Published on April 17, 2013 by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in Canine Corner
Psychologists use the word “personality” to mean those characteristics a person displays that allow us to predict how they will behave, react and feel in various situations. Some scientists, however, are uncomfortable about using the word personality when talking about non-human animals. They use the word “temperament” instead. Although the average person will see little difference between the two terms, using a different label allows the scientist to suggest that there are still significant qualitative differences between the behaviours of people and animals.
But what is personality? What leads to personality differences among breeds? What leads to differences in personality even among individuals within the same breed? Biology teaches us that there are two main ingredients that contribute to making all of us what we are: genetics (“nature”) and the environment (“nurture”). In dogs a large proportion of their personality is due to their inherited genes.
Consider, for example, the group of breeds that we call Spaniels. Most dog breeds are named after the place that they originated or the person who created the breed. Spaniels are named after Spain (español) yet none of the Spaniel breeds were created there. So where does the name come from? One aspect of the behavior of Spaniels that particularly impressed people who encountered these dogs was their temperament. In general members of the Spaniel breeds are much friendlier and more "kissy-faced" than many other breeds. At the time these breeds were first becoming well known, it was believed that the greatest lovers and most romantic people in the world were the Spanish. So to highlight that loving temperament, which is a genetically transmitted aspect of all of these breeds, these dogs were given a label recognizing what was perceived as their Spanish temperament, if not their actual Spanish origin.
Of course the case in Spaniels deals with popular ....read more