Development of Behavior

Organization is inseparable from adaptation: They are two complementary processes of a single mechanism, the first being the internal aspect of the cycle of which adaptation constitutes the external aspect.

J. Plaget, The Origins of Intelligence in Children (1952)

The Critical or Sensitive Period Hypothesis

Early Development and Reflexive Behavior

Neonatal Period (Birth to 12 Days) Transitional Period (12 to 21 Days) Socialization: Learning to Relate and Communicate

Primary Socialization (3 to 5 Weeks) Secondary Socialization (6 to 1 2 Weeks) Maternal Influences on Secondary Socialization Play and Socialization

Learning to Compete and Cope

Social Dominance (10 to 16 Weeks) Social Attachment and Separation Learning to Adjust and Control Environmental Adaptation (3 to 16 Weeks)

Development of Exploratory Behavior Learning and Trainability Imprinting-like Processes and Canine Skill Learning Preventing Behavior Problems


DOG behavior is determined by many interdependent biological and experiential factors. Although dogs are biologically prepared to develop in specific ways and to exhibit a limited set of potential traits and behavior patterns, the expression of these tendencies is flexible and subject to the general laws of learning. Even this adaptive variability, though, is ultimately limited by biological constraints. Besides the influence of genes and their biological expression, behavior is guided and modified by the influence of experience. The actualizing effect of the environment interacting with an animal's genetic potential or genotype yields its unique physical and behavioral phenotype. In contrast to the genotype, which remains outside the direct influence of learning, the phenotype results from the actualizing influences of the surrounding environment interfacing with the biologically mediated genome. These environmental circumstances can exercise either a beneficial or a destructive influence over the course of a puppy's development. General adaptation is continuously refined or rendered progressively dysfunctional depending on the type of experiences involved. Every moment offers the potential for constructive learning and adaptation or the reverse, especially in the case of an impressionable puppy.

If the environment provides a puppy with insufficient or inadequate experience for the development of a particular behavioral system, the innate behavior patterns and tendencies expressed by that system will atrophy or develop abnormally. The behavioral organization of the dog is a complex unity wherein various components are hierarchically integrated with one another at various levels. The proper functioning of one system of behavior depends on the support and adequate functioning of other systems. Early experiences are particularly influential in this

32 Chapter Two regard. Puppies provided with poor socialization or deprived of environmental exposure often develop lifelong deficits and dysfunctional behaviors. A puppy isolated early in life from other puppies and humans will not only fail to establish satisfying social contact with conspecifics or enjoy companionship with people later in life (such puppies are extremely fearful of any social contact), they will also exhibit widespread behavioral and cognitive disabilities, as well. isolated puppies exhibit poor learning and problem-solving abilities and are extremely hyperactive or rigidly inhibited, are emotionally overreactive and unable to encounter novel social or environmental situations without extreme fear and avoidance, and are socially and sexually incapacitated. Nearly every behavioral system is adversely affected, leaving the puppy encased within an autistic shell of fear, insular despair, and perpetual confusion.

The foregoing scenario is extreme and rarely observed outside the laboratory, but it does underscore the importance of early experience on the development of dog behavior. Although the vast majority of puppies are not exposed to such complete isolation, many do incur varying degrees of early social and environmental deprivation. Puppies bred under careless conditions where they are reared like livestock by irresponsible and ignorant breeders are topical cases in point. Such puppies are often exposed to the most appalling conditions and cruel treatment. When they come into homes, they are already heavily burdened, exhibiting many of the following conditions: patterns of extreme hyperactivity, intense precocious aggressiveness, and fearfulness toward humans and other dogs. They are often prone to separation anxiety, orally fixated (focusing on personal belongings as well as hands), coprophagous, and they are frequently difficult to house train. With supportive training involving intense remedial socialization, graduated environmental exposure, and endless patience, such puppies can regain some degree of composure and develop into reasonably well-adjusted companion dogs. Even after undergoing the best training available, though, such puppies will never reach their full potential.

Responsible breeders provide their puppies with daily environmental enrichment and preliminary training, including ample social experiences and constructive activities (e.g., house training), that prepare them for an easy transition into their future homes (Monks of New Skete, 1991). Experienced breeders can detect, through a keen eye and various temperament tests, the general emotional disposition of their puppies and thereby place individual puppies in homes consistent with their respective needs. Puppy temperament tests should not be employed to predict adult aptitudes or the potential exhibition of adult behavior patterns but should be used as tools to isolate and quantify a puppy's various strengths and weaknesses at the time of testing. Many behavioral indexes associated with temperament evaluation are flexible and subject to change during a puppy's development (Scott and Fuller, 1965), making temperament tests indicative rather than predictive. Puppy tests are excellent tools for evaluating training progress and for objectively assessing areas that may need additional remedial work. Finally, professional breeders should provide their clients with an information packet covering puppy care and basic training, as well as phone numbers for trainers, obedience clubs, and other relevant support professionals. Most breeders are dedicated to their breed and are willing to share their knowledge and valuable experience to help a new puppy owner through those challenging first few weeks of intensive training and care. ideally, a breeder and a trainer should work together as a team helping an ill-prepared owner through the sometimes onerous vicissitudes of puppy rearing and training.

Learning plays a significant role in the development of puppies. Understanding how learning impacts development is an important first step in the study of dog behavior. The most influential research on this topic was carried out at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, under the supervision of J. P. Scott and J. L. Fuller. These pioneering efforts paved the way to a fuller understanding of the general processes of ontogeny and, in particular, the development of social behavior. A central purpose of this work was to evaluate the extent and differential influence of genetic versus experiential factors on the development of behavior. With this goal in mind, they chose dogs from several distinct breeds possessing differing attributes and behavioral tendencies, and then experimentally studied their reactions to various environmental manipulations and stressors. Their study clearly demonstrates that different breeds exhibit specific inherited strengths and weaknesses when coping with environmental pressures. However, the most important result of their study was the discovery of several critical or sensitive periods for the social development of dogs. Their work was reported in a seminal text for breeders and trainers entitled the Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog (1965). Another important source of information regarding the development of puppies (especially neonatal and transitional processes) needs to be credited to the valuable work of Michael Fox. He is the author of many texts, but the most noteworthy in this regard is Integrative Development of Brain and Behavior in the Dog (1971).

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