Why Do Breeds Act In Certain Ways?

This is a topic that interests me a lot and it really is an extensive topic with many studies and research carried out…

However for this post, I want to talk about ‘behavioural conformation’ and ‘physical conformation’.

Starting with physical conformation, when we humans were starting to selectively breed dogs to carry out a job, whether it be hunting, guarding or herding, we would selectively breed for certain physical traits that allow the dog to undertake the role they are being bred for effectively. The Collie for example is an agile herding breed that chops and changes direction on a dime, therefore through physical conformation, we have modified this breed to allow Collies to herd more efficiently due to their skeletal frames, muscles and so on – which would very much likely cause injuries to any other breed if they were to herd for hours on end.

Then comes ‘behavioural conformation’. Again, similar to that of physical conformation, we have selectively bred behavioural traits into our dogs for a purpose. Dog’s that needed higher levels of aggression to carry out activities such as guarding livestock (Bordeaux for example), would be formed via breeding dogs with higher levels of aggression to help shape the breed. This along with the selective physical conformation, creates a breed that is comfortable (physically and behaviourally) in protecting livestock and is self-rewarding for them.

Not all dogs are the same. Genetic predisposition is a real thing and it is sometimes an uphill battle in changing behaviours that the dog was simply bred to do. The Border Collie has been bred, through physical and behavioural conformation to herd… and feel comfortable doing it! The pug in recent decades has been bred for its appearance, and therefore suffers from a lot of health issues – due to our manipulation of breeding abnormalities (physical conformation).

So when you are looking at your own dog’s behaviour, take a look at their genetic predisposition. What were they bred for? What traits were selectively bred into them? This will help with your training and also help those who are trying to select a breed!

Canine Behaviour and training in North East England.

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