Generalizing along a breed

Discussion in 'Dogs - General Dog Chat' started by Laurelin, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    This is something that is bothering me. I don't know the right answer.

    Obviously breeds have characteristics or else breeds wouldn't make sense. but I feel like there is often a danger and a trap that people can fall into by labeling X breed as _____. Particularly after experience with just one dog.

    How much is breed? How much is line? And how much is the individual dog? when can you start generalizing behaviors you see to the 'breed' level?

    Example: Trey was super shy, super sensitive, and not very smart. My other two shelties were not like him at all. If someone only owned Trey I don't believe it is fair at all to the breed to take a dog like him as the average dog of the breed.

    Mia's the 7th papillon I've lived with. I've known a lot. I was very sure going into getting her that I was very familiar with the breed. Well, Mia's a very different kind of papillon. Very different temperament (not in a bad way, I quite like her if you can't tell). How much of what I was familiar with prior to getting her was the breed or was it the line of papillons that Summer's breeder had going? All of her dogs are very similar and Mia sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the others we've owned. Or is it just her as an individual that is different instead of it being a difference in lines?

    I have run into this a lot lately in a couple breeds hence the topic.
     
  2. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    I think we all do this to some degree. The more dogs you know of a breed (both related and not), the broader your range of experience and you can start to see what is more typical for the breed and what are outliers.

    And even if you've met quite a lot of dogs of a breed, a very memorable experience can color your opinion of a whole breed, right or wrong. For instance I tend to like BCs even though I've met many I wouldn't want... but a couple of my favorite dogs are BCs and so I tend to think of the breed as a whole as dogs I enjoy. On the other hand I wouldn't trust any Groenendael as far as I could throw it because while I know a decent range of them from several lines, one I'd known for a while suddenly snapped and full out attacked Mira for no discernible reason...we were 100 feet away, I was standing still and Mira was sitting still looking at me as I talked to her, both of us face 90 degrees away from the dog.

    I think the best you can do is find individuals that are what you want and see if those traits tend to run in his/her relatives. If so, get a dog from that line. This is one reason Cookie came to live with me for a while...I like a lot of dogs from their lines but wanted the chance to really get to know another on a daily basis, to really get to see how she develops and thinks and reacts to the world.
     
  3. Linds

    Linds Twin 2

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    It's something I've tried to be careful of when talking about Koolies. I've tried when talking about them to say "In my experience." "My dog(s)." "I've seen" and so one because I only have Didgie and Traveler who are from the same lines.

    But, I do spend a lot of times on Koolie boards, talking to other Koolie owners and discussing traits people see in their dogs. Because of that I tend to see certain common themes, traits, behaviors and temperaments that a lot of the dogs share and those are the overall characteristics I try to tell people about with the caveat that it'll come down to individual dogs.

    But, it's hard to talk about breeds without generalizing. Otherwise you can't really give people a description of them. You're always going to find dogs that don't fit the norm in breeds but they aren't the rule and I think generalizing can be both good and bad depending on who's listening and what research they end up doing.
     
  4. Toller_08

    Toller_08 Active Member

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    It can be hard sometimes not to make sweeping generalizations, especially if someone is limited to just one dog of a certain breed or multiple dogs from the same lines.

    When I talk Tollers, usually I am referring to my experience with Dance as far as living with her goes, but I've known enough of them and been around many to find similarities and differences and safe generalizations as far as the breed itself goes (or at least of the ones in my province). And there are some pretty big differences just based on lines altogether. The Tollers I met in BC this summer were pretty vastly different from Dance, for example. Very friendly, outgoing, high energy, very busy, noisy dogs - all of which Dance is not, and a lot of which many other Tollers I know are not as well.

    And when I talk Dobermans, usually I try to make a point of saying that my experience is limited to the three I've had and that most of the other Dobermans I know are related in some way to my current two. Because again, lines make for some big differences. I know based on my Doberman board alone that my dogs are quite different in many ways to some of the dogs there, and that some of the dogs there I'd probably really love living with (or not, depending). For as much stuff that can be chalked up to being breed generalizations, there is a whole bunch of stuff that is totally dependent on lines and what a breeder is breeding for.

    And having only had one Aussie, and a puppy at that, and not really knowing any others super well yet, I don't feel I'm in much position to say anything about the breed specifically. Just my own experience with my own dog so far.

    I know when I was researching different breeds it was hard sometimes to sift through factual breed generalizations and what was just one person's experience with their one or two dogs. But we all do it to some extent I think. It's hard not to. But even so, generally even if multiple people are describing their own generalizations based on their own experiences, I could still find similarities between everyone's dogs. So generalizing isn't always a bad thing and is something that you should be able to do with a specific breed, because a specific breed should have many similar traits regardless of where the dog comes from.
     
  5. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    It is hard not to do. I am definitely learning to take everything with a grain of salt when I talk to people. Especially if all they have to say is something negative or positive.

    I do see a lot of similarities among most papillons. Even Mia is similar in many ways to the others. She's probably more similar than different but the differences are pretty big.

    Shelties are one breed that I see a lot of and they are just VASTLY different from one another. Shy and no drive to a dog that is bursting at the seams with energy.
     
  6. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    I think there is something to be said for individual dogs, and something to be said of individual lines as well. Pepper has the same lines as the rest of our dogs, though a different father than Payton; she is however 100% the same as her sister, who is a very different kind of dog, and Georgie shares her lines being her niecelette, and Georgie is a very different kind of dog as well. Rather, I should say that PEPPER is the odd one out. She just is.

    OTOH I had Payton at agility class Wednesday and this is the first time Auggie's breeder has seen him working. I asked her after class how he looks and immediately added "discounting the whole 'needs a lot of self control' thing."
    "He looks like one of my dogs," she said. And she's right on the money - his attitude is bang on for the rest of the family. So he is appropriate for those lines (and maybe not appropriate for his dad's lines, haha.) but probably not appropriate for what a lot of shelties might look like. Probably closer in line with what agility sheltie breeders are breeding for... not at ALL what pet sheltie breeders are breeding for.


    I think you can speak in terms of "X breed can be like this" because there are definitely breed traits that can pop up, but there's always something to be said for both lines and individual dogs. I tend to talk more in terms of what the standard calls for in terms of temperament, and expand more with "some can be like this, some like this" as caveats so to speak. At this point we have owned six shelties and I've had experience with many many more, and seen the gamut of temperament, including temperament issues. I still think you can boil a breed down to certain behaviour patterns. I mean, people will talk about "herding dogs" even among a huge variety of breeds within the group, so you can even make some generalizations out of a group that contains multiple breeds. What you might say about a corgi versus a GSD are two different things, and yet there are still generalizations about them as "herding dogs" that you could make.
    They are, of course, called generalizations for a reason. But to me it's kind of like a stereotype... there's a reason something became a stereotype. It doesn't mean if you point to any given person in a crowd of said stereotyped group that the stereotype will absolutely apply, but it will apply (or has applied) to ENOUGH people in the group that it became an assumption in the first place.


    ETA: What I mean about generalizations - it's like the "shy sheltie" thing. The standard calls for a RESERVED dog. This does not mean shy. The writer of Sheltie Talk (the "sheltie Bible") specifically says she has no use for a shy dog. And yet people think shelties are shy, because enough of them are - and I think it's because when people began breeding shelties with less concern for temperament, shyness cropped up, and people started to accept shyness as being "reserved" (which it's totally not) and thus started to breed MORE shy shelties and so on and so forth. None of my dogs are shy (including Pepper who is something BEYOND shy IMO) and "shy shelties" kind of infuriate me... but I would be remiss if I did not mention to somebody that SHY SHELTIES EXIST and, IMO, you should be careful to select lines where that shyness is not accepted in a breeding dog. It's a generalization, it doesn't apply to any of my dogs, it SHOULDN'T apply as something acceptable in ANY sheltie, but it is still an allowable generalization because it came to a point where it is prevalent enough that it's worth mentioning.
     
  7. crazedACD

    crazedACD Active Member

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    This.

    If I've only met one dog of a breed, I wouldn't say I 'know' the breed. I do get annoyed when people say "Oh yeah my cousin has a ____ they are a horrible breed!". But I've seen certain characteristics over multiple individuals of a breed. I'm not a fan of schnauzers because multiple schnauzers have tried to remove my body parts. I'm not a fan of chows in grooming/boarding situations as they are pretty iffy with strangers. My boss has a chow that is great at home, though, I like that dog. I've been bit by one bichon and one lab, but I still like those breeds...mostly they are pretty good.

    I've been coming across a lot of people lately that have gotten multiple bully breeds, lived together for a little while, and then they start fighting. In that way, generalizations are GOOD if people do a bit of research. I also think it is really dangerous thinking to assume you are going to get the one exception to the breed.
     
  8. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    Yup, that said I still sell breeds, when I can, by their majority as opposed to their minority. You can find a quiet, friendly, mellow malinois but don't seek the breed out expecting to not risk getting a noisey, no touch, busy malinois. It can be annoying to hear when you own the exception but often times it is said in an advisory manner.

    I wouldn't seek a central asian shepherd for my therapy dog nor a hunting lab for my guide dog. That doesn't mean somewhere out there they don't exist.
     
  9. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    Well depends what kind of "therapy" you need... ;)

    But yeah generalizations certainly have their purpose. Forming generalizations that reflect reality (on average) can be the tricky bit. We all have our biases; recognizing them is important to minimizing their impact on our perceptions.
     
  10. JessLough

    JessLough Love My Mutt

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    It bothers me when people make generalizations about a breed when the only experience they've had is... grooming said breed. Because really, you're not getting a real feel for how the breed really is. They're away from home/their owner, often stressed, etc.

    Generalizations from people who have lived with and met multiples of the breed don't bug me as much, but generalizations still bother me :p
     
  11. stafinois

    stafinois Professional Nerd

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    Stan creates such a problem. Everybody who meets him falls in love with him. He's beautiful, quiet, non-reactive, bombproof, super social with all species, just awesomeness.

    Sounds just like most Malinois, eh? :rofl1:
     
  12. Aleron

    Aleron New Member

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    Well, sometimes I get told really funny things about the breeds of dogs I have/have had. Often by people who have meant or known one dog. Even GSDs though, which are really common I feel are often misunderstood or thought of in a bad light for the wrong reasons.

    I think it's human nature to want to form generalizations and stick with them. It's easier to just say XYZ breed is untrustworthy or freaky or whatever and not have to think about it any further. Dog people especially love to weigh in with their, often strong opinions on how XYZ breed is or is not and how good or bad they are for _________. Sometimes these opinions are accurate and well founded and sometimes they're not.

    There are certain characteristics of breeds for sure and just about all dogs of any given breed have at least some typical breed characteristics. Then there are certain issues that are more commonly found in different breeds. This can apply to certain temperament "faults" associated with the ideal character of the breed. Say a breed is supposed to be aloof towards neutral strangers but naturally protective and guardy. That is the ideal but of course, not all dogs will be ideal. Dogs who are less than ideal may be overly friendly towards neutral strangers or they might be shy, reactive or overly guardy seeing some (or worse all) neutral strangers as threats. While those things are less than ideal in terms of the breed's character, they are all possibilities and should be given consideration both in terms of choosing the breed and choosing a breeder or line. If being very friendly towards strangers is important, your best to select a breed who's ideal is to be very friendly because even dogs less than ideal are still unlikely to be extremely antisocial. A breed who's baseline is to not care about neutral strangers and to have guarding instincts doesn't have all that far to stray from the ideal to end up on the anti-social side of things.

    These issues can also apply to dogs who have correct breed character but are poorly managed or who's owners have unrealistic expectations for the breed. These are the people who are shocked when their APBT damages a friend's dog during a "play date" because the thought of the dog being so willing to fight never, ever crossed their mind. Or the people who can't understand why their GSD bit their cousin who walked into their house unannounced. After all that person isn't a "stranger" (sure the dog's never met him but he's family!) and he didn't break in or anything. In cases like that the behavior of those dogs is well within what is proper character for the breed but unfortunately, the dog is a poor match for the owner's expectations. Too many people give little to no consideration for what a breed was bred for and how those breed characteristics may play out in their every day life. People hear "protective" and they envision Lassie - a dog who always bites the bad guys and welcomes friends and family. People hear about things like dog aggression and want to believe that "normal dogs" would never behave that way unless trained to or abused.


    I agree with this for sure. Some breeds just tend to react poorly towards having strangers handle them in that setting. And most dogs that come into the average grooming shop or boarding kennel or vet clinic are pet bred dogs who often haven't had great training or socialization. Some of the dogs I see at work only go out to go to the vet or groomer, so it's no surprise they are stressed and poorly behaved.

    That said, I can make some generalizations about how certain breeds act at the grooming shop that are usually pretty accurate ;)
     
  13. xpaeanx

    xpaeanx Active Member

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    This is part of the reason I feel it is important to get a dog from a good breeder. This way you can talk to the breeder and say, "tell me about your dogs."

    Obviously, there are still going to be individual differences, but it gives you a much better grasp of what to expect.

    With Walsh, I was afraid of the always go, go, go Jack and I asked like 90million times to make sure he would be able to chill. And he does chill out, he has enough energy to go out with me and do whatever crazy idea comes to mind, but he will curl up and lay down when we get home.
     
  14. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Definitely. But I also think how a dog acts when handled by strangers in a stressful environment says a lot about the dog in general. Maybe not so much about the breed, but I've swore up and down that if I were ever to adopt an adult dog, I want to have it with me at the clinic for the day and see how it reacts to everything. It's the dogs that take it all in stride that appeal to me.

    And I agree with Aleron that you definitely learn the quirks of the breeds in the clinic setting. LOL
     
  15. Flyinsbt

    Flyinsbt New Member

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    I actually think you learn a lot about breeds by how they behave in a stressful situation. I learned a ton when I was working for a vet. And of course the dogs don't necessarily act the same at home as they do at the vet, I never thought they did, but seeing how dogs behave around stressors tells you a lot about them.

    Some breeds stay calm, cheerful, and friendly. Some breeds are more easily stressed by the situation. In boarding, some breeds are really clean keepers (likely to be easy to housebreak), others don't care so much. All of this is information you don't necessarily have if you never see the breed in anything but controlled situations.
     
  16. JessLough

    JessLough Love My Mutt

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    Eh, IMO a clinic is different than a groomer as well.


    Sure, you can say "I know how some dogs of a certain breed act at the groomer" or "act under stress", but I think it's a little ridiculous to tell people who have owned the breed for years that they are completely wrong because you once had 2 clients that were different away from their owners, as I've seen people do before. Boarding is also different, IMO, because you are spending more time with the dog and observing longer.

    I mean, I watch Jessie's chis on her house while she's gone. I don't go fighting her about the breed she's had for years because of how they act with a stranger. Unless she said "with a stranger in my house, they (blank)" and it wasn't true.
     
  17. oakash

    oakash Kat/Oak AKA The Nice One

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    This is why whenever I'm talking about Jack I call him a pointer X most of the time because even though he could full bred. Including pointer people. But I don't know pointers that well and I wouldn't want to give people the wrong idea about the breed.
     
  18. Oko

    Oko Silence, peasants.

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    I think it's not a good idea to make blanket statements, but at the same time, it's hard not to. If I went by most of the border collies I met in real life around here, I would not want one at all. Every single one I've met outside of sheepdog trials has been really dog aggressive, very reactive, horribly behaved on leash, ball-obsessed to the point of ignoring *everything*, and all-in-all unpleasant to be around. Then again, the owners were just as unpleasant, so I guess that speaks volumes.
     

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