“It’s all in how they’re raised.”

“All puppies are blank slates.” “If you do everything right with your puppy, you’ll have a great adult dog.” “If dogs have behavioral issues, we should blame the handle end of the leash.”

These are common misconceptions I hear as a trainer, and they make me so very sad. Behavior is a combination of nature and nurture, and if we could just take a moment to look logically at these myths, we would see just how silly they are.

Photo by Tavallai

Photo by Tavallai

Genetics influence behavior. This is part of the reason we have breeds: if you want a dog to work your sheep, you’re going to choose a Border Collie, not a Brittany Spaniel. Even though the two dogs have the same basic size and shape, one is more likely to have the instinctive motor patterns to do the work than the other. Getting a Border Collie whose parents successfully work sheep further increases the likelihood of your dog having the necessary genetic ability to be a great sheepherder.

In the 1970’s, Murphree and colleagues began to study the difference between normal and fearful lines of Pointers. In cross-fostering experiments, puppies from fearful parents were raised by normal mothers. These puppies still turned out fearful, in spite of proper socialization and a confident role model.

Interestingly, puppies from normal parents who were raised by fearful mothers also turned out fearful. Environment also influences behavior, and the best genetics in the world can’t create the perfect dog without a supportive upbringing.

If we believe that the way a dog is raised is solely responsible for his adult behavior, how can the tremendous success of the Pit Bulls from Michael Vick’s kennel and many other fighting operations be explained? With their neglectful and abusive upbringing, we would expect these dogs to be vicious and unsalvageable. Yet many of them have gone on to become wonderful pets. Some compete in agility or work as certified therapy dogs. Many Pit Bull enthusiasts are adamant that it’s all in how the dogs are raised, yet the success of many former fighting dogs tells us that it’s more than just that. These amazing, resilient dogs also have to have a sound genetic basis to explain their ability to overcome adversity.

On the other end of the spectrum, many of my clients have done everything right, yet continue to struggle with anxiety or aggression issues in their dogs. Certain lines of Golden Retrievers are known for severe resource guarding issues that often show up even in tiny puppies. Most of my German Shepherd behavioral consults occur when these dogs hit 12-18 months and growl at or bite a stranger. Miniature Australian Shepherds are likely to come to me due to extreme fear issues at 6-10 months of age. Terrier owners often call me when their dog hits social maturity and begins fighting with housemate dogs. While these traits may be common in my area, trainers in other areas of the country report completely different issues in the same breeds due to different lines of dogs with different genetic potentials living and being bred near them. I also see hundreds of friendly, stable, solid Goldens, German Shepherds, mini Aussies, and terriers in our Beginning Obedience and Puppy Kindergarten classes.

The truth is that dogs are born with a certain genetic potential that will influence which behavioral traits they display. This could include a dog’s sociability towards people, dogs, or other animals; their level of boldness or fearfulness; their likelihood to display anxious or compulsive behaviors; whether they are calm and confident or nervous and neurotic; and many other behavioral factors.

Let’s look at one trait to make this more clear. We know that dogs born from fearful parents are more likely to be fearful and that dogs with bold parents are more likely to be bold. There is a behavioral continuum, with boldness on one end and fearfulness on the other. Here’s what that spectrum would look like. A dog on the left end of the spectrum would be incredibly fearful, while a dog on the right end would be exceedingly confident. Most dogs wind up somewhere in the middle, and dogs on both ends of the spectrum present challenges for their owners.


A dog with bold parents is born with the potential to be quite bold. He is physically capable of bold behavior. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will become a bold dog. If his experiences as a puppy and young adult are very limited or if he has negative, scary experiences, he may develop into a fearful adult due to environmental influence. His genetic potential gave him the ability to be bold, but his environment did not nurture that ability.


On the other hand, consider a dog who is born from fearful parents. This dog does not have the genetic potential to be bold. Even given an incredibly supportive and nurturing environment as a puppy and young adult, this dog will always be somewhat fearful because the physical ability to be bold is just not there.


These dogs may present identically when we look at their behavior, in spite of the very different levels of dedication their owners had to socializing and supporting their puppies. However, the genetically bold dog may make a lot of progress with appropriate behavioral interventions, while the genetically fearful dog makes little or none. This has nothing to do with the skill level of each dog’s owner, but rather with the raw material each dog started with. (This is also, by the way, why ethical trainers do not make guarantees: without knowing what genetic package a dog starts with, there’s no way to know how much progress that dog can make until we try.)

Do you see how very unfair statements about how “it’s all in how they’re raised” are to committed, wonderful dog owners who have dogs with more difficult baselines? Just because your dog flew through a behavior mod program doesn’t mean every dog can or will, and assuming that it’s all because of the owner is unrealistic and downright cruel. I regularly work with wonderful people who do the best they can with difficult dogs, and that adage about walking a mile in someone’s shoes is applicable to their situation. As if living with and training a more difficult dog weren’t enough, these people are often subjected to comments and insinuations that if they were just a better handler, a better trainer, or a better leader, their dog would be perfectly fine. This is untrue and incredibly hurtful, and it needs to stop.

Do you know anything about your dog’s parents? What environmental and genetic factors do you think contributed to your dog’s behavior? Please share your stories in the comment section below!

201 responses to ““It’s all in how they’re raised.”

  1. I totally agree Lisa. I’ve been breeding Australian Shepherds since 1978. It drives me nuts when someone contacts me & asks if I breed Mini Aussies. I tell them, there is no such thing as a Mini Aussie. As long as the “Mini breeders” keep telling people that they are true Aussie, only smaller, people will keep buy them. I wish people would do their home work before looking for an Aussie. Bev

    • I had a fearful standard size, working line Australian Shepherd. She came from a reputable breeder. She was extremely fearful of people (never aggressive, just trembled and shut down), but not of anything else (not generally fearful). The breeder could not recall seeing the behavior before I brought her home, and didn’t recall any traumatic events during puppyhood. She claimed it was “in the lines” and that I should just work the dog, not force her to interact with strangers, and that she would likely overcome it. Once I stopped making her submit to friendly strangers giving her treats or attention, and told people to not look at her, reach for her, or engage her in any way, she was able to be around people if she was working. (She was a search dog — trailing and human remains detection). She LOVED her work, and would approach her search subject — not because she liked people, but because it was her job, and she wanted the frisbee that the search subject would throw for her. Over the course of a few years, though, her general attitude towards strangers improved. We “forgot” that she was fearful. She “forgot” too, and appeared to be fairly normal. It took time and lots of low-pressure exposure. In her case, I think it was genetic, and we were able to work with her genetic strengths (work ethic, prey/play drive for the reward, love of being out and exploring) and manage her training and environment to overcome her weakness.

      • Your story makes me question the word “Reputable”. It sounds like your breeder did not have enough information about the dog before placement. This can happen for a number of reasons. But usually it happens because the breeder did very little with the dog before placing the dog with you. If a dog has a limited life. Then that dog can become very confident and brave within the limits of that small life. Such as kennel dogs. Once you take them out of that life. The dogs confidence is gone. Again I’m questioning the word reputable.

    • I, too, wish people would do their homework before looking for an Aussie. If they did they would see the history of Aussies and Mini Aussies are the same. They would see that MOST Aussies came from a smaller line dog and have been bred up in size. They would see that MOST Mini Aussies came for the same smaller line dog and were bred to keep the smaller size.

      • No ~ That’s wrong. The first thing that’s wrong is there is no such thing as a mini Aussie. There is a miniature American Shepherd. Certainly the foundation of the breed is based on the Australian Shepherd. There have been people working on this concept of having a separate group of Australian Shepherd type dogs who would be defined by size. It took a while for them to become organized enough to create the breed we now know as the miniature American shepherd. There are specific pedigrees that were included. But there are lots of Australian Shepherd pedigrees that have nothing to do with the miniature American. The miniature American shepherd is a new were buried in the last 20 or so years. The Australian Shepherd has a much longer history. With verifiable pedigrees and a strong parent club. Sounds like you need to do more research

      • thank you. my dogs are mini AUSSIES

      • thank you. my dogs are mini AUSSIES

  2. This is a hot button issue for me. I got my dog at 7 months old – he was not well socialized. I was a first time pet owner when I got him and missed the “red flags”. When I was looking at a pen full of puppies, he was the one cowering in the back. I felt sorry for him. That was 7 years ago. Despite constant, consistent training, socialization, working with pet behaviorists, medication, thunder shirts, Chinese herbs, and a million other things he is better but still a fearful/anxious dog. Relief for both of us came when I realized that instead of trying to make him into a happy-go-lucky, people-loving dog that I wanted (and which he could never be), I should deal with the dog that I had. It doesn’t mean I don’t still work on desensitizing him to things that cause him fear/anxiety every single day, it just means I had to reset my expectations and look for ways to manage his fear/anxiety. Sometimes isn’t possible to avoid situations that cause him to react (lunging/barking) and the looks I get still annoy me.

    • I know how you feel. I didn’t go to the extent you did but I brought my puppy places a lot to socialize her but she still grew up to be a yappy sterotypical toy pomeranian. People stare at me too and I try but really unless I want to drug her I have just accepted it and just tell people she is just neurotic.

    • It’s the same with my reactive girl, Katie. She has improved a bit but she is never going to be an easy dog, in the house or outside. I find it frustrating that she can walk past one person with not a murmer but the next she acts like she wants to kill them. However she is what she is, I try and walk at quiet times and we street walk only so we are unlikely to meet dogs off lead.

    • That sounds like my Buzz. He is the sweetest boy with any animal he knows by proper introduction and he is the sweetest around any babies (human, kittens, puppies, chickens, etc) that he is allowed to be near. He becomes aggressive when he is approached by an unknown dog. Believe me when I say I have tried everything under the sun with him, except medication which I don’t believe in 😁. I have learned to ignore all the looks and learned to be a very responsible dog owner because of him. And I wear proudly my t-shirt that reads,”Don’t judge my pitbull, and I won’t judge your kids.” 😉

  3. Well written article about the effects of genetics and environment on temperament. Those who are concerned about what to call “Miniature Australian Shepherds” (officially recognized as Miniature American Shepherds by AKC) are missing the point.

  4. Very interesting article. I have two pit bulls/Staffordshire terriers. I’ve done enough research to know that they are one and the same. They both have the same parents although they are from different litters and are one year apart in age. Both are very sweet and good dogs, but one of them is rather fearful. We know the people who own the parents of my dogs. The male is not at all fearful and very friendly, while the female is fairly fearful and shy. This explains the difference in temperament in my own dogs.

  5. Sara, I’m the Breeder’s Chairman for the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. I would like your permission to reprint this article in our next quarterly edition of True Grit, our journal. Thank you.

  6. That’s a stupid remark to make beagles are bred to work & live with other dogs. Pit bulls are terriers, I call all terriers terrorists. Lots of dogs will fight with other dogs.

  7. I have three dogs that are labeled pitbulls. Two of them I adopted from the humane society when they were about 2 1/2 – 3 months old, and one was a foster failed, and I had her since she was about 2 months old. One of the male from the pond is extremely “aggressive” which I now know is what they called fear-aggression. Once he has been introduced properly to a new dog or a new person he will be fine with them for life but any new dog or animal without introduction, he will attack because between fight or flight, his chosen method is fight. We have been to the most wonderful training environment and had the most wonderful trainers where my other two are CGC certified. But one thing I have learned through this entire process is that I have to be a responsible owner first and foremost. My fear based aggressive boy will always on be a leash whenever we are outside of my house, and I am always watchful for what is coming his way, no ifs, ands, or buts.

  8. Here’s a comment and question: I have a full bred female boxer. She is going on 8. We got her when she was 2 months old. When we brought her home we immediately showed her love and affection. We gave her time to adjust to her new surroundings and introduced her to her new home. We prepared her crate where she would spend the majority of her time when not eating, walking, or playing. After the first few nights of crying and yapping she calmed herself down and went to sleep. Once she was able to do her business outside her training began. I brought her every where I went so she would be socialized. She was taught to sit, stay, down, leave, etc., very well. She was taught to walk along side me with the proper commands, never pulling the leash. She is the most obedient loving boxer I have ever met. I have never owned a dog knowing the parents so I had no experience or knowledge of how the parents were. I assumed all dogs could be trained and socialized without any problems.
    After reading your article I am somewhat concerned. I am planning on making a huge purchase of a female cane corso. The breeder has told us they are good dogs with no known aggressive behaviors. I have done quite a bit of research on these dogs and know it will require a great deal of training and socializing which I am prepared for. With that being said and since the breeder lives outside my state of residence and way too far to just go visit, are there any signs or questions I should ask prior to making this purchase? I am now questioning my decision as I am fairly a small woman, my husband works daily, and my eldest son works. I don’t want to be pinned in a room not being allowed to leave my own house.
    Can you make any comments? Thank you. Diana

    • At the very least I would not get a female since your Boxer is a female, that could be a big problem, I bred Boxers for 20 years so I am much more knowledgeable about them than Cane Corso Boxers can be very protective of their environment & your female Boxer may accept a puppy but once it starts to mature the cane Corso will probably challenge your Boxer & that could be disastrous for the older smaller dog.I have known several Cone Corso through my work & they are not bad dogs but I don’t think they are the type of dog that an inexperienced owner should have & frankly I think the breeder should have told you this.At the very least get a male not a female puppy opposite sex gives you better odds of them getting along.

  9. We are raising an incredible yellow lab. She had always had fear issues….car, stairs, etc. As she gets older, her fears seem to be the increasing. Things she used to do without hesitation no longer seem to be within her ability to accomplish….very simple things that other dogs would not hesitate to attempt. I do not know about her parents, but it is very sad to see such a beautiful, amazing animal fearful in such benign situations.

  10. Just got a bouvier pup hoping for a mobility service dog eventually. My daughter has her parents both big bouviers with confident loving personalities. She is very loving with people she knows and there was a big litter so they never noticed if she wasn’t real friendly when people came. She was my grandsons favorite pup so was handled daily. I got her at about 9 weeks delivered by my grandson. Was suprised when she didn’t act friendly. Really suprised when I was holding her and a girl came up to see her and she growled. I’ve been working on socializing her for three weeks now but she still doesn’t trust strangers other than big men like my grandson. A little better but can’t trust her not to snap and growl if someone reaches out to her. Whether I’m holding her or she is loose. Is there any chance we can work through this for her to be a mobility dog or will there always be a risk with her ? She has shown no other fear issues except with people or kids

    • How are you reacting when people come up? Herding dogs are supper sensitive to their owners. Make sure you are super outgoing and confident and the pup will follow suit. Try handing her off to an experienced dog person and see how she reacts when you’re not there. If you aren’t a normally confident person, you may want to opt for a sporting dog as they are less sensitive. I screwed up several of my herding dogs before I realized what I was doing.

  11. Alice Fletcher

    Have you had his eyesight checked & his hearing ?

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  14. REALLY good article, and well written!

    I trained dogs as a hobby, from back when I was a kid. All of my personal dogs were happy and well behaved. Then I got started with Akitas, and training was a bit more involved, but with the same end result.

    Until one Akita I got, as a puppy, from a supposedly good breeder. He was smart, a local obedience star, but he had a big streak of either crazy or vicious. Periodically he would freak out, bite anyone or anything, while making unearthly noises. This would las around 20 seconds, then he would lie down and look confused.

    We spent thousands on every sort of trainer, animal behaviorist, had scads of medical and neurological work ups, UC Davis vet school behavior clinic. Nothing came of all of that.

    Later I found that this severely maladaptive behavior pattern was sprinkled heavily in his bloodlines, and the kennel just tried to suppress that knowledge. Before that dog, I was SURE it was “all in how they are raised.” He taught me that there are some things no amount of training and a positive environment can overcome.

    Thank you for discussing this!

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  16. So well said. I hand raised from birth an orphan mastiff out of “one mean bitch” She never even saw her mother, raised with other sweet dogs…..I got “one mean bitch” :( never again

  17. My husband and I recently acquired a rescue, an eleven month old female Bordoodle. She had been returned to the breeder because she had guarding issues and had apparently bitten the male owner unprovocted. We have had her for about two months. She had two serious guarding issues the first week she was with us. I bought a bone for her a few days ago and gave it to her outside, when I came out and talked to her, she growled but didn’t snap. I then created a distraction by offering her a cookie and my husband took the bone and put it in the trash. I feel as though she is making progress. She knows her basic commands, sit, down, stay and come, but she will only obey them if she is getting treats. Does any one have any ideas how I can change this behavior and how I can tell if she is properly bonding to us.

    • Jean Donaldson’s book ‘Dogs Are Ftom Neptune’ is helpful in the first edition of the book she talks about urban vs Suburban dogs and how daily exposure makes Urban dogs more social. Patricia McConnell’s ‘The Caustious Canine’ and ‘Feisty Fido’ as well as “How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong” by Pamela Dennison (lays out a training program).
      Search Sophia Yin ( UC Davis Animal Behaviorist, DVM), she has a good chart on dog’s cues for fear which is the main cause of aggression.
      On Dogstardaily.com read ‘Saving Ozzie’ I believe there’s 5 parts. Ozzie was an aggressive Great Dane that was eventually rehabilitated.
      On Siriuspup.com, they offer an All Access Pass to all his videos, seminars, books, etc for one month/$20. But if you go to Dogstardaily site there’s usually a huge promo discount. He has a series on dog to dog aggression and a seminar on aggression in general.
      All of these recommendations, use positive classical conditioning techniques and operational conditioning without adversive punishment.
      I’m fostering a dog with guarding aggression who has bit or nipped people and have seen some progress. How much time & effort you invest daily and the availability of people who are willing to assist & follow directions precisely will make a difference.

    • Does she like toys?
      Maybe try collecting a bunch of toys, Give her one (preferably the least desirable/lowest value), let her play with it a bit, then have her relinquish it saying ‘Give’ for another one that may be more desirable. Keep switching out toys as you play but don’t let her play with any one toy too long & become attached to it. Hopefully the repetition will help get her used to surrendering objects to you & teach the ‘Give’ command. Also, sometimes the ‘play mode’ will help distract or switch the brain from the territorial aggression mind frame. This works for some dogs but always carefully observe your dog’s body language, etc. Also your goal is for a happy playful state that’s not too overexcited.

  18. Excellent! I have owned 14 Tibetan Mastiffs over the course of 20 years and in spite of the image so often portrayed of the breed, all of mine have been friendly to other people and dogs once introduced, except one. She was raised in the same home, by the same people, using the same type of training. She did not trust people from day one, and was a bite risk. She would randomly snap at people as they walked past her, or would be wagging her tail as someone was petting her and suddenly lunge at them. We were never able to figure out what was triggering her. As it turned out, 3 out of the 5 pups in her litter were the same way. One was returned to the breeder due to temperament/behavior issues and is now kept secured on their property, not allowed off the property for any reason, even to go to the vet. Fortunately, our girl never got that bad, but we did not take her anywhere she did not have to go, and kept her on a very short leash, always mindful of the potential for her to bite. That settled the nature vs. nurture debate for me.

    • exactly. In many cases, you just can’t love it out of them, and bred to fight dogs will fight, and they will kill. People who FIGHT them, understand this. People who try to make pets out of them, frequently cause massive suffering in innocent victims.

  19. Betsy Malavet

    Really great article! I have a Scottish Terrier puppy who is 17 months old and while he is show quality physically, he is not temperamentally show enthusiastic. So he is a pet. All of his siblings are show dogs and very good at it but Laddie is a little fearful of things–we are still working on it!. I like the fact that he is wary of cars which is a good thing on the country roads where we live. I have been socializing him and he is much better with people and other dogs than he used to be but he will never be a “bold” Scottie–but that’s okay! He doesn’t have to be–as long as he is happy! And I live a quiet life so it’s okay!

    • You make a really good point. Sometimes it is best to just accept the dog for who he is. Trying to force them to be something they’re not just makes the dog and the owner unhappy. Just like in gardening, right plant, right place, and it will thrive. I adopted a rescue dog that was probably bred in a puppy mill and was distrustful & very afraid of all people but never aggressive. He was sweet, smart & wise even as an adolescent. I never pressured him but took him everywhere with me, exposing him to as much as possible. He turned out to be the best dog ever though he never completely trusted strangers.
      It’s when the fear manifests into habitual biting that things get complicated.

  20. I also think your chart is VERY wrong, genetics is a FAR bigger component of canine behavior than environment.
    DIANE JESSUP, pit bull expert, breeder, former ACO
    “Jessup, the animal control officer in Olympia, uses two pit bulls to train police and animal control officers on surviving dogs attacks.
    Unlike dogs who are nippers and rippers, her pit bulls are typically “grippers” who bite down and hang onto their victims.”

    Jessup believes that much of dog behavior comes from their genes. “I truly believe that a dog is about 90% genetics,” says Jessup.
    on protection sports
    This difference in “sheepdog versus bulldog” mentality in a trainer is best understood when training the “out!” or release command. It is common practice for those training shepherds and sheepdog types to use force such as hard leash corrections or electric shock to get the dog to release the sleeve. Sadly, I had one young man come to me because a club trainer was slugging his little Am Staff bitch in the nose, till she bled, trying to get her to release the sleeve. She would not! And of course she would not! She was a good little bulldog, hanging on for dear life, just as her bull and bear baiting ancestors of old did. She was a super little gripping dog, who took the pain she experienced as just “part of the job” once her owner set her upon the sleeve. And this is the response from well bred pit bulldogs—to ignore pain while gripping. It is, after all, what they are bred for! Give me a bulldog like her, rather than one which will allow itself to be yanked off the sleeve due to pain.

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  22. Elaine Isaksen

    I am a breeder of Chihuahuas and always put temperament and health first and foremost…I tell my customers we have a 50/50 relationship…I breed a happy adjusted puppy and it is their job to keep it that way

    • I disagree. The breeders responsibility should be more than good genes and healthy care. The breeder has the puppies for the first 2-3 months of their lives when they are most formative. The breeder should also be doing everything possible to introduce & positively acclimate the pups to accept as many of things possible that they will be encountering in their future lives. Why should a pup have to wait until it is 2-3 months old to hear a vacuum cleaner or interact with children, etc,etc?

  23. Ian Dunbar DVM, Ph.d in Animal Behavior U. C. Berkeley says the same thing, ‘Nature vs Nuture’
    See Dogstardaily or Siriuspup

  24. Ursula Heffernan

    My Japanese Spitz came to me at age 18 months from his breeder (now deceased) who had given him to a friend as a tiny pup but took him back due to digging, nipping..he told me he’d retrained Yuki, who does neither now. He is super friendly with children and the elderly. Has agression issues with some dogs (black rescue, gentle greyhound) not other colours, certain border collies. He is timid, barks excessively at trucks, buses, 4wheel drives, birds, some people on the street while we are out walking. Is obedient in dog parks. We live in a ground level unit and any outside noise results in barking. This is, I know, natural behaviour. I have tried the little electronic anti- bark device which emits a sound only he can hear. This worked for only one day. He’s very smart! I am a single person, he is my friend and sole companion.

    • I fostered a 4-1/2 mos old Samoyed puppy that turned out to be an American Eskimo/German Spitz (?). I adopted her after 6 weeks (approximately 6 mos old) but sadly had to return her to rescue due to ‘guarding aggression’. When I initially started fostering her she seemed to be a friendly social puppy just a little reactive to people entering the home, but every month her friendly nature decreased and guarding aggression increased starting with men, then women & dogs, and finally children. This is despite puppy socials, obedience classes, dog parks, and regular daily exposure to people in a multitude of situations & locations as well as on going daily training sessions with me. I use positive reinforcement training, classical & operative conditioning methods. I should mention that her socialization program was impaired initially due to vaccinations and then again at 7 mos. when she went into Heat. The Rescue required she not be spayed until 1 yr old. She is leash reactive and resorts to nipping especially when excited. She will nip people or dogs when she feels they have intruded into her space uninvited or come in to her territory. At other times, she is very affectionate & enjoys cuddling up to people who are familiar to her. She is fine in dog parks with people and other dogs. I can handle her freely without her reacting. I am still fostering her and think she will do well in a home with an older dog as a role model. I was wondering what was done by the breeder to retrain your Yuki?

      I think my pup is capable of being friendly & social again once she learns to control her reactivity. She is still young and is learning to be more calm as she matures but I can also see breed tendencies. American Eskimos/German Spitz were bred in Switzerland/Germany to guard the home and be companions. They are very alert and sensitive to sounds. A Japanese Spitz breeder from Sweden told me her dogs displayed many of the same behaviors I am experiencing. She said she gets the dog’s attention and talks to them to interrupt the unwanted behavior.

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  26. My 3yr old Boxer girl was a trembling puppy although the others in the litter appeared to be sound .
    I have always been careful not to traumatise her, socialised her with all dogs and different environments I could manage.
    However she is disinterested in people fussing her, loves dogs but becomes fearful when they get too close whilst she is on lead . She trembles and worries over various situations including the vacuum cleaner.
    I am worried that having her neutered may make things worse for her

    • I’m confused why having her spayed would make her less self-confident. I would think spaying would have the opposite effect by making her hormones fluctuate less consequently making her more emotionally stable. Shouldn’t spaying actually make her calmer?

  27. Since it is difficult and not always possible for breeders to know adverse temperament tendencies in possible lines until they become glaringly apparent. (I mean it is impossible to tell whether it is environmental or hereditary until a trend becomes established over time. In the meantime, an new owner may end up with a dog with behavioral problems.) I don’t understand why more Breeders don’t focus on conditioning & preparing the puppies more thoroughly. It is my understanding that preparing a pup can begin at 2-3 weeks with accustomizing them to human touch & handling. ‘Training’ then progresses to exposure to household & common noises, all sorts of different people, textures & surfaces, etc. I heard of a program called ‘Puppy Culture’ designed just for this purpose but hardly any Breeders seem to implement it. I’ve encountered so many dogs, often show dogs, how have hang-ups over children, elderly people who walk ‘funny’, large trucks, etc. Why not try to make each pup as ‘blast-proof’ as possible from the start so if there are any undesirable genetic behavioral tendencies they are mitigated and the dog will have the best chance of overcoming them? Breeders need to take more initiative in this area.

  28. I don’t understand why the AKC doesn’t step up and focus more on the temperament of the dogs’ being true to breed. Dogs with consistent behavioral problems should not be allowed to be shown or listed as an AKC breeder. I’ve heard of show dogs that have demonstrated unprovoked aggression towards other dogs in the ring and even spectators. Why are these dogs allowed?
    Stricter regulations & oversight by the AKC, which is the starting place for most people seeking purebred dogs would help keep dogs out of rescues & shelters. This would force breeders to take more time in preparing puppies from birth to be well socialized & prepared for their new homes. I know most AKC breeders have long waiting lists, can charge $2-3K per pup and can carefully pick their puppies’ home. Also, reputable breeders won’t breed unless they know good homes will be available for their pups. I find it frustrating when trying to find a puppy, on the wide disparity between how AKC breeders’ pups are raised after birth. I’m wondering in certain cases how much of it is the luck of the genetic draw whether after paying $2,500 you are going to end up with a good tempered dog without adverse behavioral problems. Why should people have to pay thousands of dollars for a dog only to have to invest $3,000-5,000 more and countless hours on corrective behavioral training?

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  30. I noticed there’s a lot of backtracking on the “how they’re raised” theory because it conflicts with “adopt, don’t shop.”
    Personally, I’m going to shop. I’m not interested in a frustrating ten year project or a money pit.

    • Each household has different needs & expectations so I think it’s wrong to assume a one fit fits all mentality when choosing a dog. I think the key here is to find the right dog for the right person and by adopting a dog from a rescue you can often get a good fit. A rescue dog will frequently have been in a foster home so the foster parent will know it’s habits, personality & temperament especially if it’s an adult dog. Also all dogs need training. A new puppy from a breeder requires tons of time & training. What’s wrong with expecting to put in training time to correct any behavioral problems in a rescue dog?

      Adopting a young puppy is harder since it’s background is unknown & it’s still developing.

  31. This! We are doing our best to raise a particularly difficult 7 month old puppy. We got him from a shelter at 6-8 weeks old, and we had a DNA test done which revealed Siberian Husky, Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd. After a particularly rough day, this brought me to tears: “As if living with and training a more difficult dog weren’t enough, these people are often subjected to comments and insinuations that if they were just a better handler, a better trainer, or a better leader, their dog would be perfectly fine. This is untrue and incredibly hurtful, and it needs to stop.” Thank you for this.

    • Molly, you are absolutely correct, but please don’t take it personally. They have said this to struggling mothers with autistic or Downs syndrome children, and worse. I used to support the theory, bc my cats, collies and horses are always “different” and super smart, intelligent, and communicative. I wondered about it for years, but I finally came to the conclusion; I am not special”. I just give my critters a chance to flourish, and pick out the ones with poor coping skills for extra work, and that is simply powers of observation. Huskies are notoriously difficult, as northern breeds. Aussies can be very unpredictable, and as far as the Malinois? If I saw one at my herding trials? I knew my stock would need stitches that day. You got a mix of some of the most difficult breeds imaginable, and do not beat your self up. Honestly, you are a saint if you are still trying.

  32. Pingback: “It’s all in how they’re raised” – GR CH

  33. Pingback: “It’s all in how they’re raised” – K9 Jocks

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  36. Deborah Ratcliffe

    I’ve just read this article and as an owner of A very fearful English Springer Spaniel, It spoke deep into my heart. I wanted to shout from the hill tops I’ve not broke my gorgeous boy it wasn’t me.The hurtful comments that he’s not been socialised or is he a rescue dog ? Have broken my heart.
    He’s loved and spoilt and played with and walked but hates to leave his garden he growls and lunges at any stranger old young tall short dog horse anything and has done so from a a very young age. He’s never growled or bit myself and my husband and our daughter and granddaughter. And because he wears a muzzle outside hes never been allowed to bite.
    I know understand he came to live with us with this fear already passed on to him through breeding.
    This week he seen a behaviourist for a consultation. I’ve had a 10 page report and the long and the short of the report has just been explained in simple terms in your article. He’s from a fearful mum.
    He was socialised he is loved he’s never been treated bad or neglected or fed the wrong food or allowed to dominate at home.
    Non of the above he’s had this fear passed on.
    I could cry that no one has told me its not my fault. Thank you for explaining what’s happened it makes understanding him so much easier and I can now help make his life easier by not trying to insist he behaves “nornal”

  37. Pingback: “It’s all how you raise them?” – DobermannKeeper

  38. I rehomed a 6-month Heeler/Jack Russell cross, and had her until she was 14. We trained and competed successfully in Agility, Obedience, Endurance, Rally Obedience, and regularly attended dog club twice weekly.
    She was a CONSTANT challenge to handle and socialise: severe anxiety and fear aggression. I was never able to ‘train her out of it’ and learned to accept the whole damaged package, and to love her quirky personality.
    She was small – Italian Greyhound size – but would lunge at the end of the lead to growl, threaten and try to kill ANY other dog: GSD, Pointer, Aussie Shepherd, Goldie, it didn’t matter.
    I can’t tell you how many times other well-meaning handlers advised me on how to better manage, control and train Katiebel, despite our success in the trial ring and her wonderful, full, and varied life. They’d inform me that my dog had a behaviour problem (because I obviously didn’t know) and that I should do something about it.
    Eventually I did the ‘smile and wave’ and went my own way.
    I know that some dogs just CAN’T be trained out of certain behaviours, no matter the skill and dedication of the handler. You accept the problem, and manage it, and love the furry friend at the other end of the lead.

    • Thank you for the share Ruth. As a owner with experience in this theme I appreciate it and I’m for sure that genes matters and that some mental problems can not be fixed.

  39. Marijeane Ploch

    My adult dog raised by me has killed 2 of my current puppies in an unexpected not controllable situation.Normally they are behind closed doors with their mama in their dog bed. This happened in a second before I could intervene. Help please,MJ

    • Dear Marijeane,

      I just read your post so sorry that you and of course the two little ones have to experience this. But to help you properly through the internet is for me impossible. This action from your adult dog can have so many reasons and please don’t blame this dog because you as a owner are their caretaker. And yes just a second is enough, please keep them seperate and even better not all in the same household because it can happen agan. All goods and try to find a solution and that must be today.

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