Does a Dog's Genetics Affect Social Behavior?

Just like humans, some dogs are social butterflies who like to mingle with other dogs and party, while some others are much more aloof and would rather be left alone. If you are wondering what may cause such distinct differences among doggie social behaviors, a trip into the intriguing world of genetics may provide some clues.


Genetic Cocktail

No other species in the world is as diverse as the dog. Tiny, small, large, extra-large, massive, long and compact, dogs seem to come in all shapes and sizes. Along with a vast mosaic of physical characteristics comes a nice variety of different behavioral traits. Is your dog stubborn, independent, biddable, social or standoffish? The cause of such variety stems back to when humans started selectively breeding dogs for specific purposes.

Like Father, Like Son

Who's your daddy? This question is important in that you are looking for a pup who will grow up to become a social, friendly dog, just like the good old-fashioned Lassie. A good place to start is by finding a reputable, ethical breeder who puts an emphasis on breeding for good health and temperament besides looks. Ask your breeder for some honest feedback on the behavior of the pup's parents and grandparents before making a final commitment, suggests veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman.

What's in a Breed?

The breed you choose can have a significant impact on how social your puppy becomes. While it's true that there are stable specimens in all breeds, some breeds do appear to have a predisposition for more skittish, anti-social behaviors than others. For instance, certain breeds can be naturally aloof toward strangers because they were selectively bred to guard homes, people and valuables, whereas livestock guardians can be naturally standoffish due to their history of working independently and bonding more with livestock than with people or other dogs.

Nature Versus Nurture

While you cannot change your dog's genetic makeup, extensive time spent training and socializing your puppy during that brief critical window of socialization ending around 12 weeks of age is time well invested that can really make a difference in how social your puppy turns out. Introducing a puppy to 100 different people by the age of 12 weeks is highly recommended according to veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer Dr. Ian Dunbar.

By Adrienne Farricelli


About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.