I feel many times we take for granted that our 4 legged friends are animals that have been domesticated and integrated into our lives over the past 130,000 years. (Evolution of the Dog, 2001) We take for granted that these once wild animals are now cuddling in our laps or assisting us in our daily lives. We at times, get upset when our cuddly friend exhibits behaviors such as nipping or barking even though that is what they are hardwired to do, it’s instinct.
When taking a look at the evolution of dogs Darwin speculated that the reason we have such diversity among dogs was due to breeding amongst a variety of wild dogs. Through DNA testing it was found that Darwinwas wrong. Dogs, are direct descendants of the gray wolf. The reason we have such a diverse population of dogs, is due to intense and purposeful interbreeding.
The key words in the above statement is ‘purposeful breeding’. The American Kennel Club was established to help advance canine health, educate, and promote pure bred dogs and responsible pet ownership. The American Kennel Clubs mission statement states: “The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Founded in 1884, the AKC® and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.” (AKC Mission Statement, 2013)
What does this purposeful breeding mean to you as a dog owner? When your dog is exhibiting a behavior you either like or do not like, stop and look at the behavior from your dogs point of view. Has this behavior been ‘purposefully bred’ into the dog for hundreds of years? For example, as a trainer I will be asked to help deter an overprotective German Shepard Dog from strong insessant barking or from barking and lunging on a leash. It’s important to know that the German Shepards were recognized in the Herding Group by the AKC in 1908. They are the top police dogs, guard dogs, and military dogs world wide as well as loyal family companion. It’s important to remember that their strong drive, loyalty, and protection has been purposefully bred into them for 100’s of years. Barking and protection is an instinct.
Another example of unwanted behavior with popular family dogs is the desire to deter a Boarder Collie or Heeler from chasing running children. Boarder Collies were recognized in the AKC in 1995, the Heeler in 1980. What this means is that these dogs have been purposefully bred to become masters at herding animals. In their mind, they do not know that running and herding the children is not appropriate. It is what they were purposely bred to do. The Boarder Collie and Heeler’s instinct for herding has been fine tuned for 100’s of years.
From a behavioral standpoint I can help families that have unwanted behavior, such as the above, but I first ask the owners to be sympathetic of the situation and look at it through their dogs eyes.
Evolution of the Dog (2001). Retrieved October 21, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/5/l_015_02.html
Photo credit by Bioweb
AKC Mission Statement (2013). Retrieved October 21, 2013, from http://www.akc.org/about/mission.cfm