Does breed matter when predicting a dog’s behavior?
My dog is judged by his appearance.
Ace is a big, drooly, black dog. When people see him, they generally see “Lab” and they generally assume he’s friendly.
In this case, people are correct. My dog’s mixed breed DNA test revealed 50 percent Lab. And he’s also friendly – overly friendly!
But is it fair to judge my dog, or any other dog, by his appearance? Of course not. My dog is not friendly because he’s part Lab. He’s friendly because of all sorts of factors, breed being one.
There are plenty of Labs that aren’t friendly. Some are shy, fearful or aggressive. And as with my dog, their breed does not predict their behavior. At least not entirely.
Because Ace looks like a Lab, people expect him to act the way they believe a Lab should act. But my dog has several other potential breeds in his heritage – German shepherd and dachshund, his dog DNA test suggested, among others.
We see a “Lab mix” but the dog in front of us represents several different breeds.
And what about all those dogs out there who truly have a “mutt” look?
What about the dogs that don’t look like any breed in particular? Do those dogs have an advantage because we don’t place our assumptions on them?
Take this brindle dog Chester, for example. When I look at him, I do not see any particular breed. The first time I met him, I asked his owner what kind of dog he is and she said, “I don’t know.”
If we don’t see any particular type of dog when we look at a mutt, we won’t assume he should fetch or “love to run” or have a strong “protective drive” or a herding instinct. We allow him to just be a dog.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all dogs had that advantage? If we could only see “dog” first and then observe his actual behavior?
Think about it. If we did not judge dogs by their appearances:
- Breed specific legislation wouldn’t exist
- More dogs would get adopted
- People would choose dogs based on energy and temperament vs. looks (almost always a good thing)
- Landlords wouldn’t ban certain “breeds”
- Dog daycares wouldn’t ban certain “breeds”
- Renters insurance companies and homeowners insurance companies would offer the same coverage options for all dog owners
So what do you think?
Do people judge your dog based on his appearance? Is that fair to your dog?