A dog’s behavioral displays are always a combination of genes and environment.


As with any human or other-than-human animal, all behaviors are a combination of genetic makeup and environmental influence. Communication is included in this statement, which means that canine communication and body language is a mix of inherent and learned behavioral displays. It’s not uncommon to find a dog who doesn’t “speak dog” well, and this is likely due to a lack of proper socialization – aka this dog hasn’t had enough interaction with his own kind in order to learn how to communicate properly (environment). This doesn’t mean that they can’t ever learn though. And many of the calming/negotiation techniques that dogs use are inherently obvious because they’re options that, physically, dogs can easily, and often naturally, do. (ie tongue flicks, look aways, slow blinks) Teaching dogs calming/negotiation signals is certainly an option and can go a long way in enabling that dog to build relationships and avoid unnecessary fights with other dogs. Dog fights can be caused by a simple miscommunication due to one or both dogs with poor or underdeveloped communication skills.

Domesticated dogs are not born with their doggie communication skills in tact, these skills have to be learned, just like we humans require teaching and experience to hone our own communicative abilities (both verbal and physical).

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4 Responses to A dog’s behavioral displays are always a combination of genes and environment.

  1. Christine says:

    Hi – I would be very interested to hear more about this – will you follow this post with another that has tips for teaching dogs better calming/negotiating skills? I know about ways to help inexperienced dogs be calmer and more comfortable with the presence of other dogs, but am intrigued with the idea that they can be taught how to use or interpret dog/dog signals

  2. Julia Julia says:

    Hey Christine thanks for visiting and I will absolutely expand on this topic. I haven’t had as much time lately, so I’m sorry for the very brief post! I’ll get on it soon :)

  3. Jackie Cecil says:

    Have never really thought about dog fights being ’caused’ by lack of communication between dogs. Always assumed it was just what dogs do, ie. genetic. Thanks for giving me something new to think about in the canine world.

  4. Christine says:

    Now that I think about it, I think you’re probably talking about some of the “newer” techniques (are they called BAT or CAT?) where the dog is confronted by the the stressful situation (another dog, a skateboard, etc) and any alternative behavior offered by the dog (relaxing the jaw, head turns,etc) is rewarded by the stressor moving away? I’ve read a bit about this in whole dog journal and I think the last APDT conference had a talk on it, but I’d like to learn more. Seems super logical and effective but easy to mess up…

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