Friday, May 11, 2018

Are Dogs Genetically or Environmentally Aggressive?

article by Izabella Caruolo
edited by Emma Snyder

There have been multiple arguments between scientists about if dog aggression is genetic or environmental. Some believe it's genetic, some believe it's environmental and some even think it's both. As a human we can control when we want to be aggressive (most of the time). We believe we know that dogs can control their aggression too. If they smell something that they associate with danger then they may start to bark at you in a aggressive tone. Sometimes a dog will bark at you or someone who tries to get close to them, this is because they may feel threatened by you. Hence the reason why they may snap, growl, bark, or attack you. This is just basic behavior we all know and is something many dogs do, but do certain dog breeds show this more than others?

If you asked me if the aggression was from genes or the environment I would say both. According to WholeDogJournal Jessica Hekman wrote an article, “Is Our Dog's Behaviour Genetic?” she wrote, “Just as we don’t have complete control over the genetic contributions to a dog’s personality, we lack complete control over the puppy’s environment. By the time the breeder and then the owner are formally socializing a puppy, the little canine brain has already gone through massive amounts of development.” As a person we can’t completely control a dog's genes and a dog’s environment. Breeding two dogs that aren’t aggressive doesn’t mean their offspring won’t be aggressive, sometimes it's just where the puppy was brought up. If they had a family who was aggressive towards the dog and abused it, then it’s most likely that they will be aggressive towards others, because they are scared. Being aggressive towards others is the only thing they know to survive.

It is also possible that the dog will end up having genes that are like their parent’s personalities. Also according to Whole Dog Journal's, “Is Our Dogs Behaviour Genetic?” Jessica had wrote, “It turns out that personality is influenced by many, many genes, and if you breed for any other traits in addition to temperament, like looks or performance, then your ability to guarantee particular results in the puppy goes out the window.” A dog has both of their parent’s genes and they may get some of their personality from those genes. There is a 50/50 chance that the offspring will have the mother’s or father’s personality with their own personality. Their aggression can be one of their parent’s traits and/or their own just from their environment.

German Shepherd and Golden Retriever Behaviour Comparison

A German Shepherd is known to be one of the most aggressive dog breeds, because of their history and most common job as a police dog. You can always find a German Shepherd next to a police officer in airports or highly populated train stations or in populated cities. They are mostly used for drug busts, are trained to smell illegal drugs such as medical marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, and used for search and rescue. A German Shepherd is a pet that is very protective, loyal, alert and very intelligent. Unfortunately, they are stereotyped as the most aggressive dog next to pitbulls, which makes it hard for people to have them as pets or to see them as pets. It takes patience and dedication to train a German Shepherd. German Shepherds will have tempers and they will be aggressive if they feel threatened, which is why most people who do own this beautiful dog have spent time training them to be obedient and kind.

On the other hand, a Golden Retriever isn’t known to be aggressive. They are very popular family dogs. Goldens are obedient, playful, intelligent, well-mannered, are kind especially to strangers, and very good with kids. These beloved dogs are great for being watchdogs, but don’t make great guard dogs due to their social butterfly-like personality. These dogs love to be around people and die for attention. If they are left alone for too long they will develop separation anxiety, which may lead to bad behavior like chewing objects that aren’t made to be chewed on, like your favorite pair of shoes. Goldens thrive on companionship. Unlike German Shepherds they don’t get stereotyped as the most aggressive dog breed and are viewed as one of the sweetest and happiest dog today.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.


  2. I enjoyed this article. As an owner of a terrier mix, I often find myself concerned with how the breed may be portrayed. My dog is a wonderful, loving member of my family. I do know that certain things will set her off (such as seeing a squirrel), though not necessarily in an aggressive way. I think 95% of attacks/undesirable behavior in dogs can be solved by responsible parenting. Thank you for discussing this topic!

    1. Izabella CaruoloMay 29, 2018 at 2:46 PM

      Thanks Mr.Goad! I'm quite passionate about dog breed sterotypes, since my favorite breed is a German Shepherd. I've seen dogs act alot like their owners either it being in a positive or negative way. A dog will sense a persons demeanor and will adapt their own behavior, leading to them acting like their owner.