Here is a vast subject that we are going to try to tackle today: Will my dog have good or bad character, will he be kind or mean?
So many questions to which many owners wish to have answers quickly when they adopt a puppy or an adult dog.
Many tests exist to assess the character of the dog, the best known of which is that of Campbell. Personally and professionally, I do not use it / more because for me it is not necessarily very representative and requires the use of exercises and techniques rather obsolete in my opinion.
The behavioral tests which allow to draw the future character of the dog are often done in a neutral place, that the dog does not know… I prefer to rely more on different criteria that I can evaluate over time, according to the situations and in depending on the environment offered to the dog. This gives me much more objective, rich and varied data.
In fact, to roughly assess the character of a dog, I will observe more:
- The dog’s temper: how he reacts when he is faced with something rather unpleasant.
- The reactivity of the dog: how does it react when it is faced with new stimuli, in particular environmental.
- The way the dog plays: does he prefer to “fight” or “chase” or “get chased”.
- The dog’s curiosity / vigilance: how does it react to new situations, a new person, a new fellow member, a new object, etc.
- The dog’s possessiveness: does he manage to share his resources, namely food, toys, space, his master, etc.
All these observations can already give us an overview of the dog’s character. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that the character of the dog is not something fixed. It is modifiable and malleable.
The character of the dog is formed by several factors
- The breed of the dog and the genes of its parents.
- The dog’s natural instincts.
- The good or bad progress of the gestation period of the mother.
- The mother’s behavior during development (is it reassuring for her puppies, etc.).
- Human behavior during the puppy’s first weeks.
- Human behavior during the puppy’s first months.
- The variety of environments and experiences offered to the puppy during its development.
We often hear: “this or that race is easier than another”. And this is also not entirely false. Indeed, certain breeds will have more pronounced natural instincts than others, I am thinking in particular of more “primitive” dogs ( Husky, Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, etc.), having not experienced any real modifications by humans. These dogs will therefore have more character since they are more independent.
Furthermore, even within a common breed, dogs can behave completely opposite, it depends a lot on lived experiences and the intervention of Man.
Indeed, the character of a dog, as I indicated, can be changed. Of course the instincts cannot be suppressed, but nevertheless they can be limited and controlled by Man.
For example, I have a dog who is very attached to me, he listens to me almost to the finger and to the eye and always wants to “please me” by adopting the behaviors that I want him to adopt. However, with others, he will be completely different because he will not necessarily have a special relationship with them and will not readily accept to cooperate. In fact, for me, he has a very good character, for others, he has a very strong character.
Have good or bad character?
This remains entirely subjective, just like for humans elsewhere. A dog can be very docile for one person, and very stubborn for another. Already because the dog will not necessarily adopt the same behavior with everyone, because he will trust the attitude of the human he has in front of him, but also because we do not have all the same requirements nor the same tolerance threshold for such or such behavior.
It will be said of a dog who has good character that he is nice, docile and rather available to adopt the desired behaviors. Conversely, it will be said that a dog has a bad temper if he does not give in quickly and that he tends to test more than to cooperate.
However, for me a dog that tests and does not necessarily listen to what it is asked to do is not necessarily a dog that has a bad character. It is simply a dog that understands that it can test and finds some satisfaction in it.
The instant anecdote
On a personal level, and to give you a specific example of the subjectivity of the concept of character: I adopted a bitch aged 6 years ago, who was recovered by an association following ill-treatment received in his original adoptive family. She was described to me as a super bitch, who has character but is nevertheless easy to live with. It was therefore the opinion of people who had crossed his path at an instant T in the life of this bitch.
After several days / weeks at his side, I noticed rather embarrassing behaviors, for me anyway, from my point of view, and I spoke to people of the association who said to me: is her character, she is like that.
But I don’t think that the behaviors adopted by dogs in general necessarily follow from their character, in any case, not only! In my opinion, this should not be seen as a generality but rather as an attitude adopted at a time M following a specific situation and a particular experience. And this behavior can therefore therefore be modified if all these aspects are taken into account (context, experience, etc.).
I am thinking in particular of people who describe their dog as dominant. “My dog is dominant, that’s how it is …” Uh! NO ! A dog can be dominant towards such and such a dog and completely submissive towards another. It is absolutely not a feature of their personality to be engraved in stone.
Just like us, for example I can be very firm when it comes to taking back my dogs, and very gentle when it comes to rewarding them. It is not because once I was firm that I would always know it, in all situations and with all dogs.
What you must remember
- Dogs have two types of character: that which is “innate”, which corresponds to its instincts and that which is “acquired”, which in turn corresponds to all the lived experiences, the attitude of the master and the modifications brought about by the ‘Man more generally.
- The “bad” character of a dog (implying a difficult, even aggressive dog) is often influenced by Man because the dog is not born naughty, it becomes it.
- Having character is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to know how to analyze and control if necessary the behaviors associated with this character.