Does the environment in which a dog is exposed to play a part in their behavior? Can they develop traits from prolonged exposure to chaos that will manifest itself in the way they act and interact with others? I am no expert in dog behavior, I can only state what I have observed over my years of dog training and interacting with a broad scale of dogs in various settings.
My first example is their environment. One dog in particular, we will call him Scout, is a regular at our facility for boarding and training. He is a German Shepherd Dog who just turned one year old in May 2016. I have been working with him since he was just a couple months old with the first few training sessions being at his house, the lady of the house was the one to handle him. The household consists of husband, wife and two young boys one of which is autistic. Scout is being trained to be a service dog for the autistic son. The chaos within the household made the training sessions virtually impossible to complete, so we began the boarding/training at our facility.
Scout behaves just fine when he is with us. He of course has those puppy issues still, but he has matured and understands his parameters within our house during his visits here. The environment at our school is relaxed, calm, pretty chill. He gets to run and play, has his lessons, lives in the house free to roam and explore and maintains his discipline for the most part. Once he returns home it is a completely different story. He does well for the first couple of days, but without the consistent discipline and understanding of his role within their family he begins to feed off the chaotic energy that is ever present. He starts misbehaving, getting into things he never even thinks of getting into at our school. He does certain things that he knows is unacceptable here but there he seems to think that it’s cool.
Another example is exposure to different types of dogs. When my training sessions get to a certain point I introduce the dog in training to my personal dog Venus. She is a 5 year old albino Doberman Pinscher that has a very docile, calming personality. She still romps and plays but when she is done, she is done. It never fails, whenever I introduce her to one of the dogs I am working with, they will feed off her chill energy. Of course they are curious at first, wanting to play and have fun. Eventually they will relax more and maintain the discipline and training.
In a different session I have another dog that has the exact opposite personality. She is more hyper, still just a puppy in some aspects only being about 14 months old as of June 2016. She loves to play, has high energy and is great with other dogs. We will call her June. When I introduce her to the dog in training, I receive the exact opposite reaction. The dog in training will almost always forget their training and it will be almost like starting all over again with the discipline and corrections. The energy that comes from June seems to feed the dog in training, no matter what their demeanor is.
These different distractions are great tools I use to help with the discipline of the dogs in training, slowly working them towards the energy of June, testing and elevating their level of training along the way. June is blessed to have a calm environment she resides in or it is possible she could be one of those energetic dogs that wind up in a shelter. Scout needs to be removed periodically from the chaos that he is surrounded by in order to get back to his obedient self. With his constant visitations he has shown me he has the potential to be well-behaved dog, but his lack of leadership and the consistent distractions at his home has slowed his progress and may have an impact on his prolonged behavior. This will be an ongoing study for me, seeing what impact my training and behavior modification can have on an inconsistent regimen.
Of course there are always going to be exceptions and other factors will also help in determining the behavior of any dog. But sometimes it can be something as simple as changing the mood or “feel” of the current environment to help make adjustments in the way your dog is acting.