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Thread: Breeding- Heritability of Temperament

  1. #1
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    Default Breeding- Heritability of Temperament

    Hi All,

    I'm looking for as much information as possible in relation to Heritability of Temperament. I've often heard people talk about how similar a dog's temperament is to it's Dam / Sire and sometimes even the "grandparents". But how much of temperament is inherited, and how much is environmental? I also know that even with a litter of puppies you are going to get a range of temperaments, so not all the puppies are going to be "just like" either parent.

    I'm looking for either personal experience or academic studies on the subject. Some of the questions I have are:

    What is the greatest genetic distance between two dogs that appear to have a very similar temperament.

    What percentage of a litter will inherit temperaments similar to either parent; and how often do the puppies NOT resemble either parent?

    Are different traits more readily inherited (i.e. Calmness / Nervousness, Fear / Boldness, etc). I'm looking specifically at Aggression (more specifically at Dominance or Territorial Aggression) at the moment.

    I have a few articles already (listed below), but anything else would be greatly appreciated.

    • Heritability of dominant–aggressive behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels. Published in APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR SCIENCE
    • Breed-typical behaviour in dogs—Historical remnants or recent constructs? Published in APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR SCIENCE
    • Environmental influences on the expression of aggressive behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels. Published in APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR SCIENCE


    It looks like those English Cocker Spaniels have an anger management issue, lol.

    TJ
    "What other people say about you, is a reflection of their character, not yours."

  2. #2
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    The only thing that I can think of would be my Mum and Stepdad's old dog. Monster was a rotty cross GSD who's mum Maxine was a beautiful natured dog, dad was a bit questionable but grandfather (Dad's dad) had the exact same temperament as Monster did (monster was his nick name, his real name was Rocky). Monster was used as a guard dog/personal protection dog and any person that would walk in the yard that he hadn't previously been introduced to would be bitten, I think he had bitten a total of 13 people over his life who chose to ignore the warning signs on the gate and waltzed on in. My Stepdad owned the Mum too, they were raised the same way and trained the same way, yet she was a great family pet.

    There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Jadielee- So do you think it was more to do with environment than genetics? Have you heard of anything further back than Grandparents passing on temperament?
    "What other people say about you, is a reflection of their character, not yours."

  4. #4

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    I personally think environment only plays a small part in temperaments. I know some dogs that have been very well socialized and turned out timid while other dogs have been locked in pens their whole lives and are outgoing and virtually bomb-proof.

    I don't think you will find accurate percentages, putting 2 timid dogs together can sometimes result in a whole litter of outgoing dogs, throwbacks from previous generations, or you could end up with a whole litter of timid dogs, it's a gamble.

    With aggression I believe aggressive dogs make aggressive pups. Some dogs you can taunt, bash, hit all you want, you will never get a rise out of them it's just their nature not to bite... Others you just look at the wrong way and they will snap at you.

    Temperament is a touchy subject, especially with BSL... I know the BSL fanatics will scream environment, environment, environment but let's face reality... Envirnment is only the tip of the iceburg... Bad breeding is the killer.

  5. #5
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    I took on a pregnant bitch and I know the sire.
    Both are very timid. The sire was a return to the breeder and we were told he had been abused by a woman. He still, after 3 or so years will NOT come near any woman.

    The mother to my knowledge was never abused where she was born and I know for a fact that my FIL (who owned her) has never abused any of his dogs.

    She has always been timid when meeting new people.

    The 3 females are desexed so there will be no accidental breeding so there is no way I can help further after this generation.
    I kept two of the pups. Despite early socialisation with people they are timid when encountering anyone new.
    One pup went to his home about 3 months of age.
    The other became my FIL's new working dog. She returned here to me after she and her sire ran off for 5 nights. Sheep were down on a neighbouring farm during that time but no one is sure if it was them as the injuries reflect a trained pig dog attack.

    She is the most outgoing out of all of them. She had much more people around her coming and going at his farm than all of them have here.

    Any posts made under the name of Di_dee1 one can be used by anyone as I do not give a rats.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by aSoulfulDecorum View Post
    Thanks Jadielee- So do you think it was more to do with environment than genetics? Have you heard of anything further back than Grandparents passing on temperament?
    I'm going to go with genetics in this case, the environment was a stable loving household with proper training etc. And we didnt know any other history other than the grandfather was also aggressive.

    Just want to add too that the monster's purpose wasn't originally as a guard dog, that's just how he turned out!

    There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.

  7. #7
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    I do a lot of work with Rescued newfies...........A lot of them have been mistreated and abused. because of the "hardwiring" of the breed standard for good temperament, I have had great success with even bring the most people/dog aggressive dogs back to being a reliable friendly dog.
    I am heavily into dog behaviour and training and I have done work with many different breeds. But there would be only certain breeds that I would trust after mistreatment when it has affected their temperament.
    I do believe some dogs have a inherited temperament. What is very important is how they are treated in the first 8 weeks. if they live with a nervous aggressive mother for those first eight weeks it can change all the puppies personalities.
    So for an example if a newfie from a ''good temp" line was mistreated and became nervous/anxious/aggressive and she had some puppies whilst she was still like this mode, most of her puppies could still end up nervous/anxious/aggressive, this would be environmental. But if the same puppies were taken on from say week one by a well adjusted newf or other calm/happy /friendly dog, their genetic temp would come through.

    Most of the Rescue newfies I have worked with have been very successful, because I have known their breeding ( thanks to microchipping) and I know what their first 8-10 weeks was like. It makes a huge difference if you know dogs had a good early life.

    I have also worked with a lot of non-newfie rescues and have had to work with a lot of unknown history dogs and some do come back 100%, with lots of training and a reliable kind new owner. but there have also been many that have always been and still are nervous, anxious or aggressive.

    I will have to search my papers for all of this and maybe post some links. I did a lot of dog psychology and behaviour studies and because I am older, not all my info is on the web or if it is , I have no idea where . I love the study of dogs. And I do a lot of work with them. Rescue behaviour is my passion. I love to find out what happened to dogs and how or if I can help them
    Pets are forever

  8. #8

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    Murphy when we got him was in this pen which was opened so they could get out and run time to time.
    When we got him his Mum came out of this pen and came to me. And sort of said great to see you and a lick then she was off.
    Never did she give any signs of I will bite you so I felt real happy with her temperment.
    I thought this trait would carry over to Murphy and so far he has not shown any aggression ever, but then again he hasn't had the need to do so.
    But I will say that he has got a personality that loves kids, though he is still too rough and bouistous. He is the complete watchdog on his own making.
    These are thing I think that he was born with.

    When we got our last Heeler her Mother was ready to rip us to pieces until she was told to quiet down by her owner.
    And Lacey was the opposite in a lot of things, she hated when other dogs would come up too close to her.
    She was friendly to only a certain few. But also a good watchdog.
    We also noticed with her as she aged she mellowed a lot.
    If this is any help.

  9. #9
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    I've been breeding dogs for over 20 years now. To me environment seems to play the biggest part. Though a nervous or aggressive dam will have an impact because of her presence. Though I have seen nervous dams come into their own when they become a mother.

    I have been involved in three different breeds, two significantly. On the whole I get fairly even temperaments throughout a litter and don't find you can really pick personalities with accuracy until they are around 3 months of age.

    Proper socialisation and handling from 3 weeks to 16 weeks I find makes the most impact on a dog regardless of it's parents temperament.

    I have a Gordon Setter who is outgoing, goofy, social etc, yet her litter brother is nervous and suspicious etc. When I collected my puppy at 8 weeks I could see very little difference in the puppies temperaments, just a scaling down, all were outgoing and playful. 4 months later my dog and I met up with one of her litter brothers who lived local to us, I also looked after him in boarding, he was in no way the same as his litter sister (my bitch) and having met the owner I was not at all surprised, she was herself a nervous person and this was her 3rd Gordon, during our conversations I found out that all her Gordon's were shy and nervous all came from different breeders.

    I do find however that breed traits can be made stronger in lines. eg my stud dog is from a mother/son mating, his mother is a strong hunter and so too is her son and her other off-spring if the trait has been nurtured. Puppies of my dogs are living with rabbits and cats and I believe this is because proper socialisation and introductions were carried out while they were still young (from 9 weeks of age) and opportunities to nurture the hunting side were not brought to the fore.

    I've had dams that have been terrible mothers, in the sense that they have little interest in their puppies only doing enough to sustain their puppies survival and then when breeding from their off-spring have had excellent mothers who have gone to the other end of the scale.

  10. #10
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    Sorry to take so long to get back to you...

    Okay, so the articles that I've read pretty much say:

    - Dominance Aggression has a heritability of 20% (so, if one of the parents is dominant aggressive, then only about 20% of the pups will be)

    - Recent breeding practices have a high correlation with current 'breed specific traits', no correlation was found with original function (for example, if I wanted a working dog, I should go and see a breeder who works their dogs, and actively breeds for those traits; getting a Border Collie from a 'pet breeder' is less likely to produce a good working dog).

    - A correlation was found between aggressive owners and their dogs temperament ("the more aggressive owners's personalities were, the more their dogs displayed aggression toward familiar and unfamiliar dogs, and the less the owners' reported he dogs as trainable. Also, the more aggressive owners were, the more aggressive their interactions with their dogs were" - Dog Owner Personality, Owner Interaction with Dog, and Dog Aggression; Melanie Daye). So this is in line with your comment, MAC, in relation the shyness / boldness of the Gordon Setter puppies.

    - Environmental factors indicated that dogs showing more aggressive behaviours tended to bo "more likely to have suffered an illness during the first 16 weeks of life (χ2 = 14.899, P < 0.001); groomed less often (t = 2.252, P < 0.05); given less time for walks/exercise (t = 2.618, P < 0.01); slow in obeying commands (U = 17967.5, P < 0.001), more likely to pull on the lead (U = 16663, P < 0.001); and more likely to react to loud or high-pitched noises (χ2 = 14.142, P < 0.001)." - Environmental influences on the expression of aggressive behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels; J. Serpell & A. Podberscek. Although, I wonder if a more aggressive dog is less likely to be walked & groomed as often 'because' it is aggressive, and not the other way around. But interesting that a dog showing aggression was almost 15 times more likely to have suffered an illness early in life.

    - The Dams behaviour during the first 8-12 weeks of a puppies life also had an impact on the temperament of the puppies, but I can't remember which study it was, or how significant the correlation was.

    - Both of the cocker spaniel studies (genetics and environment) indicated that solid coloured dogs were more likely to show aggressive behaviour than parti-coloured dogs (highest to lowest; golden, black, parti), with one of the studies indicating that yellow labs were more likely to present with behaviour problems than black labs, and another study (can't remember where I read it) found a genetic link between the red coated Akita's and higher levels of aggression. I've also heard it said (although not published anywhere) that long-coat Akita's have a more laid back personality. Interesting that coat colour and length are linked somehow with aggression / dominance aggression.

    So in effect, if breeders are being responsible about which dogs they breed from, it should be relatively easy to breed for less aggressive dogs, regardless of original function. It should be slightly harder to breed specifically for aggression (which would be why some dogs from 'fighting' bloodlines in the pit bull aren't prone to fight) although not impossible (obviously). But given the heritability of dominance aggression, the incidence of aggression within one breed shouldn't exceed about 20% (except that some signs of aggression can be related to fear, heritability of 46%, and resource guarding). This seems to be in line with another study "Breed Differences in Canine Aggression"; Duffy et al. which classed aggression as "growling, biting or attempting to bite".

    The highest level of Stranger Directed Aggression was 20.9% by Dachshunds (average 4.3%); Owner Directed Aggression was 7.9% by Beagles (average 1.7%); Dog Directed Aggression was 29.3% by Akitas (average 11.3%) and Dog Rivalry (dogs living in the same house) was 11.5% by Pit Bulls (average 4.3%).

    As the Akita Standard used to allow for dog directed aggression (where now it indicates that it 'may be present but is undesirable'), I wonder whether owners were more likely to allow this behaviour to continue in puppies instead of correcting it. I do know of one breeder who tells her puppy buyers to never let their Akita near another dog because they are dog aggressive, but obviously lack of socialisation is going to increase the likelihood of that being true. I don't know how prevalent this thought process is though, because I have only heard it from the one breeder. And one girl who got two dogs from that breeder did heavily socialise both the dogs (males) and has never had a problem with either of them being dog aggressive.

    Off to work...
    "What other people say about you, is a reflection of their character, not yours."

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