a justification to do something incredibly stupid that all common sense and logic would say is not probable e.g. stick their head into my car with the doors closed and the windows cracked, because my dog was “raised right”.

Go ahead and pet Fluffy, he was raised by Nuns. That isn’t growling, he’s purring...

Go ahead and pet Fluffy, he was raised by Nuns. That isn’t growling, he’s purring…

After a long weekend of showing and explaining for the umpteenth time that “No, a Malinois is not a good idea to buy for your toddler”, I’ve had it. It is not “All in how you raise them”. Unfortunately while the basic premise is true (Any person given the proper skill set can raise any given stable dog to be at least semi-reasonable indoors and out) the details are a bit fuzzy and then we have problems. Those details are such things like inherent breed traits including the major and common behavioral quirks that anyone who has done a modicum of research would understand.

Perfect pet for your toddler, if you don’t like your toddler very much.

Perfect pet for your toddler, if you don’t like your toddler very much.

All of the training and puppy to in the world will not turn my Cattle Dog into a Pug. If I wanted a Pug, I’d own a Pug. If I expected my Cattle Dog to act like a Pug, I’d be a moron. If I was telling people cattle dogs are the same as Pugs I’d be a moron and an asshole. Before getting my Cattle Dog I fully anticipated getting nipped, my little dogs potentially getting chased around a bit, some dog aggression, a healthy dose of “I like my way better”and probably a fair amount of human wariness. I’d also expect a high energy velcro dog who appreciated a good time. I expected this because it’s commonly accepted as typical of the breed. What I got was a little bit different (All dogs are individual) but most of those things still appeared to some degree and I have a functional Cattle Dog with her own personality. Good training has quelled many of her worst habits but she is what she is, and as long as it’s polite and functional, I’m mostly okay with that.

What it comes down to is expectations. A person who would thrive with a Maltese may not do so well with a Malinois and vice versa. Overwhelmed, underprepared and frustrated, these dogs tend to get turned into breed rescue with a hearty headshake and a shrug from the rescue folks themselves. What can you do if people don’t do their research? Absolutely nothing. What can you do if people are telling them the opposite of accepted wisdom? Absolutely nothing. So here’s the deal. While I’m personally very glad your dog is easy and wonderful and doesn’t have any of the traits I’ve mentioned or you “dealt” with them through the most menial of ways, please do not devalue the warnings experienced breed people have given to others, by giving your anecdotal and irrelevant experience. I’m glad your Malinois loves kids (So does mine, bfd. It’s not a kid’s breed.) and I’m glad your Fila just loves the mailman. Really, we’re all sure you’re wonderful but your flukey dog has less to do with you and more to do with genetic weirdness than anything else. You don’t get to take credit.


*** BusyBee will be tackling the fine line between advocating and foisting in the next installment.

120 Responses to “Genes Count Too aka If I hear “It’s all in how you raise them” one more time… A rant by Fang”

  1. Jennifer January 28, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    I swear to God you guys have some of the rights to my brain cells. This, this, a thousand times this.

  2. Karen January 28, 2014 at 3:10 am #

    Fantastic – you have a knack at describing the situation to a “T”.

  3. And Foster Makes 5 January 28, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    I definitely agree that the comment ‘it’s all in how they’re raised,’ is infuriating. However, for me it’s because statements like that refute all of the fantastic rescue dogs many of us know and love. If you really want to check your facts, I would advise you take a peek at this article. It’s backed up by seyence, reeserch and all of that other smarets stuf.

    • TheDogSnobs January 28, 2014 at 3:29 am #

      1) I really don’t care about dumbed down faux science even if it’s for a good cause.

      2) If you don’t think the probable behavior and traits of a purebred dog are predictable, you’re fooling yourself. A Golden out of two MH with no desire to fetch while possible, is highly improbable. A sheltie from HC parents who doesn’t have a clue what to do with stock? Laughably unusual.

      And comparing humans to dogs is all well and good, but dogs have always been a giant eugenics experiment. People don’t reproduce in remotely the same way. I didn’t jump my boyfriend because of an overwhelming desire to have my child be good at math and have a pollen allergy. Dogs have had their mates selected for generations upon generations.

      Breeding for traits and abilities worked, or the breeds never would have separated in the first place.

      I will say that there is room for a personality between all that, but separating every dog from its traits is naive, and frankly ridiculous. It’s ideas like that which have me trying to help the octogenarians train their 3 year old pitbulls because the shelter told them “it’s all in how their raised” completely ignoring predisposition and general safety.

      • Elizabeth van Duyvenvoorde January 28, 2014 at 4:41 am #

        The AFF is a pit bull lobby. The ‘science’ they present is worth the same as the ‘science’ Big Tobacco used to present to prove that lung cancer and smoking were totally unrelated.

        They don’t seem to understand basic statistics, seem to have no idea what a standard deviation means. Variation within a breed still doesn’t mean there will be much overlap. When it’s a whole (or more) standard deviation, only the very extreme ends will fall together.

        Thanks for kicking that POS AFF article to the curb.

      • And Foster Makes 5 January 28, 2014 at 4:51 am #

        Too bad you missed the entire point of the article =\ Pit bulls are NOT a breed, and all of the veterinarians, trainers, and rescuers questioned in the study were incorrect in their breed assessments of mixed breed shelter dogs more than half of the time. So to judge “pit bull type dogs” based on how we assume dog fighting dogs were bred is “fooling ourselves”. Similar physical characteristics do not always equate to similar behavior traits. I’m not advocating that we put all dogs, pit bull or otherwise, in situations where they are left alone to babysit children or thrown loose in a dog park. I’m just suggesting we use the thins we know about canine body language and behavior to evaluate each dogs individual tolerance levels, as opposed to just making blanket statements about all dogs in one breed and hoping for the best. It can go both ways… Why do we see so many labs in shelters? They are illegitimately bred because the country has been brainwashed to believe that these dogs will automatically be obedient, child friendly, and love the water. We are setting all of our dogs, purebred or otherwise, up for failure by the system you advocate.

      • TheDogSnobs January 28, 2014 at 5:09 am #

        I think you’ve missed the point… The article has absolutely no bearing on what was said in my rant. I’m glad people are trying to dispell myths about pits (And yes, they are a breed, but you won’t find them in shelters often.)

        Dog people will tell you that labs are derpy, destructive and mouthy as all get-out. I dare you to find where we ever advocated they were automatically anything. In fact we’ve recently discussed labs directly.

        If you noticed, I also very specifically didn’t talk about pit bulls to avoid asinine commentary like this. I said each dog is an individual however pretending that Dog aggression etc. isn’t more prevalent in some breeds (As I once again specifically said purebreds) is ignoring reality.

        The fondness for rose-tinted goggles is amazing.

      • Anni January 28, 2014 at 10:52 am #

        Totally agree! Certain breed traits will always be there.. Yes you can work / shape / manage certain environmental stuff with training, but at the end of the day genetics trumps all. People who are of the All They Need Is Love mindset when it comes to dogs are sadly misguided.. probably cannot see through their rose tinted spectacles!

      • Al Magaw October 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

        I tell people if they don’t pay attention to “Breed specific behavior” when they are adopting a dog, it’s going to come back and bite them in the ass

    • Diane January 28, 2014 at 4:39 am #

      I agree, for the most part, with their opinion that personality characteristics can’t be predicted in mixed breeds, especially if the parents are from different groups – say, one a herder and one a sporting dog. But with purebreds, even with differences in the individual dog’s personality, you can pretty much predict a lot of what a dog will be like, knowing his breed and being aware of the purpose for which the breed was developed. And this really helps me to explain that, due to the fact that my breed has been bred for hundreds of years to be independent, do its own thinking and not look to people for direction, it’s perfectly understandable why I’ve never gotten past training in Open in (mumble mumble) years. Nothing to do with my skill as a trainer or my lazyn–um–limited training opportunities.

    • Gail Rosbach (@GailRosbach) April 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      Anything put out by Animal farm Society, is going to be biased. Animal farm Foundation is the reason we have all this problem with Pit Bulls. It is because of the lies they have spread nationwide and the myths that Pit bulls are great pets, that people continue to get killed and horribly mauled by Pit Bulls. Animal farm has its own “experts” and have started their own Councils, Research organizations . etc. None of them are experts at anything except dog fighting. I would think one would be embarrassed to continue spouting all the lies about how great Pit Bulls are. Everyone knows otherwise now. Someone is killed every week by Pit Bulls, not to mention that many others that are mauled and torn to shreds by them. No one is adopting them anymore. One bright note in all this is no matter how hard you push Pit Bulls on people, you cannot force them to adopt them. Your forgetting that most people have some common sense, they don’t want them. they don’t want to own them, don’t want them in their neighborhoods, beaches, parks, shopping centers, anywhere. Anyone that, at this point, continues advocatring for them is trying to make money from them., or is thed “wrong kind of people” we keep hearing about

      • And Foster Makes 5 April 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

        You are literally a psychotic imbecile. You sit and type meaningless, hateful things on the internet because you have no friends or family in real life that believe anything that comes out of your mouth is worth listening to.

      • Jennifer May 14, 2014 at 4:00 am #

        I would also like to note that only thirteen people were killed last year by “pit bull type dogs”, and most of the situations in which they were killed were so unbelievably asinine that every single person that lost their lives (or their parents, in the cases of the children) deserve a Darwin award for removing their genes from the general population. Yes, there were a few freak accidents. There was also an incident a few years ago where a Pomeranian killed an infant. Sometimes, proverbial shit just happens.

        I would also like to note that pit bulls were not originally bred to be dog fighting dogs. They weren’t. Do your frickin’ breed research before you vomit your hateful misinformation all over the internet.


      • EJH October 24, 2014 at 12:02 am #

        I would also like to note that pit bulls were not originally bred to be dog fighting dogs.>

        Could someone then please enlighten me as to WHY ths non-breed is called a *PIT*bull terrier?

      • Lynda Myers February 11, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

        Gail have you ever owned, trained or even spent a day with a APBT? Or for that matter done any research on the actual breed? If not you are speaking without knowledge or experience. Pitfalls are absolutely make great family pets. But should not be only owned by experienced people. Pitbulls are a bull breed and without training can be rough and tumble as well as belligerent with other animals. In the right hands you usually won’t see it. In the wrong hands it can be all chaos and mayhem. But it’s not the dog’s fault if humans either exploit or worst refuse to acknowledge those traits for which they were selectively bred for.

    • AD April 15, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

      foster makes 5 why in the world would you even support this statement working in rescue (unless you rescue all puppies that would make sense), this statement is the #1 reason why people don’t adopt, especially don’t adopt adult dogs and absolutely for sure don’t adopt adult “pit bulls” or “pit bull type” dogs. Also, why do we see so many labs in shelters? BECAUSE people believe it’s all how you raise them and accidentally get an American Labrador retriever that should be a champion hunting dog or at least acts like one and the average family loses it’s mind trying to control it and (yes what you said) they think the dog is born acting like a seeing eye dog labrador

      • And Foster Makes 5 April 16, 2015 at 10:50 am #

        I did NOT agree with the statement. Read my whole post before you criticize it? I was specifically DISAGREEING that it’s all in how they are raised.

    • Tori Wheeler September 28, 2018 at 6:08 pm #

      I think there’s a big difference between predicting the personality and traits of a purebred dog, and trying to predict the personality and traits of a mixed breed dog, especially from an unknown background. I work at an animal shelter that sees 20,000 animals per year, and if I hear someone say, “This dog is a border collie mix so it’s going to be high energy,” or “I want this German shepherd mix because it will be protective,” one more time, I’m gonna kill myself.

      A very, very small fraction of the dogs that come in to the shelter are purebred dogs, and the rest are more or less mixed up. When you start mixing up breeds, generally, the result is a crap shoot in regards to personality, traits, appearance and health. And the most important part is that people SUCK at identifying breed mixes visually. It’s a nearly impossible task when the dog’s are a 50/50 mix and you don’t know the parents (my favorite examples are the basenji/cocker spaniel and Rottie/Westie mixes that are documented and easily accessed on the internet. You’d never divine these dog’s breed make up from pictures, and who knows how they behave…). It’s even worse if the dogs are more mixed up than that (or don’t even have a recent purebred ancestor). If you go to the shelter, any black and white dog is a border collie. Any black and tan dog with pointy ears is a German shepherd and if it has floppy ears it’s a Rottie. Those breed labels are completely wrong 99% of the time and completely useless 100% of the time when it comes to deciding if this is the right dog for you.

      YES. If you are going to get a purebred dog, by all means, do your research, talk to people, learn as much as you can. That’s why you’re getting a purebred dog, right? You want a predictable result. But don’t come into the shelter with that mindset. When you’re getting a shelter dog, MEET that dog and see how it acts and learn its history and how it behaves in the shelter. That will give you much more information about how it will fit into your life than an arbitrary breed label. And if you’re looking to get a shelter puppy…well…good luck. That’s a choice for braver people than I…

  4. Melanie January 28, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    Fabulous as always! Funny how many discussions I have with people about my GSD that -on command only! (‘go make friends’) will go over to humans to reluctantly be petted. They are a little miffed that he does not instantly take to them- as they are such lovely people-blech. German shepherds breed standard calls for ‘aloof yet approachable’ and I paid attention before I chose my breed. SO did not want a golden. Working within the broad breed characteristics of my dog has created a fabulous and happy dog. The secret word being WORK!

    • ThePayferPack January 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      So true!!! Your comment made me smile!

    • Kristen January 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      “SO did not want a golden.” Love that comment! You’re in tune with his needs. I’m sure he’s super appreciative of that. I’m eye rolling at the miffed people. Not every dog wants to meet people. I’m sure there’s times they’re not interested in meeting people either. The Miffs should realize that dogs aren’t play things that can automatically enjoy their company. I’d raise my leg to pee on them.

    • Laura February 5, 2014 at 2:01 am #

      I have a GSD mix (half), and we also have a cue “Go say hello”, after which he comes back and asks for a treat. I tell people that besides his 5 chosen humans, everyone else is kind of like moving furniture.

    • shelli May 16, 2014 at 3:11 am #

      my thoughts exactly. it is a lot of work to have a good obedient dog. I have a 5 month old GSD and I work work with her every day.

  5. Rob McMillin January 28, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    There is a reason they’re called “maligators”.

  6. H. Houlahan January 28, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    In the top ten of inexplicable statements by a client, owner of biting, seizing, evil golden retriever:

    “But he came from a GOOD breeder. She is a minister’s wife!”

    See. Breeding DOES matter.

    • Jeff All January 28, 2014 at 4:20 am #

      I’ve got in huge arguments and had everyone and there dog on facebook mad at me when I told someone that he should never leave his two male apbts home alone together in the same space, everyone said :it all how you raise them” I said you can never trust two males to not fight, they all thought I was bashing the breed, so in that case its not all in how you raise them, however when you see a very high amount of pit bull attacks on humans and everyone is saying pit bulls were bred to be viscious, well to them you could say “its all in how you raise them” fact is there are a lot of pit bull attacks, fact is there are more abused pit bulls than all other dog breeds combined, fact is pit bulls were never bred for human aggression, so why all the pit bull attacks on humans? abuse, trained and encouraged to be human aggressive, or is it “all ho
      w you raise them”

      • EJH October 24, 2014 at 12:09 am #

        Dunno that *real* Pitbulls are any more likely to bite a human that any other breed. I have heard it said, by a JRT breeder, that id Jacks were the size of German Shepherds you would need to keep them in tiger cages. The most aggressive breed in my experience is Australian terriers.

        The unfortunate thing though is that large strong dogs are more likely to cause serious injuries IF they bite.

    • Kristen January 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

      Oh boy, that’s hysterical. I would’ve peed a little. It sounds like they didn’t do their research on locating a reputable breeder.

  7. curious reader January 28, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    Perhaps this is a dumb question for the likes of the dog snob, but where do mutts fit in within this discussion? How should one evaluate whether or not a certain mutt will fit into their family and lifestyle? Just curious.

    • TheDogSnobs January 28, 2014 at 4:57 am #

      Busybee will possibly be getting into this one.

      Actually with your average shelter/rescue, it’s going to be you really taking a look at yourself, what you want and what you can handle and then coming up with a “Do not want!” list. Then take your list to your rescue/foster home/whatevs and finding the nearest knowledgeable person to direct you to dogs who may fit within your criteria.

      If you want a low energy couch potato, head towards the senior section and most of the 7+ dogs will probably fit in some variation of that. If you want an active running companion and can train a dog, your options open up a lot.

      It will honestly only be as good as your list and as useful as your adoption coordinators are. The more detailed and realistic you are on your list, the closer they can probably find you to your perfect companion. The more open you are to a variety of potential options regardless of age, size or looks, the closer to a personality match I think you’ll be. 🙂

      • TheDogSnobs January 28, 2014 at 5:17 am #

        BusyBee here–the thing I’d add is that going with an adult dog over a puppy makes finding a good match easier since you mostly will know what that dog’s temperament is. Puppies are cute but it’s much harder to know what you will get as they mature, especially when it’s a dog of unknown origins.

    • Stacey January 28, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

      You can get a dog from a group that fosters. Find a dog doing well in a foster situation that is similar to your household and you increase the odds it will fit into yours 🙂

    • RowanVT January 30, 2014 at 7:13 am #

      I think it’s harder with a true ultimutt, but the 50/50 mixes have, in my anecdata experience, had certain characteristics of both breeds coming through. So in that case, if you see a dog with strong physical characteristics of a certain breed you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to deal with all the traits of those breeds.

      I had a catahoula/lab mix. He had the “I love EVERYONE” aspect of the lab, but the catahoula prevented the doofus-ness. However, he was absolutely not to be trusted with any animal under 30 lbs; they were all food. He was hunting and eating squirrels at 13 years old, overweight, and dragging his hind legs from a brain tumor. He caught his first field mouse was he was 7 months old. And he would fetch a ball until he fell over.

      I’ve also had a border collie/golden mix. Shelby had the instincts of the border collie; she was always alert in group settings and if you wore fuzzy slippers around the house… well, be prepared to be stuck in a corner until you got them off your feet. But mostly she had the personality of the golden, with a bit more reserve. She lived to be pet and was very polite around strangers while attempting to get them to love on her. She also got the health problems of both breeds, having epilepsy and hip dysplasia. We had to euthanise her when she was only 6 because the seizures could not be controlled.

      My last dog was an english shepherd/cattle dog mix. While Aussie and Shelby got a “best of both worlds” for the most part…Kumo. Yeesh.
      Kumo was a flock guardian in personality; his breeds had an almost synergistic effect on each other. He had people he was fond of, and he was willing to tolerate most folks especially if they had something he wanted (ES), but independent does not begin to describe him (both breeds). This dog had absolutely no desire to please and was probably smarter than 99% of the human population, myself included. He had a strong hunt drive against rodents specifically, and was a dick around other dogs despite lots of socialisation (hello ACD…). He also had massive health problems that just made everything more fun. Hybrid vigor? Not in a 50/50 mix you don’t. Hip dysplasia (ES), food allergies, flea allergies, probably IBD and a delightful autoimmune disorder that mimicked parvo and lymes at the same time. His saving grace was he was a complete nanny to my foster kittens and puppies. You couldn’t prevent him from helping out.

    • Keechy February 4, 2014 at 12:39 am #

      If you are going for a rescue, I’d go for one that has been fostered into a home. That way they will know how it gets on with other dogs, if it is good with cats or kids, if it’s house-trained etc. What breed it may or may not be is less important with an adult. How it is now is what matters. If a pup, then hope you can see mum and at least guess part of the equation, and after that it’s a lottery. 🙂

    • Pamela May 14, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

      Curious Reader~

      For what it’s worth, my rescue mutt is what I call a “properly dog-shaped dog”. I used to call her a “mystery mutt”. She is not large or small, heavy or fine-boned. Her muzzle, tail and legs are neither long nor short. Her ears are not long or short, high or low-set, don’t stand up, tip or flop down but are committed to any of a variety of positions in between. I chose her because she looked genetically healthy and unmessed-around-with, and…

      …because when I took her for a test walk, even though she didn’t really know how to walk on the lead, she was clearly concerned about figuring out what I wanted from her and doing it.

      As far as her genetic background is concerned, I’ve had people suggest all kinds of things: basenji, boxer, chihuahua, pit, dingo, Carolina dog, border collie, Jack Russell, black-mouth cur, mountain cur, Kemmer fiest….

      The only physical clues that she is an Australian Cattle Dog mix are a few smatterings of random white flecks in her orange coat, and eyes of a particular wide, round shape.

      Her behavior, however, almost exactly matches an ACD.

      Whatever else she’s got in her background probably accounts for her fixation on ground-dwelling creatures and the speed with which she can dispatch them. (Considering where she comes from –rural Tennessee– some kind of local, working fiest more likely than a named terrier breed.)

      If one knows what kind of mix a dog is, some pretty good guesses can be made about likely or possible behaviors and quirks. If you want to look into the German shepherd x great Pyrenees puppies they have at Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, you’ll have to ask the foster parents if a particular puppy hangs on your every word and cares deeply about what you want like its German shepherd mother, or if, like the dad, it couldn’t give a fig what you think, so long as you love on the dog. Then again, maybe it would be like most dogs, happily between the two extremes.

      So, you probably can’t know for sure, but guesses can be made. And THAT is why adopting a dog out of foster care is such a fabulous thing. All the information in the world about what a typical member of the breed is like pales in comparison to what a foster can tell you about ANY dog (mixed, crossed or pure bred).

      • EJH October 24, 2014 at 12:30 am #

        Ummm. Speaking as an Australian and a reat admirer of our wonderful Cattle Dog:
        Cattle Dogs are NOT terriers. They don’t have bursts of speed nor chase fast moving small creatures.
        A Cattle Dog is bred for fortitude, not speed.
        If you have a dog who likes to walk behind you and bite your heels as you go, you probably have a Cattle Dog.
        IF you have a dog who is distrustful of strangers, but lets them come into your yard, then prevents them from leaving until you have come and given them the OK, then you might have a Cattle Dog.
        If you have a do whose IQ is higher then yours, then you might have a Cattle dog.
        If your dog has ‘white flecks’ then it is unlikely to be from a Cattle Dog. Generally Cattle Dog will contribute coloured spots (mottling) in the white.
        I would never think of Cattle Dog eyes as either big or round. If anything their eyes tend to be rather small . Big round eyes to me indicate “Spaniel”. Spaniels too can pass on a mottling that many people even here (Australia Rural) mistake for Cattle Dog.

        Speaking as a one time Cattle Dog owner, and now (amongst others) a Cocker Spaniel/Beagle mix who to me looks like a miniature Pointer, but many people declare roundly that she has Cattle dog in her because of her colour (black/white Cocker Spaniel mottle with black).

      • Pamela November 12, 2014 at 2:33 am #

        EJH~ You have misread my comment. I asserted that my dog is a _MIX_, that her behavior is exactly ACD>>> EXCEPT for some minor things like a fixation on ground-dwelling creatures that might come from some local terrier or feist ancestor. Also, I am an artist and illustrator and trust me, when I say her eyes have the same shape as an ACD, I am not speaking in ignorance. Relativity may be at issue here as I grew up with shelties and dobermans, both of which have almond-shaped eyes. Most of the dogs where I live are pit bulls or pit mixes, who often have very small, slitted eyes. Perhaps when you hear ’round eyes, you think of what I would call ‘bug eyes’, like those of a pug or a cavalier where their eyes are so round they look like they could fall out of their sockets if the poor dog even so much as sneezed. If that’s what you’re thinking when you think ’round eyes’, then we agree. No ACD would have eyes like that, (though an ACD _MIX_ might).

        Another point to consider is that during the years I lived in Canberra (Farrar actualy), Mortdale, and the Sdyney area (Manly, DeeWhy, Paramatta) I saw plenty of dogs, but I never saw and ACD there. I never lived in the bush or even spotted a single (live) sheep or cow. Maybe the ACDs you see do not have the same eye shape as the ACDs I see. There may be slight differences between American ACDs and Australian ACDs. Frankly, the ACDs in Idaho tend to be shorter, more heavily-boned, thickly-coated, and have slightly wider heads than most of the ACDs in Tennessee.

        As far as Sheila’s basic shape is concerned, her ears are larger and floppier, her muzzle very slightly heavier, but otherwise her profile would almost exactly match the ACDs of the American South. Perhaps she is a wee bit longer in the stifle and her toes are certainly higher and more arched than most dogs, but not quite as cat-like as what the breed standards call for. Again, really… MIX is a key word. Almost any characteristics can completely disappear in one generation, let alone two. And color? Really, what can disappear faster than that? Her flecks are… scattered, small, a hint. A mix might have ZERO flecks. (I used to know a horse who was only 1/8 appaloosa who had the most flashy appy markings EVER, but I’ve known a lot more full-blood representatives of the breed with not a spot on them.)

        When she wants something, she comes and stares at me. If she doesn’t get an immediate response, she whines. When I do respond, I say, “Show me.” and she leads me to a door, the food bin, the sofa in front of the television…. She is smarter and more easily trained even than the dobies and shelties we had when I was a kid.

        Her communication skills are superior in both directions to those of ANY dog I’ve ever known, even superior to the communication skills of most humans..

        You got your panties all in a twist because you missed some vital points in my post, and your ignorance of my skills in… proportion and shape identification have left me… sad. If you saw my art or met my dog, you would not be so dubious. Fact is, I do know what I’m talking about and you need to work on your reading comprehension skills before you go off half-cocked based on an incorrect inference in a post by someone about whom you know nothing.

      • Pamela November 12, 2014 at 2:45 am #

        Oh, and by the way, YES, she does absolutely follow behind people and try to control their every move. She thinks she is in charge of where everyone is allowed to go, or not go. She gathers people, wants everyone in one place, and is disturbed when people spread out. She gets everyone in one room, generally in front of the TV, and she is happy. Outliers must be gathered in. And no one’s wrists or ankles are safe if they are outside Sheila-approved travel patterns. She’s never broken the skin on anyone, but she has startled a few people. Bursts of speed? Absolutely, but she has also been known to take an enthusiastic and uninterrupted 12 mile run and still return to the house before the car trying to chase her down got back. Tell me that isn’t endurance for a dog who usually gets no more than 1.2 mile slow walk and a romp or two per day in the little dogpark at the apartment complex.

        I’m annoyed myself that I even feel a need to defend an idea that would be obvious to you if you met the dog.

  8. Bryan Jones January 28, 2014 at 5:16 am #

    I own (or am owned) by a Malinois, Pyreneese, and Pitbull cross. Mal is an awesome dog but jealous as hell (and if the neighbors are doing drugs Im always the first to know). Pyrenees takes great care of my kids but strangers beware! And my pit will lick you to death 14 ways before he figures out how to bite you. There are certain breed predelictions but it is still nurture VS nature. I AM Alpha dog and my boys dont mess with the heierarchy.

    • apbter January 28, 2014 at 11:57 am #


      • And Foster Makes 5 January 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

        Ha! Love it and couldn’t agree more apbter

      • Stacey January 28, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

        Wouldn’t unrelated dogs in a house be more like captive animals in a zoo than they would wolves in a natural habitat?

      • Bryan Jones February 3, 2014 at 8:10 am #

        Hell I Googled alpha dog and blog and came up with 36,400,000 results. Every devil can quote some scripture. But to think that how you raise your dog doesn’t quantify how he is going to turn out is asinine. And if you want to check up most groups of animals will kick out related males (one can assume its to try and avoid inbreeding). SO does that make wild animals like captives in a zoo?

        Houlahan you dress a BC in santa clothes and think you are providing a mill dog a great existence? Hell you are huimiliating that dog. It shows who is the Bitch in your pack.

      • Tobi February 4, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

        Thanks you beat me to it

      • EJH October 24, 2014 at 12:32 am #

        well, I tell my dogs that *I* an boss bitch and they’de better remember that!

        (Of course there’s Alphas. it is just that the common belief in what an Alpha is is incorrect!)

    • H. Houlahan January 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Only someone who loudly proclaims that “I AM Alpha” on the internetz can believe that nurture is “VS” nature. Like they are in a cage match on pay-per-view.

      Hint: She who is alpha doesn’t have to go around telling everyone about it.

      • Liz January 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm #


        And RE the original post, yep, yep, and yep. Thanks ladies.

        My favorite example of this phenomenon is the (oh boy, here I go) bully breed owner who insists their dog is appropriate for day care in spite of the fact that it is straining at the end of the leash and screaming at my interview dog. “He just wants to play!” says Client. Yeah, until he goes into overdrive and decides otherwise…

        Can we work with certain behaviors to exacerbate or inhibit them? Absolutely. But you can’t change DNA. Yet anyway.

      • Nicole January 29, 2014 at 5:31 am #

        Thank you for addressing the ‘alpha’ rhetoric!!!! Makes me want to scream and rip my hair out…not to mention I hope the pit mix’s nature doesn’t decide to take over and he has dead or injured dogs one day when he comes home… You cannot over ride genetics folks…

      • Tamandra Michaels October 15, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

        Bravo HH lol.

    • Theresa B. January 29, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

      Your spelling is actually not too bad for a dog, I expect typing is a little tricky with the stumpy digits you canines tend to have . . ..

    • Tobi February 4, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

      The alpha dogs in a wolfpack are a breeding pair, and the pack consists of their offspring. Alpha is one of those fun words that stick, maybe because it sounds good on tv and makes a fun story in print where we really get to be in control that has nothing to do in fact with how wolves or dogs live.

  9. Diana January 28, 2014 at 6:03 am #

    Well said, The Dog Snobs! Predicting behavior was the purpose of thousands of years of dog breeding. Predicting appearance has risen in importance relatively recently. Of course I expected nothing less, because I was selecting (breeding?) for bitingly funny, insightful commentary.

    A minor addition, if I may. How you raise dogs can have an impact beyond the expected results of training & socialization. Stress – particularly maternal and neonatal stress – can cause epigenetic effects that change gene expression even in subsequent generations. A well supported finding from a variety of species is that this kind of stress can create more anxious children & grandchildren for example.

    Nature and nurture are not opposites or mutually exclusive, they both are important. But I agree that if my other hobby is showing fancy rats, perhaps I should avoid choosing my canine partner from the vermin-killing holy warriors. Too much trouble to fight instinct, when you could choose a dog bred for cuddling or carrying things unharmed.

  10. Kat, Holly & Bri January 28, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    Once again, sheer genius!

    Now if we could only convince the uneducated masses to at least do a Google search before deciding that a Fila is the perfect fit for their BBQ-hosting suburban family lifestyle…

  11. Chealsy January 28, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I can’t really agree on this. I get it breeds inherently have certain characteristics terriers have a short attention span are energetic and are way too curious for their own good by nature I get that. However you mention personalities these too are traits that are learned and not given by nature. Your argument is basically saying someone of the same decent as myself would have extremely similar if not exact personality characteristics. I mean we all have cousins who come from the same heirs can you honestly say we are all the same? Just because a breed has the same root characteristics does not mean they are hard wired to be the same. Again they have ” personalities” which are quirks and traits we as people inherit from our parents. So wouldn’t you think the personalities are influenced by the owner and how they were handled and raised? We all know dogs can be altered and trained if not a trainer would have no job. And you are taking this saying way too literally. I own three dogs three different breeds. German Shepherd, American bulldog / American Pitbull mix and a Jack Russell. Now by your theory with or without training my dogs would still be calm dogs suitable for public interaction or horrible little energetic monsters. I mean that is what your saying right since we have no right to take credit for their good characteristics and all? I’m just not buying it I feel you are literally contradicting yourself in your rant. Personality traits are not inherited they are learned.

    • TheDogSnobs January 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

      If we started two hundred years ago and bred your ancestors for specific traits and inbred our line bred for generations assuming we had enough generations because people are slow, then yes, you would be functionally the same as your relatives. You’d look alike, you’d sound alike, you’d be roughly the same size, and if we’d bred your lines for a willing and easy disposition you’d likely be that too. Comparing humans to dogs genetically doesn’t work. So no, I’m not saying that at all but good try.
      Less of your personality is learned than you believe, hence why there is a nature vs nurture debate and your theory blank slate is patently untrue not to mention arrogant.

      With training just about any dog can be decent but a proclivity to chase the mailman or hunt squirrels our be excessively protective or isn’t going to change because you say it doesn’t matter.

    • sarahjaneb January 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      “However you mention personalities these too are traits that are learned and not given by nature.”

      Nope, that’s not true for humans or dogs. A lot of temperament and personality is genetic in both. Some of it is due to environmental factors, but nowhere near 100%. And you’re confusing behavior with personality in your little “theory.” They’re not the same thing.

    • RowanVT January 30, 2014 at 7:19 am #

      If personality was all based on upbringing, you would not be able to rehab adult dogs from abusive situations.

      My Alyssum is a work in progress. Her ‘native’ temperament is super energetic, bouncy, playful, “gimme love NOW!”. But she was raised in an abusive situation. She was born, and lived, in a backyard. She was forbidden entry into the house and when I first got her would cower and cringe at doorways. She still cowers and cringes if you reach for her too quickly or sound angry. Around strangers she is cautious, and tends to hide. She’ll come up behind someone to sniff them and then run if they turn. But if you sit down and let her give a good sniff, she’ll let you pet her. A few visits to get to know people, and she’ll be hyper-bouncy-play-play-play with them. THAT is her personality. Her expressed behaviour is abused dog, but SHE is loving and charming.

  12. thephillydog (@thephillydog) January 28, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I hate to break it to you, but no, “pit bulls” are actually NOT a breed. An American Staffordshire Terrer is a breed. An American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed. But the terms “pitbull” and “pit bull” and “pit” are actually generic terms often used to describe all dogs with similar “bully” traits and characteristics.
    Sorry, couldn’t help myself. You had to have known, btw, that you would get all of the pitbull lovers (and yes, I love them, too) up in arms with this post – regardless of whether you mention them or not.
    Anyway, love your site. You crack me up.

    • TheDogSnobs January 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      Thanks for the unnecessary education. Generally we try not to spell things out too far because it’s condescending and pretty obnoxious but we’ll try here. The American Pit Bull Terrier, is a breed. How legitimate you find it to be is up to you, but it is in fact a breed like many others and considerably more defined than most with breeders, breed specific activities and shows and moderate recognition in some kennel clubs.

      And sane bully advocates are generally aware of the best and worst traits of what they’re probably getting in to. That’s also why rescues (Again entirely irrelevant to the entire post) temperament test.

  13. verna January 28, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    I can relate to this subject. I’m not going to get into the whole “Breed-Pitty” subject… First off people, Thedogsnob didn’t state this is a a scientific research, this is a blog. This is someone expressing something that many dog trainers deal with. So if this blog was given to me on a debate that certain breeds can’t be nature vs nurture… I’d say this doesn’t mean anything.
    Anyway… I do feel that this blog is very relatable to me dealing with clients that adopt street dogs, and think that all the love in the world will make these “street dogs” the perfect pet. I’m seeing a lot of clients rescuing dogs that are in need of serious behavior modifaction treatement/training and they become so confused and heartbroken when they find out that their love and effection isn’t enough to rehabiliate their dog.
    One client became so upset with me when they adobpted a “street dog” from India, and the dog was preying on their small pugs. They were a rich family with no prior experience with rescuing, but wanted to look like hero’s for resucing this unkown dog. But once they relized that work was needed, they became upset, and told me that they believe that ther dog can be trained out of his programed, learned, unsocolized, genetic nature.
    As dog trainers, we are there to help guide novice owners into finding that perfect forever dog.
    Shelters should also do the same.
    Thank you for this post. Even if people don’t like how it’s written, it still opens the door for such a taboo discussion.

  14. Paul Miller January 28, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    Anyway you cut it….. all pit bulls are decedents of pure fighting pits ….the only question is – How far removed they are from fighting stock? As evident from the seized Vick dogs – the further removed the less skilled they are at fighting or wanting to fight…Bait dogs are a new tool used by dogfighters as some pits today will not fight other animals w/o hesitation as those originally bred for fighting as late as the 1980s.
    Does one wonder why no pit bulls were in animal shelters prior to 1980? Why virtually none were listed as killing people prior to 1980?
    You have to look further back than 2000 to understand this breed of dog…. and yes they were recognized a s a breed by those that used them for fighting..

    • And Foster Makes 5 January 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

      None of what you are saying even makes sense when viewed from the perspective you support… if pit bull dogs are less likely to fight now then why would you say that management and environment have nothing to do with it? If all pit bulls are likely to fight why are there more in shelters now than previously? If they are less likely to fight now, why are there more bite statistics?

      I can tell you why. Media sensationalism and journalistic irresponsibility. The vast majority of reported ‘pit bull’ bites involve mixed breed dogs of unknown decent. What do you get when you cross a bull dog and a lab, or a boxer and a shepherd? Oftentimes boxy-faced dogs that people misidentify as pit bulls. Because there is so much variation in what people identify as a ‘pit bull dog’ it is impossible to classify them all as a group.

      • Leslie January 28, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

        Bingo! We have a winner! I agree 100%. And while some pit bulls are bred for fighting, aggression towards humans is BRED OUT in the breed. No one wants to get chewed while standing in the pit with their dog.

  15. Rachel Fuqua January 28, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

    I have 2 (rescued) purebred American Pit Bull Terriers, the male I got at 9 weeks and the female I got at 6 months. The male has never known a hard day in his life. The female came to me emaciated, scarred, beaten, broken, fearful, and with ears cut off with scissors. It took months of rehabilitation to get her back to being a normal dog. If you were to see them both now you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s had the rough past. They’ve both been very thoroughly socialized with people, kids, dogs, cats, bunnies, etc. BUT if the you-know-what hits the fan, they will both throw down without hesitation. All of the training and socialization we do just can’t undo generations of focused breeding. A hound who’s never been on a hunt will still follow his nose to the ends of the earth because his biology compels him to do so… in the same token, a “pit bull” may not start a fight, but if a fight is on, biology kicks in… We need to be aware of certain breeds genetic predisposition towards particular behaviors, accept them, and respond to them accordingly…

    • Ari January 28, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

      Yes!! This is the best, most responsible post I have ever read from a Pitbull… or any bully breed owner EVER.

    • Suzi October 23, 2014 at 3:25 am #

      The same is true for the Lhasa Apso. However, instead of being called aggressive, they are called lionhearted. If you have never owned a specific breed, you are in no position to judge them. Zippo.

  16. Liz Blue January 28, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Ahhhh. Thank you. I am a Rottie person. My first Rottie was a Buddha. No joke. My next, not so much. I love her to bits but she has some boundaries (tho not with me). One night in particular, a woman asked if she could pet her. I said no, she doesn’t like that. She said something that I ignored, as I keep my focus on my dog and not on random strangers, But then I heard her say “It is all in how you raise them.” Since besides spouting ignorance, she was insulting me, saying that since my dog didn’t like to be touched by any old person she didn’t even know (wow! like go get a stuffed animal if you want that!) it was somehow my fault, I couldn’t help but respond, “OK, if that were true, it would mean a dedicated dog owner, who would continue to get a new dog after their current one died, would essentially have the same dog over and over again.” Of course, it matters how you raise them. But its not ALL in how you raise them.

    • Penny January 28, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

      Temperament is hereditary. Period.

    • Kristen January 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

      Very true. People are taking the phrase to in insane level. A dog might become aggressive towards people if abused by people or not well socialized. But, it’s not a guarantee. There’s many dogs who have the sweetest temperament regardless of how they’ve been raised before rescue. Those dogs have been through hell.
      Some dogs don’t like to be touched all the time by strangers. We might be able to do a bit of training to make it tolerable. We can’t make them love it. There’s dogs who don’t like other dogs. Sometimes we have to accept that. Sometimes, we have to hope that the lady you met, won’t ever get a dog.

  17. Kristina January 28, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Loved this article. It spoke very close to my own opinion. A few things in other comments that bothered me… don’t assume some trait, physical builds, personalities, etc are ONLY nature versus nurture. We have DNA do define what we are, both the tangible and intangible. That being said your nurture has a huge factor on you development and your gene expression. They are both present and important!!!
    Breed traits are steriotypes and like it or not steriotypes work but not for EVERY single instance. The world doesn’t work in absolutes or ‘always’. At least not when you’re talking about dogs 🙂

  18. laurararah January 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    Thank you for writing this.

    I’m so tired of hearing people say: “discriminating between breeds is the same discriminating between human races, just like humans each dog is a beautiful unique snowflake.” No. I’m sorry. That’s not true. Idiot.

    We have spent 8,000+ years (arguably starting with the Saluki or a similar sighthound) breeding different dogs for different traits and uses. That’s why pointers start pointing at 7 weeks old, border collies will nip at your heels, and YES pit bulls have a tendency toward dog aggression if the owner doesn’t curb that behavior early.

    Choose your breed carefully, and if you choose to rescue and your chosen rescue dog looks a lot like a sharpei…prepare to have a guard dog on your hands. If your rescue dog long-bodied, small, and has short stubby legs…prepare for it to chase small animals and bark a lot like a Dachshund might do. Etc. You may be surprised, but you probably won’t be.

  19. Selma January 28, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    This also drives me nuts, and I agree with you – it’s a combination of nature and nurture.

    Obviously, some dogs are still bred for actual work. However, it is a small number, under 5%, and most breeds today are bred for looks, ie, the show /companion dog stream, where every breed behaves the same way in the ring, certainly here in N America.

    That’s why Joe’s Bullmastiff is friendly with strangers while Barbara’s sits on the mailman – every single time. Both are true to type, it’s working streams vs pet streams. People want the look of a Ridgeback but most of them don’t really want a Ridgeback, for example.

    A group in Hungary well known for behavioural research did a preliminary study and found that GSDs and Vizslas were virtually identical in behaviour when raised as pets. Obviously, more investigation is required but it made for interesting reading..
    [Preliminary analysis of an adjective-based dog personality questionnaire developed to measure some aspects of personality in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) Erika Mirkó∗, Eniko˝ Kubinyi, Márta Gácsi, Ádám Miklósi Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary Applied Animal Behaviour Science 138 (2012) 88– 98]

    There’s also the fact genes are slippery little guys. You can breed a line of working dogs but not all of them have the “talent” for want of a better term, to display the true working ability of that breed. They have a better chance due to selection, but still, any honest breeder will tell you that not all their Border collies herd.

    However, the current mantra about ‘blaming the owners’ and ‘it’s in how you raise them’ is nothing but bollocks – and I say that as a long-term advocate against BSL and for laws that actually work and are based on some science. I could have been raised by different parents and turned out very differently, but my inherited traits – quickness to respond, intelligence level, intensity, physical ability, sensory capacity, etc, will ultimately dictate what I can and cannot, or will and will not, do. That said, it’s much more complex than my ethnic background, which is what breed really is.

  20. Lisa Head January 29, 2014 at 1:49 am #

    When a nutter says “it’s all in how they are raised” I tend to agree. However!! “How they were raised” needs to be expanded to dozens of generations…….not just this one!!

  21. shirleybird January 29, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    Hear, hear! I have two rescues, one rescued at age 5 who still cringes if I raise my arm too rapidly yet we have never hit him although I suspect the previous owner did. Our other rescue was a mere 4 weeks when we fostered her and her siblings after they had been dumped in a forest. She has always been with us, so it isn’t about how you raise them – she is a naturally nervous dog. Her siblings have all been adopted and only one is nervous to the same extent.

    Training only goes so far. If we don’t notice a stroller coming or an umbrella going up, she gets worked up and fearful. If we do notice, we can get her turned around or sat to wait for it to go past. We live n an area where she has almost daily exposure to both these things and has never had a bad experience with either.

    Mother was a street dog. Nerves may be in her genes.

    • EJH October 24, 2014 at 1:10 am #

      I have had two dogs, from littermates from my own bitch.

      Of the current pair, the male is a big friendly goof and the female is afraid of everything. The make will do as asked — when he’s in the mood. The female works willingly and beautifully – just so long as she is working in a familiar atmosphere.

      Of the previous pair, both bitches, one was a “Princess” — :Look at me, I’m beautiful” or “But I’m beautiful why do I have to do that!” but she was lovely to train and work. Her sister was a “stomp along-like-that” dog. She just wanted to be loved. She did NOT want to want to work, I tried her once with the “101 things to do with a box” game — she laid down touching the box and went to sleep.

  22. Wargmom January 29, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    This is a great post; thank you, Dog Snobs! I would never expect my Boxer not to have at least the inclination to jump or use his front paws for practically everything, nor would I expect my chug mix to run a marathon. I adopted our Boxer because we love the smart, protective and hardworking instincts of that breed, and their energy and goofiness. We expect and signed up for a high energy dog with great exercise needs and a goofy personality. We also love our mellow, couch potato chug girl, who is happy to just snuggle. Raised them both; completely different needs and personalities.

  23. Mike B January 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    I think the flaw in the genes vs how you raise them discussion is neither of them can tell you about the individual dog in front of you. While certain breeds may have originally been bred for certain characteristics many of these have been dumbed down or completely disappeared due to breeders trying to meet the demand of the public and the physical appearance desired by the AKC.

    That Malinois performing a live bite on a fleeing criminal during the evening news is a world apart from the Malinois circling in the show ring. Your red and black AKC Champion sired Shepherd is not going to bite on to a Schutzhund sleeve and stay for the ride. The Jack Russell you got off nextdaypets is probably not going to be able to clear your barn of rats.

    I’m tired of hearing “you shouldn’t get a Malinois they have too much drive for you” or “You have children so get xyz breed.” The dog, not the breed, has to be evaluated to match the person.

    While I mostly use GSD and Malinois in this post because that is what I have the most experience with this applies to all breeds.

    • And Foster Makes 5 January 29, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

      Thank you. This, this, a thousand times this. The breed (which is sometimes only a best guess!) may set the outliers of a dog’s personality (minimum and maximum sociability, min and max prey drive, etc) but nurture is what shows us where the dog will fall in that continuum. As you said, the trends in breeds have certainly changed over the years. The GSD we see in the conformational show ring these days would not physically or mentally compare to the working GSD. So to say that all dogs in a breed are going to have the same traits is to be short-sighted and naive.

      • TheDogSnobs January 30, 2014 at 1:52 am #

        For the last damn time (maybe you’ll read it this time), we’re not talking about mutts. And you’re really just wrong. Not every single dog is going to be the same, we’ve been over it repeatedly. But if you go in with the belief that you have a blank slate, you’re a moron.

        And particularly in terms of Malinois, about half the show-lines aren’t that far removed from their working counterparts, so the split isn’t nearly as defined as GSDs, and you can finish most working lines in AKC easily. You can’t special them, but a CH is doable in under a year. It’s not even close to shepherds in the split but it’s in the same realm. The big show-line issue is the preponderance of shitty/spooky temperaments which bad breeders put off to “how they are”. Anecdotally the puppy that’s possibly arriving in April is about half working half-show when you combine her sire/dam’s last 3 generations.

      • Lucy Ohannessian January 30, 2014 at 3:33 am #

        This is getting monotonous. There are many lovely Pit Bulls, and no, not all graded as Pit Bulls are that. But where traits matter, is if you adopt a Pit puppy and he’s all Mr. Love at age two, you let him frolic at the dog park under-supervised at your own risk. And HIS. You can have two years of lovely and then comes a day of dread where you are looking at the consequence of your folly. Obviously, if your adopted Pit is four and nothing but a loveabug to every dog he meets, then fine. But when you adopt a dog of Pit type as a pup, knowing of certain propensities can stop some very bad things from happening with simple management protocols. And that is part of responsible ownership.

        If you want a Pit Bull who will be as lovely as a lamb, adopt an adult. If you choose to adopt a puppy, then practice proper protocols until he is fully mature and the breadth of who he is becomes clear. That recent San Fran disaster with Charlie the Pit Bull and the police horse is a great example. The day you find out how driven your teenage Pit Bull really is blends really badly with a public place and no leash. A non existent reality for a Cocker Spaniel.

        I have been a Pit Bull advocate for twenty years, and viewpoints such are yours are truly injurious. Out of concern for the dog’s future, I could not possibly adopt a Pit puppy to someone of this mindset.

      • And Foster Makes 5 January 30, 2014 at 3:37 am #

        You are truly insane. Yes I am very strict with the management of my pit bulls. But I would apply those same guidelines to ANY dog of ANY breed. That’s where YOU are a dangerous dog owner and “advocate”. Why must you all be so hateful if you are so confident in your own perspectives?

      • Jennifer May 14, 2014 at 4:18 am #

        But there are a lot of “ring” breeders who have recognized that, and who are making strides to get “working” back into their lines. Certainly in a lot of the sporting breeds. Why do you think the phrase “a balanced dog has titles at both ends” has become so popular?

        At the end of a day, a blanket statement is NEVER true 100% of the time. BUT. A GSD was bred to PUT something somewhere and KEEP IT THERE. Period. That is what defines it as being a GSD. A vizsla was bred to lock on to a bird. A mastiff was bred to guard. These dogs were bred to do a job. You can “like it or not”, but our “pure bred dogs” were ALL bred to a purpose. Just because we don’t put them to their originally intended purpose doesn’t mean we didn’t spend THOUSANDS OF YEARS breeding a certain instinct into them. That will not be completely undone by even a hundred years of “breeding for the ring”.

      • EJH October 24, 2014 at 1:13 am #

        it is a LONG time since I’ve seen a German Shepherd Dog in the show ring. All I’ve seen lately are cripples that are descended from German Shepherd Dogs

    • RowanVT January 30, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      Please, enlighten me on how you can tell exactly how a puppy will be as an adult? Find me a malinois at 8 weeks old that you can guarantee will be mellow and laid back.

      We’re dealing in statistics here. The majority of breed x are like y. Most goldens are people-loving doofuses. Some are aggressive assholes, but they are quite far between, and you can’t always tell when their a pup if they’re going to be a dick. So while there’s a chance of ending up with a nasty golden if you get a puppy, statistically they’re a better choice to get if you have kids than a malinois.

  24. Lucy Ohannessian January 29, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    A dog fancy judge/mentor of old impressioned upon me to look at the worst case scenario possible with a breed, and if you are not able to handle that version, then it is not ethical to take on that breed. That is a basic of of entering ownership responsibly. And why I do not own a Kerry Blue 😉

    But there is a flip side. Those who in raising a puppy assume it is “all that” and never give a chance for the individual to present himself. They over anticipate. Over-handle, over-manage and overreact to qualities they were geared to accept and may or may not now be seeing. They, as well, bring dogs to unfortunate conclusions.

    In one of my breeds (and no, most probably should not have one), far too many bow to the infamous potential traits of the Giant Schnauzer. Cease taking them to playdates the first time they strike an erect pose; in seeing the “Giant prance” with another dog oncoming, give a hard check, or a “sit, sit, SIT!”; freak the first time they see some rough play go down; worry about thresholds in the face of a breed that is naturally animated. Socially inhibiting, sending every wrong message, and never giving the dog a chance…..”because” he’s a Giant. Yes, he’s that – highly trainable, exceptionally adaptable and good natured, brilliant as all get out and quite willing to do a lot if it gets him included. You need to understand the breed entirely, not just his “traits.”

    This is equally why it is the exception when I go to help someone with their “high drive” dog that I find they actually have one. Just teenage energy explosions, boundary testing, keener environmental responses. Very commonly at this time, dogs get less exposure because they are “high drive” when in fact they are simply teenagers exploring their world. Cut off from exposures at a critical age, it is injurious to their overall development.

    Moral – know your breed. Don’t simply know the traits. Those aren’t suspended in midair, unattached. Respect them, but know the breadth of the equation, breed potential as regards its challenges, and the scope they offer to reach some ultimate sum. Then, see where you land. Because ***within breed parameters***, it can be, in the end, how you raise them after all.

    • Theresa January 30, 2014 at 1:45 am #

      As usual, well said.

  25. heavyfool January 29, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    This was a great post and it reaffirmed some of the things I had observed with our different family pets over the years. Great comments as well.

    When I was only about 5 years old my dad brought home our first dog; a beautiful young German Shepard that had been given to us (we lived on a sizeable acreage) by it’s previous owner because it had developed a taste for cats. She took to us immediately, but my farm-raised father warned us in no uncertain terms that you had to respect her boundaries. You were never to bother her when she was eating, etc. While she never so much as growled at anyone in the family, in fact she would block my parents if they were threatening to spank one of us, she was a threat to anyone or anything that came near our home.

    In my teen years we had terrier cross that was so bonded to me that he would not let me out of his sight when I was home. When we left him for a week on a relative’s farm while on vacation; we returned to find her chewing on a rabbit carcass, all fat and indifferent to us. She had gone feral on her farm stay, completely eliminating the resident rabbit population that had been living under the buildings (the farm dogs were too big to root them out, but not our terrier mix). This formerly socialized pet was never the same and ended up eventually running away for good after we returned home. This dramatic change in behaviour from a loving pet to an indifferent predator was a tough lesson at the time, but it drove home the point that our pets weren’t always that way.

    Finally, as a father myself years later, we had a bichon cross. This cute little puff-ball never broke the skin of anything that wasn’t cooked, was sociable and non-threatening around other animals and never showed any aggression except to bark at passers-by out of the window. One day my wife was walking it near our home and he spotted a nearby gopher running from hole to hole. The dog lunged for it, pulling the leash out of my started wife’s hand and sunk its teeth into the rodents neck, snapping it with a quick shake. Then he kind of looked around, almost like he didn’t know what he had done or what to do next. Well the other part of the cross breed was a spaniel…

    • RowanVT January 30, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      That reminds me of my first dog when he caught a field mouse at 7 months old. We were walking by some ivy and he paused and cocked his head for a moment, long enough for me to stop walking to see what was up. Then he leaped straight into the air and came down forelegs stiff into the plants, and when he popped his head up… there was a tail dangling from his lips. He had the most confused expression as he stood there with a live mouse inside his mouth. I got him to spit it out, but after that… any creature that met his jaws met a quick end and was a meal.

  26. Keechy February 4, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    I always believed in breed traits, but i must admit that within those retraints I often felt nurture was all important in how a dog turned out. Till I got the pup that we raised the same as all the others, but who was overly-reactive and a bugger with strangers. We trained a lot, we managed what we couldn’t change, and we loved her to bits, but she still took a lot of our energy all her life. But, she taught me more in my time with her than any dog before or since, and she also showed me that when people came to our club classes with a difficult dog, it wasn’t always their fault how a dog was. It made me a better trainer. And yes all those posts on ‘a dog is what you make them’ make me wild. They are all a mix of inherited breed traits, gestational and early nutrition, early learning, how they are raised, and their own unique personality. Anyone who has raised a litter carefully knows how early the pups start showing their differences. Saying they are only what we make them is like saying they are robots, and they aren’t.

  27. Jenny R March 28, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    Brilliant and succinct writing, and the whole ‘I’d be an asshole if…’ illustration should be comprehendable by reality-tv-fanatic set. Not likely to be absorbed, unfortunately, but translatable, by any means. That I found it both striking and damned funny. ❤

  28. Bobbie Kolehouse April 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on Especially Spaniels and commented:
    Breeds are breeds. Do your research before you bring home that beauty.

    • Justinekay Merrill April 22, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

      “Why do we see so many labs in shelters? They are illegitimately bred because the country has been brainwashed to believe that these dogs will automatically be obedient, child friendly, and love the water. .

      I am working two lab puppies, same age, one is a jem of a dog from a top notch breeder. kept in with litter mates until 8 weeks.
      The other puppy is a serious biter, with no temper control, serious about biting at 10 weeks of age. that one was from the newspaper. that puppy was sold at 5.5 weeks of age, which compounds the problem.
      family one is very happy, dog has been so easy to work. at 5 months is a perfect puppy gentleman.
      family two has gashes on their arms and are very frustrated. the arousal rate on the puppy is mach speed with no back down at all. at five months they are struggling with a 50 barracuda/wolf/ “oh looks its a lab”. with a bad temper.

      I have been seeing this for years. breed a nice dog to a nice dog, get a nice dog. that’s what my mentor said 20 years ago.

      my dog came from a topnotch breeder, 35 years of work to breed an outstanding sheltie. I got her at 12 months out of the big kennel runs( played with dogs all day). it took 40 days to train her, including starter agility. serifina was naïve, and unsophisticated, but totally sound. rock solid temperament. she did not get the modern mandatory socialization ,it did not matter, serifina is calm and easy to work. from day one. genetics counts.

      I am tired of the “socialization” excuse. a solid dog is a solid dog.
      I hate backyard breeders and designer dogs. the dog trainer cannot fix all the bad breeding problems.

      so that’s my rant for the day.

  29. Justinekay Merrill April 22, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    “Bingo! We have a winner! I agree 100%. And while some pit bulls are bred for fighting, aggression towards humans is BRED OUT in the breed. No one wants to get chewed while standing in the pit with their dog.”

    I love this post, I see a lot of theses dogs, the dog loves the owner, is able to be handled by people, because the pit fighters need the dogs to be managed by people, but they have the kill dog gene. its the most dangerous situation. be very cautious when working theses dogs, they can and will kill other dogs.
    ok off to work

    • Justinekay Merrill April 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

      this dog often presents with a lab exterior, that’s where the people gene comes from, but its like watching an alligator rise from the depths when they see another dog. starts about 8-10 months of age. recuse pass them out by the handful here in the NW,
      really off to work now

  30. FlipFlopBeotch May 14, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    Reblogged this on Twisted Rescue Bitches in Flip Flops.

  31. amy May 26, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    you SUCK u SICK SHIT u WASTE of SPACE MOTHER FUCKER WORTHLESS FUCKTARD i wish i could some how meet u and BEAT the FUCK out of u ur a PUSSY HA u need to be TAUGHT a LESSON lets see how you RANK up against all the ANIMAL LOVERS in this WORLD or better yet just AGAINST ME aha GOOD LUCK i feel sorry for you cause KARMA is a mother fucker she is the only BITCH u should be concerned about well and me too and that is just the way it is HEY DO US ALL A FAVOR AND GO KILL YOURSELF cause you takin up space that could be used by someone with common sense and a heart. OH AND BY THE WAY I HOPE YOUR DEATH IS LONG EXTREMELY PAINFUL AND I HOPE IT BRINGS YOU SO MUCH AGONY MORE PAIN THAN YOU HAVE INFLICTED ON THESE ANIMALS IN YOUR LIFE AND I HOPE IT IS NOT A FAST DEATH I HOPE IT TAKES YEARS TO COME TO A END FOR YOU. and whoever the fuck you are kno that even in death i will seek and i will find you and u will feel pain that u didnt even kno was possible thats a promise u can keep in mind but u wont have to worry about that until after ur death here on earth

  32. Tamandra Michaels October 15, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    Bravo! If people would do their research before choosing a companion, there would be a hell of a lot less heartache all around. People seem to mostly go on appearance, and vague qualities they think a breed has. I’m a GSD gal, and believe show lines are almost a different breed altogether, My last guy was definitely “flukey”, but a great “training wheels” for my first working line GSD, and now I have a very typical working line youngster. An adjustment from previous, but not a rude awakening, as I knew what I wanted, and can know what to expect with the genetics.
    I love your blog!

  33. EJH October 16, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Too many comments to read them all, but this article annoys me.

    YES, there is a LOT in genetics — basically genetics provide the potential, and yes we have breed domestic dogs for different purposes.

    Staffies Bull Terriers and associated breeds do have greater potential to cause injuries when they get involved in dog fights, than most other breeds. Terriers are more likely to dig, Hounds are more likely to give chase to a fleeing animal.
    But, the most human aggressive dog I have ever known was a Black Labrador, and I’ve known some pretty cranky and aggressive Australian Terriers and Cocker Spaniels amongst others. One of the gentlest and best natured dogs I’ve ever met was a Pit Bull Terrier

    If anyone thinks they can buy a Kelpie pup, even from good working parents, and get good working dog with poor rearing practices and without out any training, they are seriously deluded.
    Or get a good seeing eye dog by buying a pup from two good seeing-eye dog parents. Or a good gun dog, or Police Dog, or ….. or …….
    Or for that matter those poor deluded women who had babies from a Nobel Prize winner’s sperm donation and expected to get a child that would win the Nobel Prize 😦

    • pommom101690 October 24, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      I think this is more geared at people who think they can undo genetics with training. I don’t doubt that the dogsnobs know that you can’t just buy a herding dog and expect it to be a good herder. You have to train it, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense to by a cattle dog to train to do that than it is to buy a pom.

  34. pommom101690 October 24, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    I casually scroll through your old entries from time to time. I just read this one. I cannot agree with you more.Some breeds are just hardwired to be a certain way.

    Several years ago, my friend stole a puppy from her crackhead (I don’t mean this as an insult, It’s an accurate description) cousin. He had apparently one said puppy in a poker game. He had this 8 week old puppy chained outside, so she just took her. This guy hung out with some unsavory characters, and it was rumored the puppies mother was a prize fighting dog and the dad was a huge St Bernard. Sounds like a nice combo, right?

    As this dog grew, she was almost unmanageable. My friend has shown dogs for years, so she wasn’t a novice dog owner.

    The dog was very dog aggressive and didn’t want anything to do with anyone but my friend.

    Despite a loving home and countless hours of training. she busted their door open and attacked a neighbor’s horse. The neighbor shot her times before she let go.

    That was more than 10 years ago, and looking back, I am sure my friend wishes she had had her euthanized.

    It’s not a pretty story, but there is no denying that nothing she did was going to undo what genetics dealt her.

    That being said, I have a Pomeranian who is the most well-behaved dog. She loves all people, including children, dogs, and cats. It;s been great for me, but there is one huge downside. It’s the number of people that meet Zoe and think oh my, what a nice a dog. She likes our three year old. Let’s get a Pom. I have to explain until I am blue in the face, on a regular basis, that Zoe isn’t a typical pom.

  35. EJH November 12, 2014 at 2:55 am #


    I DID not ‘misread’ your comment.
    You said that “the only physical clues that she is an Australian Cattle Dog mix are a few smatterings of random white flecks in her orange coat, and eyes of a particular wide, round shape. Her behavior, however, almost exactly matches an ACD.”
    For a start the behaviour that you describe is certainly NOT Cattle Dog. Neither are white flecks in an orange coat, or “wide round eyes” characteristic of Cattle Dogs.
    Certainly your “mutt’ might just have some Queensland Blue Heeler in her, but the characteristics that you describe do not indicate this.
    Cattle dogs have a high degree of Dingo in ther breeding, and Carolina dogs ressemble Dingos in appearance so I would really suspect that with your being in the US, she had Carolina Dog in her mix.
    And by the way, I have owned Cattle Dogs, and known many more. You tend to NOT see them in the cities, because they are NOT suitable as city pets.

    • Pamela November 13, 2014 at 12:23 pm #


      *sigh* Did I not make it clear that I understood I had never met an ACD in Australia because I had never lived in a rural area there? Maybe your reading comprehension issues have more to do with impatience than a lack of intellect, but perhaps you just consider the idea that while “Australian cattle dog” and “Queensland blue heeler” may mean the same thing to you, and are in fact used almost interchangeably in Idaho (along with ‘dingo’, which annoys me, but… hey, not a lot of real dingos running around Idaho, so it probably doesn’t matter), they don’t meant the same thing at all in any of the four US southern states in which I have lived. I am very much involved in dog rescue, and most of the dogs I work with are either neglected farm dogs (herders or guardians of one sort or another), hounds who have lost their packs, or pit bulls. I have never heard anyone hear utter the words “Queensland blue heeler”, and ‘heeler’ is rarely used at all. When it is, the adjective ‘red’ is MORE likely to accompany the term than ‘blue’.

      Clearly there is some overlap, but we are apparently not talking about the same thing at all.

      And just so you know, I am changing the filters on my e-mail because I tried to resist the temptation to respond to your previous e-mail, and I failed. I really haven’t got time in my life to argue with someone who suffers from and obsessive need to do battle with strangers halfway across the world… over such a petty thing as some dumb yank who thinks her dog acts like an ACD.

      Perhaps we should have established what ACD means to you, and what it means to me before we even started.

      Spilled milk.

      Go get a life.

      I’m going to write some poetry.

      • EJH November 13, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

        You take everything FAR too personally. In fact my response was really to the group, not to you personally.

        And I suppose I was supporting the point made in the article we are discussing – that genes count too! The starting point was ‘If you have a dog that runs 10 Km a day for fun, it is NOT due to any Australian Cattle Dog genes’ – sounds much more like a hound to me!

        For a start it was more to address the US habit of referring to their motley lot of cross breeds as ACDs. Here they are always called Cattle Dogs, or Hall’s Heelers or Blue Heelers. (Unless they are Show bred.)

        So maybe I should just think of ACD as referring to a mixed bag of American Cross Breeds? Along with the (offensively named) Australian Shepherd which has never until recently exported to ‘breeders’ here, seen the light of day on Australia. We don’t actually ever “shepherd” dogs here in Australia, so wold neve have ‘shepherd’ dogs. And they are all wrong for any working dog in Australia, except maybe Tasmania, in winter!

        > I really haven’t got time in my life to argue with someone who suffers from and obsessive need to do battle with strangers halfway across the world>
        Sorry, but I love our Australian Breeds, and don’t like to see them thought of as the weird lot that seem to one referred to as ACDs in the US.
        Obviously you and I have different standards of dog breed identification. But why refer to a cross breed working dog by a name that identifies a Kennel Association breed? (RASKC, AKC)

  36. EJH November 12, 2014 at 3:01 am #
    American site I know — but some good pictures.
    And here a nice blue and red together.

  37. loveabull December 23, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    As usual you’re right on target about dog behavior. Some of it can be how you raise them, but especially when you adopt an adult sometimes training can’t undo a dog with a basically crappy view of the world.
    My boy is a lover with us. I don’t have young kids and I had experience before we got him to know what we were getting into. With the wrong family my boy could have just as easily ended up seized as a dangerous dog.
    Working with him on his stranger aggression is an ongoing thing…and will probably always be. He is a muscular, powerful dog…who is a big baby with family, women and children. But yeah genes and his past can’t be fluffed away.

  38. KaD June 30, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    NOTHING effects a dogs behavior more than BREED. If this was not the case you could train a poodle to point, a beagle to herd, or a dachshund to pull a sled. This is why you can’t take a breed designed to be the ultimate canine gladiator and with a few belly rubs turn it into ‘just a dog’. This is why, time after time, low knowledge owners are caught off guard when their game bred pit bulls does exactly what it was BRED to do. People who can’t even admit what this breed was made for (HINT: it involved a PIT and a BULL) have little chance of NOT failing their dog.


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