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This topic has come up a few times in recent threads, so I thought it would make a good discussion.

What is your definition of a "nervy" dog versus one with "bad nerves?" Do you feel a certain amount of nerviness is a good thing? Bad thing? Depends on the sport/work/activity you do?

If you think a little nerviness is good, at what point does it cross over into being an undesirable trait?

How much of it do you think it genetic and how much do you think it is training that bring out the characteristic?
 

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To me there are two components of nerves: at what trigger the dog reacts, and, how long it takes the dog to recover. If I have to have some nerve, I'd rather have a dog that is more sensitive to things (like noise, weird stuff, scary people...) but recovers instantly than a dog that is less sensitive but can't recover. Like for example, my dog Coke will flinch if you fire a gun near him but then he's over it. If I have him in the car during bitework at SchH I can tell all the barking and aggressive sounding noises from the field (helper and dog) make him uneasy but as soon as it's over, he pops out of his crate and wants to run onto the field and love on everyone including the helpers. Kenya is opposite. She is less sensitive as far as what things trigger nervous behaviors but when they do, that's it, she's done and might crawl under the table and shake for a good half hour. I don't know if this is the correct way of looking at nerves but this is just what I observe.

I would say as far as Nikon goes, his nerve is closer to the surface than say a really well-bred stable working line dog, but his threshold is high. He is always watchful and alert, but it takes quite a bit to actually get a reaction out of him. He's the sort of dog where if he runs to the window or I hear a "wfff" out of him, I turn and pay attention. I like the alertness, I do not like suspicion. I do think he would be more suspicious if I hadn't done so much with him (and still do). He comes everywhere with me and I make a point of keeping him well accustomed to being around people (in a totally neutral sense). Plus all the training and being together, we have a very strong bond. If I see a guy that makes me tense on the leash he notices that, his eyes get focused and his jaw tightens, whereas if I see a guy I know and say "hey!" and smile, he doesn't even glance at him. Overall he's just more of a "serious" type dog and has been since he was very young.
 
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