Is a dog’s personality more heavily influenced by genes or environment?
Genes do form the foundation for much behaviour – dogs don’t behave much like cats, and vice-versa – but differences in personality between dogs are usually more the product of environment. It’s self-evident that some breeds of dog have distinctive behaviour, which therefore is likely to have a genetic foundation, but differences in personality cut across breeds and may only have a tenuous connection with genes. Personality is (by definition) something that is reasonably stable, and evident in many different circumstances. So, for example, greed is not a personality trait, because it’s only apparent when there’s food around, but timidity is, because it affects how a dog will react to almost anything that’s even slightly unfamiliar. Canine scientists are still undecided as to just how many different dimensions of personality dogs can have – estimates range between four and seven – but they’re agreed that personality is largely established in the first six months of life, and is powerfully influenced by the kind of environment that the puppy is brought up in.