Canine personality is fascinating. Let’s take a closer look at it and why it doesn't solely dictate how your dog behaves. Personality is complex mixture of your dog’s likes, dislikes, coping strategies, ability to cope at all and how he feels about the world around him.
Imagine it like a cake (stick with me on this)
When we bake a cake we add all the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk. We add a dollop of flour, sugar, egg (replacer if you’re vegan – bravo!) Baking powder, and fat. These things, mixed together make a delicious batter. We would be hard pressed not to enjoy a silky, smooth, sweet cake batter.
Without changing its immediate environment that batter won’t do anything. If we heat our cake too high it burns, missing its true potential. If we bake it too low it sags and spoils, also never meeting its full potential.
The environment dictates how our cake acts, successfully or not.
Similarly, your dog might have a dollop of timidity, some shyness, a generous helping of humour, a good quick mind to learn, a heavy handed dose of social awkwardness and a pinch of anxiety. All of these traits make the dog’s personality. We then decide the type and amount of “heat” we subject our dog to. Too little and the dog doesn’t get an opportunity to become the best they can be. Too much heat and our dog goes beyond their true potential too - they “overheat” - and it shows in their behaviour.
Our role is to identify all of the ingredients that make up our dog’s personality then use that information to decide what to expect from our dogs in the world on any day, with any potential experience. What type of “heat” they can cope with and what is simply too much for them. We can't just deprive our socially awkward dogs of all potential social experiences, we can't just see other dogs and change direction. We can manage the social experiences they have on an individual basis, with wisdom and awareness. We should help our dogs to be the best they can be - it's our job to do that.
Unlike cake, our dogs have great potential, the more they learn to do on their own terms - whilst calm and relaxed - the more they will be able to cope with.
The more resilient they will be.