How to Distinguish and Identify Dog Temperaments
As trainers, it is incumbent upon us to get to know our dog as well as possible. We need to understand their moods, reactions to specific stimuli, and the periods of their ups and downs. This includes everyday living experiences, not just during training. These observations and understandings will help you in your training.
Coupled with the above, is knowing what temperament you are dealing with. In order to deal with a certain temperament, you must be able to identify it. After identifying it, you must devise a plan to work with it, in order to make that temperament work in favor of training. Since we are dealing with the Arctic breeds only in this book, it is a bit easier to narrow down the types of temperament we are facing. For the most part, we will not find ourselves with a vicious temperament, just a stubborn, hard-headed one.
Within each dog, there is a different temperament. There are also degrees of a certain temperament. Let’s check out, and distinguish, what we are looking for in temperament, in relation to training:
Attentiveness: This is especially important in obedience. You need your dog to pay attention to you and the tasks at hand. This is not to indicate that we’re looking for a dog that will drool all over you from morning till night, or glue himself to your leg every time you move. It’s the puppy that comes to you every time from the litter. It’s the puppy with that special sparkle in his eye. It’s the new adult dog that pays attention to you, more than anyone else. This is what we’re looking for, more than any other trait. This is not to say that dogs without these traits are not trainable. They are however, a plus to consider when choosing a puppy, adult dog, or adolescent, with obedience in mind. This should also be remembered for other purposes. Obedience is not just AKC OBEDIENCE. Obedience crosses over all lines, and is a key word in training for showing, sledding, weightpulling, skijoring, backpacking, movie training, etc.
In order to learn to work within any one of these realms, the dog must be able to learn, and obey certain commands. This takes training, and obedience of differing kinds, but obedience, non-the-less.
Reaction: You’re not looking for a dog that will run at an abrupt, loud sound. Conversely, your not looking for one that will sleep through a grenade blast either. You’re looking for one that is somewhere in between. Reaction has a broad range of meanings. In our use of the word, we’ll isolate it to how your dog reacts to specific stimuli. These stimuli can be of many different types as well. The main ones we’re concerned with are, reactions to everyday occurrences, changes in environment and everyday occurrences, reaction to sudden startling events, reaction to people, other dogs, other animals, and above all, reaction to authority.
Not stern, forceful authority, but suggestions to things that you would like the dog or puppy to do, rather than their own ideas. The reaction to these authoritative suggestions is clearly dependent upon the manner in which they are suggested to
In other words, if you are checking to see what the dog or puppy’s reactions are to a collar and leash for the first time, you are apt to find that it is not a good reaction, if administered roughly, or incorrectly. Reactions are just that. Responses to outside stimuli. They can be spontaneous, but also controlled, depending upon how the stimulus is administered. For example: We want to find out the reaction of a 10 week old puppy to a leash and collar being used for the first time. First, we’re not going to start obedience training at this age, but it is wise to start getting the puppy used to the collar and leash at a very young age. If we grab the puppy forcefully, force the collar over the puppy’s head, snap on the leash and begin dragging him around, the reaction is going to be obvious. We’ll have one screaming, pulling, squirming, and frightened puppy on our hands. If we do it properly, gently, and slowly, we will get a different reaction.
Each reaction is controlled by us to a great degree. So, to sum up, any investigation into the reactions of a dog or puppy, to determine temperament, is to be done diligently, carefully, and with a great amount of respect for the dogs sensibilities. Many dogs have been judged to have a poor temperament, when in fact, they have been the victims of an uninformed human, quick to label. Temperament is largely judged by learned responses to these stimuli, especially in an older dog. Take this into consideration when testing for temperament.
You will know aggression when you see it. Any form of aggravated aggression is not acceptable. Playful aggression is something else entirely. The puppy that snarls while pulling on a play rope with another puppy, or yourself, is not tobe placed in the aggressive column we are defining…read more about dog agression here
Retention: This one is the easiest to check for. It is however sometimes confused with stubbornness. Often these two are hard to distinguish from each other. Here’s a relatively quick example, to bring together what I am rambling about: How many times does it take for your dog to learn to sit after each stop when heeling? It varies greatly, depending on your training abilities, your dog’s stubbornness, and your dog’s ability to retain learned responses. Let’s say you consider yourselfto be a pretty good trainer. That means you have probably trained other dogs. This gives you an advantage over others, in that, all things being equal, you only have to decide if the dog is being stubborn, or is not able to retain. For those that do not have this advantage, it is incumbent upon you to administer a few different tests for the dog or puppy. Simple, generally easy to learn things, that can be used as a test of retention. Good ones for puppies are, socialization and housebreaking. Ever notice that it takes longer for one dog to learn, not to urinate in the house than another, even though you trained them exactly the same. Even though each dog is an individual (not cookie cutters), and learning is directly attributable to the teaching (or in this case, training), techniques, you can begin to get an idea of which dog is able to retain more and faster than another. For our purposes, more and faster, is better.
Rescesiveness: Right along with aggression, I must point out that a dog or puppy that is too shy or reclusive in nature is not a good candidate for obedience. Again, that is not to say this type of temperament cannot be trained, and do well.
In general however, it is best to rule this type out. Energy can be lost in trying to overcome a negative trait. This type of behavioral response to outside stimuli can even come from a learned experience traceable, back to the whelping box. It must be remembered, that puppies, in whelping boxes, are not monitored every minute of every day by humans. This means that there are times when the puppies are left either with mom or on their own. Even mom can step on a puppy, and this can possibly manifest itself into a fear of some type. Each puppy will handle a situation like that differently at that young an age. It can be forgotten, or stay with a puppy for years, or forever. It can also, usually be worked out over time, if the learned experience is detected, and properly handled.
In reflection, it is not a clear cut, and definitive set of rules, that outline the way in which you chose a puppy or dog for obedience. There are many variables. There are ways to determine specifics, and they are not always fool-proof and exacting. A test that works for one trainer, may not lend the same results for another. The results found by one person may not be interpreted the same as the exact same results, by another person. With this, you can see, it would be impossible for anyone to give direct responses to questions concerning a dogs temperament, without firsthand knowledge of the animal, it’s behavioral patterns, and history. This iswhy generalizations become a large part of the answers to questions. This is also why many mistakes are made in the choosing process.
In your search for the right dog or puppy, remember to give them the benefit of the doubt on any given day. Administer your little tests on different days and at different times of the day. Animals, like humans, have their off times, and off days. The response you get tomorrow may be entirely different than the one you get today. Should this happen, don’t leave it at that. Try again, a third and forth time. This will give you a better idea of the real attitude, response, or trait, given an average to base it on.
What to expect From Your Dog
Today, more and more, we find that people expect unbelievable feats of accomplishment from all aspects of life than were previously though reasonable. Many things contribute to this strain on humans and animals alike. Television, Movies, News Broadcasts, and sensational specials, depict animals in feats of daring, and performing acts that only the most advanced trainers should attempt…read more