Saturday, October 29, 2011

Patricia McConnell seminar: Shy / Bold

The Patricia McConnell seminar on Canine Behavior today was great.  I learned a ton, and I barely learned anything.  There's so much to learn, and an increasing amount of research being done in the area of canine behavior & cognition. 

I highly recommend attending one of Patricia's seminars, and won't go into a summary of 8+ hours of material (you're welcome).  As a Cardigan owner, and a performance person, one thing that really engaged my interest was the section of the seminar about shyness and boldness. 

Research has show that the shyness or boldness is easy to pass on (a preponent trait), and it's hard to breed out of a genetic pool.  Patricia explained that dogs basically inherit some space on the shy <-> bold continuum.  They inherit a small piece of in that range, if you will.

Socialization and environment can help determine where w/in the interhited range the dog ultimately lands, but these things can't change the dog's space on the continuum.  A shy dog can be made less shy, but will never be bold.  And, shyness or boldness a dog has is very stable over time.  So what the dog's like as a puppy is likely to hold true throughout its life.

I also found it interesting that shyness can be about social situations and/or the external world.  I had never thought of it this way.  I just figured that a shy dog is a shy dog; a bold dog is a bold dog - no matter what.  Thinking about it differently makes a lot of sense to me, though. 

Maggie is a great example that made this information "real" for me.  Maggie is shy around strangers.  I worked my a$s off to socailize Maggie around humans.  For a long time, every human who met or petted Maggie gave her a treat.  In fact, that's still true most of the time.  This helped her progress, but never far enough that she really likes strangers. 

At one point, when Maggie was about 3 years old, I expressed frustration to my obedience instructor.  How come I work so hard at socialization with humans, and still Maggie doesn't like to be petted by others.  My instructor said, "Well, she's not a Golden Retriever, she's doing her best."  Good reality check for a newbie.  Maggie made it to the point that she doesn't hide around new people - but there's really only about 10 people she really likes. She also made it far enough to never lose a point on the stand for exam in Novice obedience, and tolerate the more "hands-on" exam in Utility obedience practice.

Though she's shy around people, Maggie is quite bold in the environment.  She's not phased by new places, loud noises, etc.  Which is probably why she made it so far in Rally, Obedience & Agility.

Another bit of research shared relates to how shy/bold impacts a dog's success in performance success.  A study in 2002 showed that the best predictor of success in high-level performance events is boldness.  It makes a lot of sense, and is a good thing to know when looking for a perfomance dog.  Now I know something to pay particular attention to in puppy testing. 

Oh, and I'm just happy that Rip is a bold boy.  But yikes, now I've got no excuse...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great post! Really interesting stuff on the shy/bold scale. With my boys, I've got one of each. Wilson is shy around people and really prefers no one but family touches him. Noises don't phase him (except fireworks), but the hub-ub of an agility trial really stresses him and is reflected in his performance. Jimmy LOVES people, seeks them out, trials don't phase him one bit, it feeds him really, but then thunder storms/fireworks/guns freak him out! Wilson takes new experiences (like say a boat ride) better, Jimmy feels a bit spooked. Odd how the shy/bold thing mixes in both dogs.


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