On the Good Dog website there is a wonderful definition of a Preservation Breeder.
"Preservation breeders provide certainty when it comes to the physical and behavioral traits of their purebred dogs and predictability regarding hereditary issues and health conditions. Without preservation breeders’ dedication and hard work, we wouldn’t have the breeds we know and love today. "
As I mentioned in the last blog post, I would edit this slightly to read "Preservation breeders provide MORE certainty" or "more predictability". For when it comes to personality and temperament, no 2 pugs are alike and there are so many factors involved -- genetics, environment, what happens in the first 12 weeks, the puppy's experiences in the first 12 weeks, first year, diet, training, socialization, encounters.
With regard to temperament, the formula for a breeder follows is:
A + B = ? (most likely C, but could be XYZ).
Think about it. If you have siblings, are you all alike? You might share similar traits -- probably learned behaviors -- but I'm willing to bet you are all slightly or perhaps even drastically different with regard to personality.
As unique as our thumbprints, (isn't it truly miraculous that every single human has a different thumbprint?), so it is with personality. Even with pugs. Even with a littermates. Even when we have repeated a breeding -- with the same dam and sire -- each litter is unique, and each puppy is unique and very often completely different in temperament.
To quote an older, quite experienced pug breeder of over 50 years: "You find a [sweet, confident, balanced and jolly girl], and a [sweet, confident, balanced and jolly boy], and then you just pray." There are so many factors which contribute to the ultimate personality a pug will have once it reaches stable emotional maturity around age 3-4.
We work with the puppy during the first 12 weeks of its life and give it a solid start. But all of this work can actually be undone by a bad encounter or experience after 12 weeks, or simply by a lack of follow up over the next few years. Just because a puppy did all of the Puppy Culture protocols during its first 12 weeks of life, these protocols and training and habituation have to continue until the pug reaches stable emotional maturity around 3-4 years of age. As Jane Lindquist, the author of Puppy Culture, explains "It's not like you get a 'pass' just because you did [Puppy Culture]."
"Temperament could be best described as a dog’s innate personality. It’s the genetic hand he or she was dealt when he or she was born and (epigenetics aside) will determine what he or she will pass on to his or her children. Behavior is the outward way that a dog acts – what he or she actually does. Behavior is the result of a complex interaction between genetics and environment. Behavior is modifiable. Temperament is not. But Temperament will dictate the outside limits of how much you can modify behavior. Just to make it more complicated, how easily you reach those outside limits are (e.g. how modifiable a dog’s behavior is) is in itself part of temperament.
Two thoughts for you to ponder about this distinction:
1. Ethically, I feel called to do everything in my power to modify behavior before puppies leave my house in order to maximize the likelihood of them growing up to be behaviorally sound dogs that enhance the lives of the people they live with. This is what Puppy Culture is about.
2. But this places a burden on me not to confuse behavior with temperament. Ironically, our skill at raising puppies becomes a central challenge for us as dog breeders – how much SHOULD we need to modify behavior and what do we move forward with in our breeding programs?
I absolutely believe that “normal” puppies require quite a bit of socialization/behavior modification in order to be good pets and working companions. But we have to be aware that, just because we modified a behavior, does not mean that the underlying temperament trait that produced the behavior is genetically erased."
One reason we love to stay in touch with puppy owners is to see how temperament develops and how a puppy will end up around age 3-4. With a little behavior modification, humans can improve upon certain weaknesses in temperament. For example, through lots of socialization and confidence-building protocols, we were able to turn some of our more soft (shy) pups into show superstars. In truth, they never completely loved the show scene, but they were able to withstand it. Were they glad to retire? Yes. Do they thrive in our lap more than on the stage? Yes. Meanwhile, the confident, outgoing, natural show dogs who finished their championship quickly, "owning the ring" at 4 months of age, are quite bored now sitting on a lap. They need an audience.
Genetically speaking, these pugs were either soft/shy, or confident/outgoing. (These were littermates, incidentally .... Lilly, and Miss Dior). We have had to work on behavior modification with both of them. With Lilly, to build confidence and the ability to handle loud noises and huge crowds; with Miss Dior, to stop barking at everyone (she demands to be noticed) and learn to settle. At 7.5 weeks, indeed, Lilly was dubbed "thoughtul" and Miss Dior was dubbed the show girl. We know, even with all our training and some success in working toward the middle of "the spectrum" that, by nature, they are soft and loud. So when we looked for mates when it was time to breed them we looked for more confident, jolly (let's say "clueless" ;) males for Lilly and super sweet and laidback males for Miss Dior. We were lucky.
Ideally, with regard to temperament, when choosing a pug for future breeding, it's good to look for that middle-of-the-road puppy. And that's what we have do now. We have ruled out some amazing pugs conformationally speaking because they were just too aloof or independent.
This "moderate in all ways" applies to conformation as well. It's funny, but I always remember my grandfather who would say "everything in moderation my dear."
Jane Lindquist shed some insight in her experiences as a breeder. She had always had confident and bold pups. "We did an outcross in our last litter to move our temperaments in a softer direction. Our family of dogs have always been great pets with people, but I would say they had pretty low pack drive and were maybe 50/50 good with other dogs, with 40% being total angels with dogs of all kinds, 40% being good with dogs they live with but not wanting to deal with strange dogs, and 10% just terrible with other dogs. We also saw some restlessness creeping into in our lines and wanted to tone things down. Since we do performance and like to place dogs with people who do performance, we wanted to improve dog-friendliness and breed dogs who are less high-maintenance.
So we outcrossed to a sweet lamb chop of a dog from the UK. Yes, we got great dog-friendliness, excellent pack drive and trainability but, guess what came with that? Yes, softness, sound sensitivity, and relative high level of fearfulness. And they displayed it from an surprisingly young age - they literally alarm barked two days after their ears opened. Totally different from any other Bull Terrier litter I have seen. To the point where we almost could not do the startle recovery protocols because they displayed true fear type reactions from three days after their ears opened - everything had to be GREATLY modified to keep their response where we wanted it, with a tiny startle and immediate recovery.��This early onset of fearfulness is, I think, decent evidence of the genetic component involved, but I also have to say that, as a professional dog trainer, I had had at least three students with dogs from this line over the last few years and had observed a few more dogs from this line, and that fearfulness/softness is definitely there - along side of the sweetness and dog-friendliness. So it wasn’t like I was going into this blind, I was just shocked at how overwhelmingly strong the genetics were for it.
This litter’s PAT was unlike any of my other litters - perhaps not out of range for a different breed, but certainly nothing like my previous litters. So I took my own advice and went back home and used the next three weeks to double down on what needed to be done, with the help of our remarkable puppy owners and Gina Boderck.
The results? Of the 8 surviving puppies, 7 are totally normal to bold. You would not know in a million years that they had tested “soft” in their PAT. However, despite months of work, one puppy remained fearful and soft to the point where we placed her as a pet, even though she was our pick puppy. But even that puppy is confident in the context of her own home or a familiar place and does not show any sound sensitivity in a familiar environment. What’s more, she does show enrichment seeking behavior in that when something scares her, she tries and tries to overcome and investigate. This is in stark contrast to the other non-PC dogs that I have seen with this kind of sensitivity, so I do chalk that up to Puppy Culture. This puppy is a great pet but just does not enjoy new places with a lot of commotion so never going to be a show/performance dog, and I don’t want that included in my lines. So that was a perfect example of both how genetics can dictate the limits of behavior modification but, even so, how well you really can do with behavior modification even with a very poor genetic prognosis."
One of the lines from Puppy Culture is "The proof is in the pudding." To make pudding just right regarding personality, the formula is
DNA + Breeder's protocols + Owner's training and protocols + Socialization and Environment + Diet + Quality Air + Aliens flying overhead + Venus Aligning with Mars + Goat's Milk + Comfy Beds
Seriously though, yes genetics can dictate the limits of behavior modification but, in our experience, it's amazing what humans can do "with behavior modification even with very poor genetic prognosis."
For more amazing tips from Puppy Culture for pug owners we highly (highly) recommend this course "With Open Arms and a Level Head - How to bring a Puppy into your life." "From transporting your puppy home through crate and house training, this course will give you a solid plan for bringing a new puppy into your life!" It is a continuation on what we have worked on with each puppy during its first 12 weeks of life. Yes, it is 8 it is 8 hours and 30 minutes but it will make the years to come with your pug so much more satisfying and rewarding for you and your puppy. It is (along with enrolling in Puppy Kindergarten and subsequent training classes for the first 3 years at minimum, along with regular training and socialization) your best chance at making sure that your puppy becomes the 3 years old pug you were hoping for!
Amy - Concert pianist, composer, lecturer, teacher, adjudicator, pug lover, dog trainer, soap and candle maker, owner Unique Boutique for Pet Owners, and co-owner Pickwick Pugs along with her husband, Dr. Jeff McLelland, concert organist, music director, and awesome care giver of the grumble.