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What Does Breed Have to Do With It? Part Two: Determine Your Dog's Strengths


In this three-part series, SpotOn Trainer Nicole Skeehan and SpotOn Director of Training, Haeleigh Hyatt explore what makes our dogs tick and how use that to your advantage. In our fist post, we looked at how to gauge your dog's instincts, here we look at how to use that knowledge to determine your dog's strengths.

Determine your Dog's Strengths

In our last post, we talked about the difference between working instinct, cognition, and biddability. But how do you find out where your dog ranks on this scale? 

If you have a purebred dog, the answer lies in doing some research. There are several great websites that give good, honest advice. Sites like www.yourpurebredpuppy.com or www.akc.org have breed-by-breed listings that talk about the good, the bad, and the (sometimes) ugly of popular dog breeds. 

If your dog is of mixed origins, then you’ve got to take your best guess.  Perhaps your dog physically looks enough like one or two breeds that you can make a hypothesis.  Or if you’re lucky, you saw his or her parents and could come to a conclusion from that.  But if you have no guesses whatsoever, try one of the DNA tests out on the market nowadays (We recommend Embark). Then match the results up to the personality traits that you’ve found true from living with your individual dog.   

But as all dogs (whether pure or mixed) are individuals, a good place to begin is with an audit of your own dog’s behaviors. 

Working Instinct:

Is your dog obsessed with any one activity?
  1. Yes! My dog is obsessed with fill in the blank (herding, chasing small animals or things that move, sniffing, retrieving balls)
  2. Not really. He likes certain things, but isn’t really obsessed with them.
If you have a dog that is obsessed with an activity, he’s likely got a high working instinct. But if he can be easily redirected after he’s become interested in something, he likely is not as instinctual as others.

     

    Cognition:

    If your dog’s ball rolls under the couch does he:
      1. Find a way to get that ball back even if it means digging a hole in your hardwood floors to get under the couch.
      2. Look for the ball, but give up easily when the effort seems futile or when something better comes along.
      What we’re looking for here is your dog’s ability to problem solve. If your dog can figure out how to get to that treat you hid on top of the counter, how to escape a fence, or even how to avoid going home when you are trying to leave the dog park; you’ve got a problem solver on your hands.  On the other hand, if your dog tries a little but gives up, then problem solving is not at the top of his priority list.

         

        Biddability:

        When playing with you, does your dog:
          1. Want you involved in the game by bringing the ball back to you or encouraging you to tug a rope with him.
          2. Take the toy and play by himself, destroy the toy, or completely ignore your attempts to play.

          If your dog thinks that you are more fun than the toy, he’s likely seeking reinforcement from you. He’s the biddable type.  However, if your dog is more interested in having his own fun with the toy, his environment easily reinforces him.  He is likely less biddable.

           
          Now the real question is, how can you use this information to train your dog in the most effective way possible?  Stay tuned for the final post in this series.


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