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Note that these puppies have a lot of energy at six weeks of age.

They are also already very interested in people and objects. Several of these puppies are obviously trying to get cues from the person holding the camera. They appear to be looking at the person  in the eye to glean some information about this unusual two-legged dog.

This is what performance-bred dogs are selected for: high energy, high drive, retrieving instinct, and a strong desire to pay attention to people.

Breeds that have been bred to work more independently of people tend to have different reactions to people and objects as puppies.

Take this brace of beaglets.

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Beagles are relatively small scenthounds. Properly bred, trained, and socialized, a beagle can be a wonderful family dog– every bit as much as a golden retriever.  As a very small child, I had a beagle babysitter, so I know what these dogs are like.

They are quite intelligent animals when they are tracking rabbits or hares. Members of my family have trained beagles to tree squirrels and flush grouse, so they are not necessarily a breed that is entirely set to be a lagamorph trailer.

That said, a beagle is never going to have the biddablity of a performance-line golden retriever.

You can see the difference in the play behavior of these beaglets. They are less interested in the person sitting on the ground and are less interested in the objects. They are very interested in each other, which makes perfect sense– beagles were bred to run in packs.  The proper beagle temperament is very friendly toward other dogs, but it is less focused upon people than the retrievers and herding breeds are.

It is not useful to talk about “dog intelligence” without understanding that different breeds have different breed typical behavior. However, breed typical must be taken with a grain of salt. In popular breeds, where there are tens of thousands of individuals and many different lines, vast differences can appear within a breed.

It is important to understand that each dog is an individual, and each dog can be an exception to the general tendencies of its breed.

But just because these aspects are correct does not mean that understanding breed typical behavior is useless.

These breeds have been selected for many, many generations for particular behaviors and tendencies to focus on people.  It would be folly to say that these selective pressures have had no effect on these dogs. The people who originally created these breeds relied upon being able to select for behavioral conformation.

One can see how these aspects of behavioral conformation manifest themselves at an early age. As puppies play, the behavioral tendencies they inherited manifest themselves. Retriever puppies carry objects in their mouths and pay very close attention to people, while beagle puppies follow their noses and play with each other more.

Selective breeding does affect behavior. Before we can have any rational discussion about dog intelligence, it is important to understand that each breed evolved its behavior in a particular environment and culture.  Each breed became “intelligent” for its purpose, the culture of its people, and the particular environment in which it was developed.

 

 

 

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