You are here:

Canine Behavior/Bred Dog Behaviors


Hello Jill or would it be Connor?

I am unsure since at where I am from you usually address by first name but in some countries it would be the last name.

So my questions is not of the normal kind and I am quite certain this place it not really meant for these kinds of questions but I thought I would chance it.


Are traits like hunting a specific animal (Birds, Rodents, Rabbits..) or herding sheep inherited by dogs.

Example 1: A Collie would pick up on how to herd sheep without any prior training or seeing it's parents do it.

Example 2: Golden Retriever is bred to hunt birds and mentally knows it is bred to hunt birds. It is in their nature to hunt birds specifically and it is a mental genetic thing passed down from being bred that way.

Also I have already taken into account the physical breeding done to these dogs and the fact that those physical attributes make them more suitable to hunt these animals.

I am looking for an answer to if the hunting of a specific type of animal is passed down mentally as well or if it is just a dog hunting instinct that most healthy dogs have?

I am very sorry if this was the wrong place to post it and if I am wasting your time with this question.

I would be very thankful if you had any answers or even pointers on where I could find the answers for it?

Once again thank you for your time!


Let's talk about how dog breeds began:

Hunters needed companions to "retrieve" game without harming the game (making it inedible) or, worse, eating it themselves.  And so, over centuries, certain breeds developed, some of them being Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles (YES believe it or not), Portuguese Water Dogs, Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retrievers, etc.

The "poor man's" hunting companion in Britain produced breeds specific to it: sight hounds (Greyhounds, Whippets) and other places in the world did this, as well.  These dogs were specifically bred for characteristics that shaped the "eye/chase/kill" into "eye/chase/kill but not maim".  This took centuries.  So Sight Hounds are more likely to chase (which is why there is lure coursing in Whippets and "race tracks" where Greyhounds chase a "fake rabbit" along an electronic rail).

In other nations, it was necessary for a dog breed to be an independent thinker and become PART OF A HERD (sheep, goats, etc.) to protect them from predators.  Such dogs are not easy house companions.  One I offer is the Maremma Sheepdog (Italy).  IF such a dog is to be effective, it must be raised AS PART OF THE FLOCK.  Such dogs do not make easy companions in a home.  The Rhodesian Ridgeback (for instance) was bred to "bay lions"...hold them at "bay" until hunters could kill the lion.  Again: they are not easy household companions and require an experienced owner.

Every single purebred dog in existence came from carefully selected stock, OVER MULTIPLE GENERATIONS, for a specific purpose.  The Border Collie is a strongly driven dog: eye/chase/control.  It can get into serious trouble as a household companion without proper guidance.

NO DOG has a purely genetic "memory" to "do" what it was intended to do.  Most well bred purebred dogs (with five generation pedigree many of whose ancestry have obtained field trial titles, obedience titles, herding titles) are acutely driven by a specifically designed PURPOSE.  BUT THEY ALL REQUIRE training.  A Pointer may "point" at anything that moves but that does not mean it is not gun shy.  A Rough Collie will naturally protect its "pack" (especially young children) but that does not mean the dog won't nip at the children's' heels in order to control them.

Mimetic behavior is imitative; it has been proven in clinical trials that dogs can obtain such behavior permanently (that is then passed down to progeny) ONLY if the behavior contributes to the prey drive/primary drive of the breed.  It is seen in all animals, including Human.

bottom line:  WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM YOUR ADULT PUREBRED DOG?  Once you've defined this, settle on certain breeds and then DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Do NOT take on a dog breed that is RARE; it is "rare" for a reason.  Since you asked this question, I presume you are not sufficiently knowledgeable to manage/train a very difficult, independent breed.  If you want a good companion dog of a purebred type, you must look for a very good BREEDER of that breed type.  Observe the parents (at least the dam should be available); ask for references; look at the five generation pedigree; be certain your chosen breed is well represented by THAT breeder who is looking for genetically inherited health problems and will NOT breed ANY dog that exhibits ANY behavior outside the breed standard.

Hope that helped.

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

©2016 All rights reserved.