German dogs range in size from quite small (Dachshund and Pomeranian) to very large breeds (Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher). Over thirty different breeds of dog are of German ancestry.
Although most German dogs are hunting dogs, there are some breeds that are herding dogs and terriers. The German Shepherd is a good example of a herding breed. As its superior intelligence and trainability was recognized, the breed was used for specific kinds of work. They are great dogs for search and rescue, and are the most common guide dogs.
The science of understanding dog behavior applies to German dogs, as well as to other breeds. We should learn to understand the unique behavior of our dogs as well as what influences and determines that behavior.
We know that a dog’s behavior is largely the result of his perception of the world. Physical characteristics, largely determine this, which is why we choose one breed over another.
While it is easier to determine whether a dog’s behavior is due to genetic or environmental conditions, than it is with humans, sometimes the ratio is not clear.
The science of understanding dog behavior has shown that a great influence on behavior is simply the treatment the dog has received during its puppy stage and beyond. While dogs have an emotional understanding and language among themselves, they are also able to sense our emotional states. This should, maybe, let us know the importance of our personal behavior in the life of the dog.
Dog training can be enhanced by learning to read the dog’s emotions. Witness the crouched behavior of a dog who understands that he is being scolded. The more we are able to understand the characteristics of dog behavior, and what the causes are, the more enjoyable life will be for us and our dogs.
First, let’s evaluate some dog psychology on drives – what you can control or enhance. These are subconscious compulsions which may be more or less present in your dog depending on breeding.
- Hunting drive – search using all senses
- Air scent drive – to hunt odors using the wind currents
- Tracking drive – to hunt ground disturbances by sniffing the ground
- Subordinate drive – to accept a position in the pack (i.e., pecking order)
- Fight drive – to measure physical prowess with an opponent
- Retrieve drive – to grasp prey and return it to the pack leader
- Rank drive – to rise in the pack (i.e., pecking order)
- Activity drive – to be physically active, not hyperactive
- Prey drive – to grasp and vanquish prey
- instinctive: natural objects or animals
- imprinted: non-natural object-training aids (e.g., police dog)
- Pack drive – to seek social contact with a pack member
- Play drive – to seek physical contact with a pack member
- Guard drive – to defend territory by barking, growling or biting
- Protection drive – to defend the pack or pack leader from a threat
- Survival drive – to negate a threat by fight (engaging in sudden, intense assault), flight (escape) or submit (roll onto back and expose vital organs)
You can typically see the drives in your dog and identify the dominant drives.
Character traits, however, differ from drives in that they either have it or they don’t – trainability, hardness/resiliency, courage, softness, confidence, aggression, etc. The temperament of a dog is something always to evaluate before adopting or purchasing from a breeder. This is also true of the parents or breed history. What is the dog’s attitude for life – robust or lethargic? The dog’s training and breeding can also impact certain traits – make more pronounced than others – like dog fight tendency and aggression, when otherwise a trait but not a dominant trait.
For example, the Rottweiler should have a calm and stable temperament. But a surge of poor breeding in the 1980’s put these dogs on the list of dangerous breeds and lowered their popularity in the U.S. A well-bred Rottweiler by a reputable breeder should result in the desired Rottweiler temperament – driven, good-natured and courageous.
The AKC provides breed standards that would guide you on identifying the right breed of dog for you based on the breed’s standards.