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Old 02-15-2013, 10:51 AM
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Default Generalizing along a breed

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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:13 AM
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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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:25 AM
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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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:35 AM
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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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:47 AM
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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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:49 AM
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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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shai View Post
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.
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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shai View Post
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.
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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AdrianneIsabel View Post
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.
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.
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:58 PM
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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
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