The physical and mental characteristic peculiarities that are displayed in the dog’s reactions are referred to as its temperament. Understanding the dog’s temperament is the key in producing willingness (the desire to act), response (the amount of time involved to act), and attention to duty (the required performance of the act).
Five basic temperaments are found in dogs: (1) THE FEAR BITER, (2) THE SHY DOG, (3) THE OUTGOING DOG, (4) THE AGGRESSIVE DOG, and (5) THE VICIOUS DOG. To be sure, there is an unlimited number of variations within these temperaments, as well as problems such as compulsive barking, chewing, crying, sympathy lameness, etc., that may be found within any temperament.
I would not accept vicious dogs in my classes for these reasons: The vicious dog displays extremes in behavioral sensitivity. Forever unruly and dangerous, he attacks without cause, reacts without reason and therefore is a detriment to his breed, his owners and society. Do not confuse the fear biter temperament with that of the shy dog. This fellow is hypersensitive with neurotic, cowardly, inconsistent and anti-social behavior traits. He displays dramatic shifts in disposition, is frivolous and capable of ill-considered acts. The physical activities are either excitably energetic or low keyed to the point of retardation. Impulsive and immature, he remains unteachable. Whether the fault is mental or physical, it shall remain. For the dog’s own welfare and those who would love him re- gardless of faults, it is the humane individual who would have him put to sleep. To those whose innermost feelings forbid such action, the responsibility would be to neuter the dog and protect society from it and it from society.
A pleasure to own and a privilege to train is the dog with the outgoing temperament. The percentage of dogs trained with this temperament is naturally lower than any other as it presents fewer problems. The overall attitude of the dog is harmonious with life in general. He is accommodative, compatible, makes good adjustment to daily annoyances and has the desire to please all. Tolerance of others and acceptance of environments and rules come easily to this willing fellow. Yet, because of these trusting, stable traits many owners of such dogs are displeased, feeling their dogs offer little in protective ability. Few realize that as the dog matures and the bonds of affection grow, he would not tolerate mistreatment of his loved ones.
Never lacking of effort and having little regard for fear is the protector of all, the aggressive dog. Impulsive, with his belligerent, quarrelsome manner, he intimidates and challenges when and wherever possible. It’s not unusual to find the dog’s handler afraid to reprimand him due to his arrogant behavior. This dog, however, respects and reacts to the handler who is prepared and quick to correct the first time. Should the handler ignore developing problems with this fellow, he will indeed be sorry. Aggressive, yes, but flexible, controllable and capable of improving his behavior traits and well worth the effort.
The shy dog, with its loved ones at home, displays a love for life, is happy and outgoing and needs little encouragement for fun and play. To passersby of its enclosed fence, it appears aggressive and to those who taunt and tease, vicious. Away from its home environment the dog becomes timid, sensitive, flighty, unpredictable and easily upset. In training classes the dog is attentive to its owner and alert to any and all movements and sounds. Praise and encouragement are the key in overcoming the dog’s lack of confidence and suspicious nature. If babied with voice or leash the dog exaggerates its sensitivities to the degree that it becomes emotionally unstable. If strong corrections are applied, neurotic tendencies appear and the dog becomes unapproachable and aggressive. The shy dog is teachable, flexible and capable of learning through exposure, provided its handler does not pressure it to extremes.
By understanding temperament, I believe 95% of the senseless harsh treatment dogs receive in obedience classes can be avoided. Successful training is possible only when a compatible relationship exists between handler and dog. The premise on which this relationship is built is knowing the dog’s temperament.