Your Dogs' Parentage Affects His Behavior Too

Today,at the local pet training facility a dog trainer acquaintance was doing a private consultation with a dog owner who was having aggression issues with her dog.
The trainer is highly skilled and did the right thing by having a quiet, one on one with the owner as this dog would have been impossible in a class situation.The dog would intermittently lunge and snarl, pulling at the lead held by the owner and sounding really scary whenever anyone approached.
The trainer asked me if I would approach the dog, sure, I agreed. The trainer then warned me,''Don't look him in the eyes!”
Don't look him in the eyes, I thought, who started that rumor? Looking the dog in the eyes is another way to asses what is going on inside the dogs head. If he looks off to one side, he is submitting to your being a creature dominant over him but not always happily so, if he looks down, he is submissive and if he stares right back at you, he is unafraid of what your next move might be. He is self confident, he may be aggressive and it is just as likely he is not. I have never personally picked a dog to be a companion that did not look me straight in the eye when we met.
The trainer said the owner had made this dog aggressive. She didn't like some of his behaviors and her methods of correcting him had led to his aggression.
Approaching the dog I had nothing in my pockets to make friends except a key. I walked up, said 'hey ' to him softly and as he checked me out with a few sniffs, I offered him the key to smell. It was important to offer him a token something, making an offering is a universal sign of friendship understood by all animals,and I HAD looked him in the eye and found him to be unafraid, plus his earlier behavior made me surmise he considered himself the dominant dog in all situations....we were for the moment two creatures on equal least in his mind. I reached down and scratched him behind the ear to assure him I was not a threat...
The dog trainer continued her consult but my interpretation of the dogs behavior was different. While I was not privy to the home situation the dog was in, what I observed was a small passive woman who owned a dog who was very, very large and a combination of a guarding/protection breed and a hunting breed. This mix of breed characteristics contributed greatly in my opinion as to the problem the woman was having with the dog. Remember my post about 'every dog needs a job to do'? Well, this dog was a perfect example. He was the combination of two breeds whose sole purpose was to do their job in the field,the guard dog part of his gene's told him to guard something and the hunting dog gene's were programmed to do a lot of quick thinking independently. Add to this mix a female owner whose unassertive outward appearance said ' I need protecting' and you have a dog who has taken upon himself the job of protecting his owner because that is what his genetic makeup has told him he is best qualified for.
In my opinion this dog was not a bad dog, his owner simply had not given him a purposefull direction so he created his own.
When you have a purebred dog, it is easier to asses problems because you can take into account the dogs' genetic programming,when you have a mix breed it becomes more difficult to make an assesment .DNA testing of mixed breeds is becoming more popular and certainly has it's advantages when trying to determine 'why does my dog do that'?The first photo at the top of this post shows Guy, a dog I bred enjoying himself to the fullest doing what his genes said to do...hunt by sight. Granted, he is only chasing a plastic bag in a corn field but he fills fulfilled and you can see enjoyment on his face. The second picture shows how eagerly he awaits his turn to run,no one forced him to do this, it is in his genetic make-up. By the way, if you have a sighthound,particularly a rescued greyhound I whole heartily suggest lure coursing. It is a million miles removed from the dreadful track racing that has caused so many dogs to be abused and it fulfills their desire to run and hunt by sight. Dogs love it! It is a great family sport.( has info on coursing.)
Letting your dog fulfill his job requirements leads to a well adjusted companion. It doesn't matter the breed or mix breed of dog. If you have a terrier type, then let your dog "go to ground" even if it is just in the back yard.If you have a lap dog,let them spend time, one on one with you, as a lap dog. If you have a pit bull type, then channel that fighting instinct into play time games with toys not easily destructible. Like people, dogs need to feel fulfilled. Otherwise you will get unwanted displacement behaviors.
As a final note,every day, someone says to me,”Mutts are better”. Now everyone has owned and loved a mutt, I have had a couple I wouldn't have traded for the world,but really without purebred dogs, there would be no mutts, and if we don't support responsible purebred dog breeders who sacrifice their own time and money to do their best to insure good temperments and work to eliminate genetic health issues, then one day all dogs will look and act like the Pariah Dog. Is that what you want?