Genetics & the Social Behavior of Dogs

by Adrienne Farricelli Google
    Now, that's a social dog eager to make friends.

    Now, that's a social dog eager to make friends.

    Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

    Just as humans, some dogs are social butterflies who like to mingle with other dogs and party, while some others are much more aloof and would rather be left alone. If you are wondering what may cause such distinct differences among doggie social behaviors, a trip into the intriguing world of genetics may provide some clues.

    Genetic Cocktail

    No other species in the world is as diverse as the dog. Tiny, small, large, extra-large, massive, long and compact, dogs seem to come in all shapes and sizes. Along with a vast mosaic of physical characteristics comes a nice variety of different behavioral traits. Is your dog stubborn, independent, biddable, social or standoffish? The cause of such variety stems back to when humans started selectively breeding dogs for specific purposes.

    Like Father, Like Son

    Who's your daddy? This question is important in that you are looking for a pup who will grow up to become a social, friendly dog, just like the good old-fashioned Lassie. A good place to start is by finding a reputable, ethical breeder who puts an emphasis on breeding for good health and temperament besides looks. Ask your breeder for some honest feedback on the behavior of the pup's parents and grandparents before making a final commitment, suggests veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman.

    What's in a Breed?

    The breed you choose can have a significant impact on how social your puppy becomes. While it's true that there are stable specimens in all breeds, some breeds do appear to have a predisposition for more skittish, anti-social behaviors than others. For instance, certain breeds can be naturally aloof toward strangers because they were selectively bred to guard homes, people and valuables, whereas livestock guardians can be naturally standoffish due to their history of working independently and bonding more with livestock than with people or other dogs.

    Nature Versus Nurture

    While you cannot change your dog's genetic makeup, extensive time spent training and socializing your puppy during that brief critical window of socialization ending around 12 weeks of age is time well invested that can really make a difference in how social your puppy turns out. Introducing a puppy to 100 different people by the age of 12 weeks is highly recommended according to veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer Dr. Ian Dunbar.

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    About the Author

    Adrienne Farricelli has been a writer since 2005, serving as an editor, steward and writer for several online publications. She brings expertise in canine topics, previously working with the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification as a dog trainer from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Farricelli offers reward-based training and behavior consults at Rover's Ranch Home Boarding and Training.

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