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Nature or nurture? There is always a debate about whether a dog is born with a behavior problem, or whether they develop it as a result of their upbringing.
There is definitely a genetic component to behavior problems in dogs. In fact, scientists have identified a particular gene in the Shiba Inu which is associated with increased aggression. Sheltie breeders will admit that shyness is a well recognized trait in that breed.
Similarly, it is well known that puppies that stay with their litter until they are 8 weeks old, and are then well socialized are less likely to develop such problems. This falls into the “nurture” category.
Some dogs develop behavior problems as adults that have nothing to do with either their genetic make-up or their socialization. One example is that of dogs who get a big fright, and then develop an anxiety disorder.
What can you do to make sure your new four legged family member doesn’t have behavior problems such as aggression or shyness?
1. Research the breed you are interested in. Don’t just look for physical problems such as hip dysplasia or hereditary eye diseases. Educate yourself about behavioral issues in the breed so you can ask the right questions of breeders.
2. Ask your local breed society for advice on what you need to watch out for in their breed. They can also recommend breeders in your area.
3. Make sure you visit a breeder’s establishment and ask them questions about how they raise their pups. How old are they when they leave their mom (they should be no younger than 8 weeks), do they have regular visits from other people, are they given the opportunity to interact with children? A good breeder will be concerned with infection control and limit visitors for that reason. However, they will also be well aware of the need for their pups to be exposed to people of all shapes, sizes and ages.
4. When your pup comes home with you, book him into a reputable puppy pre-school. Take him out with you so he can get used to sights and sounds, and meet lots of different people. Continue his obedience training throughout his life.
In Summary – There is never any guarantee that your dog won’t develop a behavior problem. However, by following these steps you are doing everything in your power to make sure your pup grows up to be a happy, well adjusted individual.
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