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Nature VS Nurture in breeding.

Discussion in 'Dog Debates' started by Poisoned, Aug 19, 2013.

  1. Poisoned

    Poisoned GRCH Dog

    This is NOT another NVN - animal aggression in bull breeds discussion. Please don't steer it that way! :lol:

    I have only thought this recently because I've gotten into rats. And an interest in breeding them. I am mostly using the guidance of a man in Australia who has a big breeding program and a lot of others follow his lead. They take aggression in domestic rats very serious as it's easy to pass down. Even mothers with maternal aggression seem to produce rat/human-aggressive males and more maternal-aggressive females.

    When asked "How do you socialize your pups (rat pups) -How do you choose who to keep for breeding and who to (cull)?"

    He does not handle nor socialize the babies. Nothing out of routine or extra is done for them. Most pet breeders and people tell you to handle them FROM BIRTH to make them as social as possible. The reason to not do so, is a rat who has a truly good temperament won't have to be desensitized daily to handling to be friendly. The ones who are like this, are kept, they're bred. The ones who act feral are not. After so many generations of doing this, or culling maternally aggressive mothers, rat and human aggressive rats, and so on, he has probably the best-temperamented line of rats anywhere.

    In stark contrast, a totally unrelated experiment, aggressive rats bred to aggressive rats for generations created rats with such an aggression to humans, one man said: "I got the feeling that 10 or 20 of them would probably kill me if they got out of the cages."

    At the same time, they had been breeding the same blood, the same rats, separately for gentleness and sociability. And guess what - they were.

    The thought that goes into not handling and pounding socializing into breeding prospects, and simply picking the ones who are naturally good, friendly, not scared or aggressive, is that when you handle a *rat* from birth, you spend time every day desensitizing it to you, bribing it with treats and affection and making it so that once it's an adult it's a cuddly nice rat. But I think that is the nurture you see. You see what you created. Not who/what that animal is.

    And, upon learning all of this very recently, I wondered if it was so different for dogs. When it comes to breeding.

    Now, on an individual basis. I do not think you can change the core of who or what a dog is with any method there is. I think you can change the way most dogs will behave by teaching (whether the teaching is harsh, negative, or positive) and desensitizing. You could take a puppy who will grow up to be a manbiter and from the time he's able to, socialize and desensitize the life out of him and he may never ever hurt anyone or try to. But.. say that dog was raised in the average pet home, he would have grown up to be that dog on the news.

    This is nature VS nurture IMO in a way that it's usually not applied. Because I am looking at this from a genetic point of view, and how temperament and character is very much so connected to the ancestors of the dogs and how their temperament truly was, not how they were conditioned to act. Even if you can desensitize and raise a dog to be friendly with humans, and it's a great example of a sound dog - what if that's the nurture and not the nature? This, of course, pertains to the next generation. Because those puppies are not inheriting the desensitization, the socializing, and the teaching, they are inheriting the absolute core of the true temperament of their sire or dam through genetics. Or their grandsire or dam. And so on.

    This is, of course, only a discussion. I do not think you shouldn't socialize your dogs, there is a lot more risk in not socializing most dogs than there is with a rat. This is just something that got me thinking and I thought it would be interesting to share. Feel free to point out why this theory is wrong or right or simply an interesting thought, but please, stay civil! ;)
  2. Leslie H

    Leslie H Good Dog

  3. MsAcer

    MsAcer Good Dog

    Very interesting. In doing rescue and dog training I have come across dogs who were so hurt and abused but still sane and non aggressive that it was actually shocking. Why wouldn't such a abused animal be nasty? Then I would come across a dog that was raised in a kind and loving home with huge aggression problems.
    Lots of people who breed dogs do not look at temperment.
    When I was a kid a nasty dog would get killed. Unless it did a great job doing something important, like hunting or herding. But a nasty pet? Somebody would give it a dirt nap. No genes to pass on.
    This is a very interesting post.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2013
  4. xchairity_casex

    xchairity_casex Good Dog

    These are the things that a good dog breeder SHOULD understand-that the issues you deal with thru the dogs puberty and life WILL be passed onto future generations, if you have a dog who went thru a very severe fear stage as a puppy-you will only be producing that, and the way another owner handles that situation could be what creates an aggressive dog compared to one who is comfortable with new situations. IMO a breeder is not someone who creates a winning show dog with a nice temperament-but to do everything in their power to make sure what ever puppies are sent out into the world or that are created are going to be what they want the breed to be-no matter the training its had, the handler or the interactions in its lifetime.
    when we first began slectivly breeding dogs-we were breeding mostly for workability, the dog had a specific job to do, weather it was guard livestock, hunt,
    herd, or fight in sports- the breeder was selecting for workability, nowdays
    we have so few that need a working dog like that, that now we need to begin slectivly breeding
    for a stable, calm, well adjusted temperment-one that can fit into our homes with our children.

    IMO, if you have a dog who is being raised as a potential "breeder"
    thru out that pups life you need to stop and ask yourself "if i knew nothing about dogs or training-would i of been able to handle this on my own?"
    if your answer is no, or you think you would of had alot of trouble- then that dog shouldnt be bred
    if at any point the owner of the potential breeding pup thinks a novice owner could not handle that-then the dog probably hsould be bred
    unless all the pups are working dogs and the breeder KNOWS all pups will be going to working homes with experienced handlers.
  5. catchrcall

    catchrcall Good Dog Staff Member

    A working dog should have a good temperment AND be good at it's job. If not I won't own it. You can have your cake and eat it too if you're not willing to tolerate what you don't want. You just have to not be blind and be honest with yourself about what you expect and what you are getting. I had to give up on a pup this year because he wasn't showing enough initiative in the field and was starting fights at home.
  6. Poisoned

    Poisoned GRCH Dog

    Leslie - No I haven't! It looks interesting - Thank you.

    Very true Catch. I don't personally see a reason these days to keep/breed a dog with issues that make him hard to handle or could be passed on no matter how good he is at working, there is really no shortage of dogs these days and chances are you can get your hands on one who will work as well and not give you reason to keep a second eye on him.

    I've known for a good while that upbringing (casual, say, average pet owner) doesn't affect the real temperament of a dog. My two are perfect examples. I have the small mutt who was really never socialized a day in her life on purpose, she was incredibly sick as a puppy and spent many days being poked and prodded and squeezed by vets in a scary place at about five months old perhaps.. Then I have the other dog that I went far out of my way to socialize and train, worked with every day - I even had people with mellow dogs and strangers work with me.

    The small dog is an angel, if I could put her temperament into a big dog I would without a thought. She is naturally drawn to kids and is extremely gentle with them, any time we have company she's the first to go greet them like old friends, and her judgement skills are about the best a dog could have when it comes to what is a threat and what isn't.

    The other dog is and always has been a perfect example of bad breeding. His mother exhibited some shyness/fearfulness, but was bred anyway, and he's not the only one of her puppies to have inherited it in a exacerbated way.

    Growing up I had GSDs too. They were kept in a backyard, they weren't "socialized" more than vet trips and walks. Yet they could be trusted with anyone they were introduced to as long as they didn't give one of them (a big protective male) a reason to react badly, like messing with us kids or getting aggressive.

    And while in a different home, my fearful dog could have probably been conditioned and desensitized enough that he'd act normal, could have been worked and bred and passed this mess on to other dogs. Once I realized what he was, I simply worked on managing it. Whereas a lot of these people would see it as fixable completely and nothing wrong with breeding that dog once he began acting normal.

    Of course, it'll never come to pass that the majority of breeding will focus so strongly on true temperament, but it's an interesting discussion.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2013
  7. Beki

    Beki Good Dog Premium Member

    Poisoned, what are your thoughts on other animals that have been bred to be pets? Such as horses and cats? I'm thinking more along the lines of mustangs and feral cats, both in which I have seen become domesticated and docile.
    Even foals from great breedings need to be imprinted starting at birth.
    Cats from great breedings, both parents calm and docil, and the kits act as feral as a big wild cat.
  8. Poisoned

    Poisoned GRCH Dog

    I don't know enough about most other animals and breeding to really have much input. I don't think that feral (as in, they've had to live on their own in the 'wild') cats, or wild horses are quite the same as the rat theory applied. It's not that they haven't been socialized with an array of humans and animals, they've just been raised wild.

    As far as the rats theory, it's not that they are never interacted with, they are just not heavily socialized like most pet owners have to do to make them handleable and calm as adults. They are handled, their enclosures cleaned, they're fed. They are not handled as pups, but they are handled once they're separated, it's just that you don't want to handle them as babies, otherwise you might not see their real temperament. I'd also say that them seeing their mothers' reaction is quite enough for them to see that humans aren't bad. But some pups are still instinctively afraid or defensive.

    It's not as though they never see a human or are touched by one - I think any animal would be wild if that was the case. I have two rats from a rescue litter who got spooked while I had them outside, both of them took off so fast and moved and acted exactly like a wild rat as soon as they hit the ground. Whereas their brother, who I'm holding back for breeding, sat right in the cage, didn't make a move to follow them, and was at ease. I had to sit and trap them in a live trap like a wild rat, while the brother sat with me.

    They've gotten the same amount of interaction, same upbringing. One has been outgoing and steady since he was mobile - the one who stayed in the cage once spooked. However, I think if he had grown up with no human interaction - or was let outside as a pup and recaptured, he'd be just as wild as the rats under my shed towards humans.

    I don't have all (or even most) of the answers on this subject, and there is a lot more to it than I know, so hopefully someone here knows a lot more than I and can share their point of view or knowledge on this subject.
  9. DangerZone

    DangerZone Little Dog

    This is a really interesting topic.

    I've raised a ton of young puppies. If the mother is around I rarely do much more than feed and watch. In 3 litters I've cared for from birth I haven't once forced the pups to accept handling or desensitized them to it. At around 2.5 weeks they start getting attention if they show interest towards me (most do). They smell me, see me, and hear me from the minute it is possible but I don't go into cages, take them from mom and sit with them for 1+ hour. I also don't act any different around them than I would a grown dog, except taking care not to harm them accidentally.

    In those 3 litters I've never once had a puppy grow to be fearful or aggressive, not towards people. Timid around new folks yes but they all warmed up to them within minutes. One APBT puppy did become DA but that was the end of it. Now those 3 were all WITH their mothers, my motherless fosters have all turned out a bit different.

    Take Hope, my most recent, for example. I took her at one week old and raised her til 5 weeks. She always had contact with me, was constantly being touched, held, moved. She was a sweetheart at times but started showing strong aggression VERY young. She was threat growling at 3 weeks and downright trying to bite at four. I had to reprimand that pup harshly more often than any puppy that I've raised. Had she been left to her own devices she would have been vicious. Now she understands the lines she cannot cross and her owner has been given quite a bit of advice from me about it. At near seven weeks she's a total doll.

    Yet another raised with the same constant attention was a nervous wreck. Her tail was permanently glued between her legs and she never quite took to people. She could see the same person every week for three months in a row and still be terrified of them. Never tried to bite but she would always submissive urinate, crawl up to you, roll onto her back etc. The dog screamed "I afraid." around ANYTHING new and she was exposed to many situations as a puppy. I do believe she was eventually euth'ed after nearly a year because she was deemed 'unadoptable/instable'.

    But then another puppy I took on young turned out to be an amazing dog, he is great with anything and takes even huge changes in stride. I have never once seen a hint of aggression or fear from him and neither have his owners. But I also took him at 3.5 weeks, not as young as the others.

    Everything I've seen makes me believe puppies do better without human intervention in those first few weeks. I used the same tactic on cats with near the same results. Now hearing a rat breeder does something very similar is pretty neat.

    That's my experience with the nature vs nurture. And for those wondering, yes all of these animals I mentioned were fosters except the last one I mentioned. He was my dog once upon a time. I still miss him.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2013
  10. MsAcer

    MsAcer Good Dog

    Some of the absolute WORSE animals I've come across have been bottle fed babies, totally human raised. Super messed up.

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