|Barked: Wed Oct 3, '12 12:34pm PST |
|In her blog, Suzanne Clothier, a marvelous writer and trainer, has an entry entitled "Drive and Brakes and Steering." I'd like to quote from it some.
"For those who find the whole notion of biting and gripping worrisome, perhaps it is easiest to think about it this way: substitute "bite" or "grip" with retrieve, herd, chase. All of these behaviors are aspects of the predatory sequence. In his books DOGS, Ray Coppinger does a wonderful job of explaining the predatory behavior chain - I often recommend his book solely for that chapter.
In our dogs, the behaviors we see are the same ones that would be seen in a wolf's predatory sequence . These behaviors are instinctive, a natural part of the canine behavioral repertoire. Perhaps most importantly, when expressed by our domestic dogs, these behaviors can show considerable deviation from the natural behavior.
Specialized breeds reflect the results of selective breeding for specific behaviors or exaggerations of some behaviors or inhibition of other behaviors.Thus herding dogs exhibit strong chase behaviors but with inhibited bite/grip and highly inhibited killing behaviors, The Border Collie's famous "eye" is a result of generations of breeding for an exaggeration of a natural behavior. Bird dogs have the bite/grip intensely inhibited, thus the desired "soft mouth." In the case of pointing breeds, the naturally occurring stalk behavior is exaggerated to become a frozen "point".
The bite/grip/grab behavior is strong in many working lines, and there is a genetic component to how the dogs grip, where they grip, what will trigger a bite or grip. For example, some dogs bite low while others come up higher -- this becomes very clear when you see dogs worked on sheep or cattle. Are they moving the animals by nipping towards their heels (thus the term "heelers")? or grabbing a hindquarter or going higher for the shoulder/neck or higher still for nose ("headers")?
For many working lines (police K9, Schutzhund, ring sport, etc), there is a tendency to bite hard and to grip with a full mouth bite that goes right to the molars. This is prized, and for good reason: in an attack situation, you want the dog bringing his entire jaw power to bear, not merely the incisors and canines (sometimes called a "bitchy" bite, a grip that is more easily dislodged). These full, hard bites are evident from an early age in puppies from these lines, just as birdy pups demonstrate a keen interest in things with feathers, and field bred retriever puppies carry things, and herding puppies respond to moving things with delight.
Selective breeding is a way of engineering a bigger engine for that behavior (or set of behaviors), so that we can easily shape those behaviors into what we want, whether that's a retrieve of a duck or sheep neatly penned. But balance is the key in any working performance. If you think of instinctive behavior as the engine that drives the dog, then the balance comes in the form of the brakes and steering and multiple gears that allow that engine to be effectively utilized to good purpose. Just as it would not be okay to let a herding dog chase sheep willy-nilly or treat a toddler like an errant ewe, it's also necessary to teach a strong biting dog what is and is not appropriate for those jaws."
I think Clothier explains this question the best.
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