Canine expert José Carlos Grimberg Blum debunks the myth that dog behavior is defined by breed

Canine expert José Carlos Grimberg Blum reminds us that, over time, humans began to demand that their dogs perform specific tasks and to select certain capabilities. Thus arose the "special purpose" dog. The Romans, for example, had dogs for companionship, shooting, vision, etc.

In the 17th century, English dogs were divided into groups according to their function. The first volume devoted to this subject, Of Englishe Dogges, published in 1576 by Johannes Caius in London, identified multiple types of dogs, including "tinkers" who traveled with peddlers and "lurchers" who worked with poachers.

Until the 19th century, José Carlos Grimberg Blum relates, it is believed that in most parts of the world dogs were selected for certain purposes, such as "turners," which ran on wheels to turn cooking spits; "grinder dogs," which powered leash-driven devices to produce pigment for paint; "hounds," to track humans and hunting.

At the end of the 19th century, as José Carlos Grimberg Blum points out, members of the merchant class, especially in England, began to breed dogs and other animals and to organize competitions as an emulation of the gentry.

Thus the Kennel Club was formed in Great Britain in 1873, followed by the American Kennel Club in 1884. People involved in the so-called "sport" created breeds by choosing a few representatives of the type of dog they wanted, for example a hound or a setter, and inbreeding those dogs over several generations to produce animals that conformed to carefully defined standards of behavior and appearance. The breed members were said to have all the intelligence, talent and traits that had made their ancestors so special.

"Almost from the beginning doubts arose about the validity of such claims. In the early 20th century, for example, Harry Trimble and Clyde Keeler studied the propensity of Dalmatian coach dogs to run between carriage and horses. They discovered that this behavior was not inherited, but rather a reflection of a temperament toward boldness that could be trained or directed," emphasized José Carlos Grimberg Blum.

In 1965, J.P. Scott and John L. Fuller, in Genetics and the Social Behavior of Dogs, now recognized as a classic, concluded that there are more significant behavioral differences between dogs of the same breed than between dog breeds. That is, all Labradors do not swim or pull ducks out of the water; all Border Collies do not stare sheep into submission; nor do all Pointers point at birds.

José Carlos Grimberg Blum points out the error of making such assumptions. He says that this kind of attribution of specific behaviors to a race is, in a way, a form of racism and deeply misguided.

But the old ways persist, and as the number of dogs in American households has increased in recent decades, so has the number of articles identifying the top ten breeds for those who have children or want an active creature, or whatever.