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Old 12-17-2012, 02:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Genetics of Fear.... "Experts", please chime in:

I have a very dear friend who has a Dalmatian mix that she rescued aroung 9 months or so (maybe a year). She is now 4 years old. The dog has fear issues, submissive peeing issues, and has bitten one person (not badly) some time ago (the person was leaning over the dog to hug my friend's father, while the dog was in his lap). My friend says the dog was possibly abused when young. I don't have the specifics, although I believe the dog was rescued as a pup. The rescue put her out with another terrier for "socialization".

My feelings are that much of Sassy's issues are genetics. My friend, who admits she hasn't done any training with her, thinks it's all because she was "abused" and a rescue. I think that because she's been in a good environment for so long that this points to genetics moreso. She thinks once abused, always fearful. It's not clear (at least to me) what kind of abuse the dog underwent, or even if there was any.

I'm finding it hard to explain the role of genetics coherently to her. She is very versed in human genetics regarding the role of cancer in humans, and she is not buying the role of genetics in terms of dogs temperaments.

So--can some of you please advise, so I can point her to this thread? I've tried explaining about how some dogs can be raised in a kennel with very little human interaction and still come out stable, solid and excellent companion dogs, whereas other dogs have good owners, excellent training, and still will always have to be managed due to genetic fear aggression, but I don't think I'm doing it well. I've tried explaining that dogs that bark aggressively at people are often NOT protective, but rather fearful. I'm doubtful she thinks I know what I'm talking about.

So I'm hoping for some "expert" explanation that I can give her for reference. Links to prior threads are good too. I did try searching under "genetically fearful" and "fear and genetics" and "fear aggression" but didn't really find what I want.


Also, I was unsure of what forum to put this in, so if someone thinks it would be viewed more somewhere else, feel free to move.
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Last edited by gagsd; 12-17-2012 at 07:52 PM. Reason: req per OP
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Would this help?
http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4138/4...7a78eeca_o.png
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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What do the green and blue mean?
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It's just an over simplified illustration that shows how a dog is a product of nature (genetics) *and* nurture but that you cannot "nurture" (train and socialize) a dog outside of its genetic boundaries. The green and blue show that you could have the same dog end up a little differently if it was raised by a different person, but never outside of the genetic boundary.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Gotcha! That explanation is great!
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Also, I've heard many people say that in Schutzhund when a dog is under pressure or stress it will revert first to its genetics, then its foundation, and finally to its training. I think this also applies to how dogs react to life in general. Training and socialization matter (as well as past experiences) but if a dog has poor genetics and lacked a good foundation early on you probably can't overcome that, only manage it.

I for one do not like it when people say their dog was "abused" simply because it has some avoidance or fearful reactions. My first dog acted very afraid of certain people and things and a lot of people tried to tell me she was abused. It was kind of funny, but not really. She was never, ever abused. In fact she had great foundation and training, a great life from the moment of birth. She just had a genetic weakness that could not be overcome, so I never pressed those issues, just avoided people/situations that stressed her out. Also, when working with friends and family on various dog behavior "issues" (I saw that in quotes because most of the dogs are find it's the people/training that's the problem!) I don't like when people focus on the dog's past. I've found that softer, weak nerved dogs thrive with consistency. They like to know what is coming, what to expect, and what's expected of them. When people get all emotional about a dog possibly being abused I find that they tend to lose consistency in how they interact with their dog and it just makes things worse. I'm not one of those people that insists "coddling" a fearful dog automatically makes it worse, but I find that people who are really coddly towards a fearful dog are often ignoring what that dog really needs. FWIW I am speaking in general terms, not GSD (only one of my foster dogs has been GSD and none of the friends and family I've worked with have GSDs).
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Here are a few links discussing genetics and temperament that may help:
Canine Behaviour: Selecting for Improved Temperament | Cynologist

http://actavet.vfu.cz/pdf/200776030431.pdf

Canine Behavioral Genetics: Pointing Out the Phenotypes and Herding up the Genes
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liesje View Post
Also, I've heard many people say that in Schutzhund when a dog is under pressure or stress it will revert first to its genetics, then its foundation, and finally to its training. I think this also applies to how dogs react to life in general. Training and socialization matter (as well as past experiences) but if a dog has poor genetics and lacked a good foundation early on you probably can't overcome that, only manage it.

I for one do not like it when people say their dog was "abused" simply because it has some avoidance or fearful reactions. My first dog acted very afraid of certain people and things and a lot of people tried to tell me she was abused. It was kind of funny, but not really. She was never, ever abused. In fact she had great foundation and training, a great life from the moment of birth. She just had a genetic weakness that could not be overcome, so I never pressed those issues, just avoided people/situations that stressed her out. Also, when working with friends and family on various dog behavior "issues" (I saw that in quotes because most of the dogs are find it's the people/training that's the problem!) I don't like when people focus on the dog's past. I've found that softer, weak nerved dogs thrive with consistency. They like to know what is coming, what to expect, and what's expected of them. When people get all emotional about a dog possibly being abused I find that they tend to lose consistency in how they interact with their dog and it just makes things worse. I'm not one of those people that insists "coddling" a fearful dog automatically makes it worse, but I find that people who are really coddly towards a fearful dog are often ignoring what that dog really needs. FWIW I am speaking in general terms, not GSD (only one of my foster dogs has been GSD and none of the friends and family I've worked with have GSDs).

Agreed!
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Good links, gagsd! I will check them out and forward them.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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They are not specific to the situation, but have a lot of information about how genetics affect temperament and the importance of "correct" breeding.
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