Posts Tagged ‘Shiloh Shepherd’

One of the most important aspects of the Coppinger model for dog domestication and, as a corollary, dog behavior is that physical appearance is intimately linked to behavior. The fox farm experiment on which he bases much of the model is that spots and floppy ears are hallmarks of domestication, and if we take a look at modern dogs, those that look the most like adult wolves will be more aggressive and wild and those that are most juvenilized in appearance will be more docile and trainable.

In a section in which he discusses aggressive behavior, he makes a rather interesting, though I think quite flawed, suggestion. The breed in question is the German shepherd dog, which is often used for protection.  If we were to breed out the aggression in German shepherd dogs, how would we do it?  Well, Coppinger has a solution.

So to breed aggression out German shepherds, we should just try to breed them to be like yellow Labs?

Well, not so fast.

I will provide two examples of two different sets of breeds to show you how this is not case.

Here are your first pair of dogs:

125-pound golden retriever from North American pet lines.

Blond hovawart.

These two dogs look like they could be litter mates.

However, let me ask you another question:  Say that you’re a burglar, and you want to break into a house that has one of these dogs in it? Which do want to burgle?

You want to burgle the house with the 125-pound golden retriever. The hovawart will tear you up.

Hovawarts are a recreation of a German estate and farm guard dog that was common in the Black Forest. It was recreated with a lot of German shepherd blood, and the dogs behave more like German shepherds than the golden retriever that they superficially resemble. Hovawarts also come in black and tan and solid black colors, but the blonds really look like golden retrievers.

If Coppinger thinks the way one breeds aggression out of German shepherds is to breed them to look like Labradors, these particular breeds suggest otherwise. Here are two breeds that look very similar to each other, but they behave very differently. The recreated Hovawart is said to have some Newfoundland in it, which might account for some the superficial similarities. Golden retrievers and Newfoundlands do share a recent common ancestry.

( I should note that the golden retrievers in Germany rarely approach the size of the North American pet dogs, so it’s actually very easy to tell German golden retrievers from hovawarts, which are very common as pets.)

Now, someone did breed the aggression out of German shepherds.

This is a run of the mill German shepherd dog:

A typical German shepherd dog.

Here’s a strain of shepherd that has had most of the aggression bred out of it.

Shiloh shepherd. This breed is derived from German shepherd dogs that have been selected to be docile and gentle.

The Shiloh shepherd is derived from the German shepherd, but it has been selected to be very docile and gentle. The strain was founded in the 1970’s, and the breed is almost entirely German shepherd dog in ancestry. It has just been selected to be more gentle than the typical German shepherd, and unlike the more typical German shepherd, they are not generally considered suitable for schutzhund or protection dog work.

Notice something?

These dogs look nothing like yellow Labs, but they are closer to Labradors in temperament than the typical German shepherd dog.

Both of these pairs of dogs strongly suggest that one cannot tell the temperament of a dog by looking at it.  Just because a fox has spots doesn’t mean that it’s genetically tame, just as the appearance of the dog doesn’t always indicate what the temperament should be.


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