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Every dog ​​is born with an inherent personality and temperament, says dog trainer Petaluma

All the noise surrounding South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s infamous admission that she shot and killed Cricket, her young wirehaired pointer, because it was “aggressive” and “untrainable” made me think about the importance of more shed light on the subject. of animal behavior in general. That’s why I’d like to share some of my own observations as a dog trainer for over 30 years.

Just like Noem, I also grew up on a farm with all kinds of animals. Noem may have assumed that most people in the US are as familiar with animal behavior as she is, although I would say, in understatement, that she didn’t read the room when she decided to include the Cricket incident in her upcoming book to report.

In my life on the farm and later in my long career in dog training, I have worked with literally thousands of dogs. It is clear that everyone is born with an inherent personality and temperament: bold or shy, friendly or suspicious, those who avoid aggression at almost any cost and others who place aggression at the top of their toolbox to get their way.

Contrary to popular belief, ‘training’ cannot change an ingrained personality. It can only make the most of the way nature itself has stamped the individual.

As I listen to the many news commentators baffled by the governor’s story and the resulting outcries from the general public, it is painfully clear that few people today understand the true complexity of animal behavior. Most think that “training” can cure all ills when it comes to dogs and that training should have been the obvious solution in Noem’s case.

The hard fact is that a dog that bites is a dog that will bite again under the right circumstances. Training can increase the barrier, but not remove it. When this preference occurs in a young developing dog under 2 years of age, it is especially troubling because it typically takes more than two years for aggressive behavior to surface, and the younger it surfaces, the more serious the situation.

Regardless of the length of training, a dog with aggressive tendencies is and always will pose some risk, whether it concerns the safety of people or the safety of other animals around them.

Because aggression cannot be completely ‘trained away’, this means that specific and careful management is necessary. The question then arises whether the dog owner has the time, energy, will and ability for the management required. It can get complicated and there is no guarantee of long-term success.

That said, serious aggression in today’s dogs is fortunately the exception rather than the rule. But when it does happen, it simply requires a comprehensive approach that combines training and risk management.

In short, it is so important especially for today’s dog owners to understand the difference between training and personality, and to live with dogs in a way that respects dogs for the incredible creatures they are.

Camilla Grey-Nelson is the founder and president of Dairydell Canine Training in Petaluma and has been training, breeding and showing dogs since 1989.