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Temperament-Nature Or Nurture

Question to Vic Monteleon:

How much is nature versus nurture when we try to assess temperament in the ring? I’ll offer my own dogs as an example for discussion. All except the last dog (still a puppy) are champions and the first two also had obedience titles.

Hello Folks,
Nature versus nurture tends to chicken and egg type arguments that are irresolvable. It’s nature and nurture … they work hand in hand … in tandem to create what the final product is. The best way, in my opinion, to look at it is that

  • nature (genetics) represent the *potential of the dog
  • nurture (training, socialization, and conditioning) are what allow the dog to achieve his genetic potential.

You can’t eliminate poor genetic makeup with training or socialization … but you can dampen the effects of that makeup. When I got dogs in training that were very nervy, spooky, or generally “leaky” … and the owners asked what they could do I told them to move to a high rise apartment in the noisiest part of New York City (jokingly) to make an important point. For dogs such as this, social pressure must be continuous and unrelenting, or they’ll backslide. If you keep the pressure on, you can achieve some counter-conditioning.

On the other hand, a bad environment can go a long way to suppressing excellent genetic potential. A good dog can be almost ruined. I say almost because we’ve seen in rescue dogs … those dogs who, because of excellent behavioral genetics, are able to come back and become wonderful dogs.

Nature gives you the foundation. Nurture allows the dog to get there. It’s not nature versus nurture. It’s not either/or. It never was. Nature (genetics) should be the province of breeders … nurture (environment), the province of owners, handlers, and trainers.

Vic Monteleon, Montwood Dobermans, USA