GENETICS ARE IMPORTANT
This is why I neutered Loki -to guarantee no possibility of offspring.. This is why I do management training with puppies BEFORE issues start, especially to help with potential breed traits. This is was ethical breeding is important. This is why understanding that genetics also effect behavior and temperament.
This is Loki’s Uncle. His mother’s brother.
Styx is a GENETICALLY stranger wary/stranger danger dog, who came from a neurotic stranger danger GSD (mix). As he has aged and gone through different situations and his wariness has developed into aggression.
New people = aggression. Period.
This has nothing to do with grooming, or being in a new place (he has been here before his owner is the bather), this is strictly about people within 10ft of him that are in his family. Can this be managed? Yes. He does not leave the house unless muzzled, he doesn’t go into public where he could come across people. He is trained very well in obedience but this is NOT something that will go away entirely.
Does that make him a bad dog? No. He does phenomenally with his family. He can safely be managed and handled by his owners. He just cannot be around new people and if he needs to be there is ALOT of work to be done prior and always in a muzzle for safety.
This behavior will NEVER go away. It may get better or worse with certain management techniques and continued training but this behavior, at its base, is genetic. The stranger wariness quickly dipped into human aggression with only a couple “bad” situations that most stable could recover from very easily.
NO AMMOUNT OF TRAINING WILL COMPLETELY STOP THIS BEHAVIOR.
ONLY MANAGE IT.
This is GENETIC
This is seen through multiple dogs from his siblings (over 30 total due to multiple litters from irresponsible breeding) at varying degrees but all of them are stranger wary. His sister, same litter, was genetically stranger wary but more friendly and warmed up better. EVEN WHEN PAIRED WITH A STABLE DOG her ENTIRE litter of 7 puppies ALL have anxiety about people not in their family (household families not genetic families) and are ALL stranger wary to varying degrees. This is despite being raised in 6 different homes with 6 different training styles/levels and 6 different socialization methods/degrees etc.
This is GENETIC
TEMPERMENT/DRIVES are GENETIC
This is the difference between breeds. Different breed GENETICALLY have different drives and temperaments. Even in rescues and mixes, these genetic drives and temperaments come into play. This affects their temperament, trainability, independence, drives, workability, need for exercise and so on and so forth. No different than how genetics affect size, weight, and health.
Styx, pictured, is around 10 years old. He is managed very well by his owners and despite being a bite risk to strangers and having very good obedience training, he is phenomenal with his owners and in his home. He will continue to live out his days with this management in place. It is also important to note here that Styx has gone through multiple trainers, and has been recommended to have behavioral euthanasia by both trainers and his veterinarian staff 8 years ago. The owners opted to dedicate themselves to his management and have done a wonderful job BUT most families and dogs owners could not handle the management required.
This does NOT make those who could not handle it bad owners, it does not mean they have given up, it means they understand what they can and cannot handle and make decisions based on their best interest AS WELL AS the dog.
Not being able to handle certain breeds, temperaments, drives etc or genetic behavioral issues or unexpected genetic medical issues DOES NOT make an owner a bad person. No everyone is able to, and that is okay.
DENYING the HUGE role genetics play can put dogs into homes that are not suited for them.
This goes for purebred AND rescues.
It is NOT “All in how you raise them” you CANNOT “love them more” to make genetic traits go away.
Training cannot make GENETIC behavioral traits go away BUT CAN MANAGE THEM and help you live happily with your dog.
Different breeds have different genetic dispositions.
Mixed breeds can have a grab bag of genetic dispositions but taking into account the breeds that make up your mix CAN help you know more about your dogs temperament.
Border Collies are highly likely to herd, Retrievers are highly likely to retriever, American Pit Bull Terriers are highly likely to have dog aggression, Malinios are highly likely to have a high bite drive, small Terriers are highly likely to have a high prey drive for small animals and so on and so forth.
Loki, Styx’s nephew, is very stranger wary but with consistency in obedience training, management training, and recognizing/understanding/accepting his genetic traits and potential genetic development in terms of temperament, he is NOT a bite risk and warms up to people in a shorter time frame than he once did. He still is not thrilled by strangers but it is manageable and safe to be in public settings. We just don’t go to super crowded places or places with a lot of children.
***Note: The muzzled pictured in this article is not sized appropriately. It is too small. It is also not completely bite proof. Baskerville muzzles will not completely stop a determined bite. Sized properly a muzzle should allow a dog to pant fully without touching the bottom of muzzle.***
I decided to add this little bit so that when someone comments something, or has an opinion, I can address it directly here as well as on the original post. This will allow other like-minded comments to be addressed all at once. I am always open for discussion and to see other educated opinions, so please do not hesitate to voice them.
Any dog with aggression should be culled/killed/put down.
While I can understand this stance, it is important that there are some breed standards that state the breed should/often have some level of aggression, be it dog aggression or human aggression. This does not make them bad dogs, but something to consider when choosing a breed. Some breeds have been bred for hundreds of years to have these specific temperaments due to the original need/goal of the breed.
American Pitbull Terriers (true APBTs, not just bully mixes) have in their UKC breed standard that they “most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression” however they are not meant to be human aggression at all. Their breed standard also states “the APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers”.
There are some breeds who call for them to be “aloof” when it comes to strangers or even tolerate human aggression to varying degrees because the breed’s original purposes.
As long as the owners are responsible and manage their dogs properly, and the dog is not a danger to anyone within their household (ie the owners, people that live in the house with the dog) there is no reason to automatically euthanize/cull the dog.
“Its so nice that you work with these dogs instead of
Let me be very honest for a moment: I 100% support behavioral euthanasia.
I was one of the trainers 8 years ago who worked with Styx and gave my professional opinion that this dog should be euthanized as he was unpredictable and aggressive. He used to only go for a throat/head shot, even with other body parts much more in range and is not a stable dog.
That said, when his owner -who is a friend of mine- made the decision to manage his behavior rather than euthanized I was very honest with her about the work that would need to be put in. That he would never again be safe around people he didn’t know, that he would need to be muzzled if he left the house or if someone came over, and that he should be put up/confined to a room/crate if company comes over. These were the very basics, we later went in and designed a full management plan for him.
It is also important to note that Styx is not a threat or a danger to those who are members of his household; he is only a threat/danger to those who are not members of his household. Over the last 8 years, his owners have been very diligent in his management and have been careful about his handling. While this is not something all homes/owners could handle they have done a wonderful job in keeping others safe, as well as their dog.
If he were a danger to his family/owners as well the conversation would have been very different.
That said, I will always attempt to work with a dog before suggesting euthanasia. Most “aggression” issues are misunderstood by the owners/public and can be worked through with training or can be controlled safely with management.
Most people cannot handle this type of aggression.
This may be true. Managing actual aggression cases is not something that everyone can handle, and those who are faced with this situation love their dogs no less by making the decision that they cannot handle it. It is OKAY if you cannot handle your dog’s aggression and opt to go for other options other than keeping and managing the dog. Not everyone has a lifestyle/home that is suitable for these types of dogs.
A lot of the “surprise” of these behaviors just “randomly showing up one day” actually could have been prepared for prior to ever getting the dog by recognizing breed genetic traits, going to reputable breeders, getting a dog temperament tested at the shelter and many other potential options to help lower the risk and stack the odds in your favor.
But genetics are not 100%
That is correct!
Which is why I mentioned that I recognized Loki’s behavior, understood his genetics and was able to work with them before they tipped over the edge. The acknowledgment of genetic temperament, working hard to train management skills, advocating for him etc has helped significantly with his stranger wariness and has -so far- prevented him from developing the severe aggression that is possible in his line.
This act of accepting his genetics and working with him is the difference in nuture vs nature. It is how he was raised. In this case, him being in control of his reactivity that is caused from his genetic stranger danger is the benefit of “how he was raised”. It does not take away the reactivity or the stranger wariness that causes his reactivity, but it does minimize it and make it much less of an issue. He can safely be in public and around people, is routinely around strangers and is safe as well as comfortable and confident.
So yes, how they are raised is important…but those genetics don’t go away. It is a consistency in his training and management. If he were placed into another home right now, where there was not the structure, training and management that he currently has in his life, he would easily tip into high reactivity that would likely become aggression if left unchecked. I have no doubt that in a home as described in this paragraph, he would become like his uncle.
There are also many dogs who will not exhibit the traits of their genetic breeding, throw backs and other behavioral disorders/behavioral issues that are not genetic that can happen to a dog.
Genetics are not end all be all, and how extreme or manageable can be modified based on how they are raised and trained and managed. That said, genetic behavior still will not go away, but can be often be manageable.