Quite a few times throughout my career I’ve been asked the question, ‘have you ever worked with a **fill in the blank**?’ The blank might be Beagle, German Shepherd, of Havanese.
At other times I’ve heard statements like ‘well, he’s a **fill in the blank** and that’s why he’s doing this.’
And on even more occasions I’ve heard ‘You have to train a **fill in the blank** differently because of **fill in the blank characteristic**.’
The assertion with statements like these is that each breed is so unique that one breed can’t be trained like the next.
But is this true?
The real answer is both yes and no.
Yes, every breed is different. But at the same time you have to realize that poor breeding practices have taken most breeds so far away from their original breed standards that they may be nothing like what the breed should be. It’s highly possible that, yes, you’ve got a German Shepherd but there is a good chance that he’s nothing at all similar to his ancestors from decades ago who were roaming the fields of Germany herding sheep or policing the streets of Europe.
Just because you’ve got a Yorkshire terrier doesn’t mean that such a dog is even in the same class of it’s ancestors who were bred to track down vermin.
These days I can tell you that I have seen such huge variety within the same breed that it can be impossible to say that your dog is likely to have certain characteristics just because it belongs to a certain breed.
Now, if you’ve purchased your dog from a reputable breeder who follows best practices to ensure high standards your chances are much more likely that your dog will have characteristics true to the breed.
But even if you do have a dog who possesses all the stereotypical characteristics of your breed does that mean he or she needs a special type of training?
Most of the time I’m going to tell you ‘no’.
All dogs are going to follow the same pattern for learning. All dogs are going to have behavior dictated by associations, conditioning, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, et al.
There are characteristics that will influence HOW a dog learns within those dictates such as prey drive, sensitivity, pack drive, intelligence, and more.
But those dictates have less to do with breed and more to do with the experience that a top-flight dog trainer learns through years on the job.
In conclusion, do I take into account a dog’s breed when training? Absolutely. But the reality is that breed doesn’t have a lot to do with the success of getting a dog trained.