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Male vs. Female?

Fundamental character differences between males and females and what the epigenetics and origin of the puppy has to do with it.

© 2017-2021 Julia Bettendorf „Lost River” Miniature American Shepherds

First of all: There are usually no significant personality differences between the two genders, both males and females are great companions and family members. The superstition persists, that males are more determined and confident in their appearance and that females, on the other hand, are more gentle, more family-related and more affectionate. Males are usually more sensitive and cuddly and bitches are often very stubborn and bitchy.


Many people who are interested in a puppy want "a cute little girl" and preferably the most quiet one of the litter. It is expected that the breeder can tell "how the puppy's disposition is" within the first days and weeks . The puppy also has to “fit the character of his new family”. Of course, there are also breeders who can predict the character exactly after birth and thus can perfectly assign the right puppy to each family – but basically, this is not possible, because the character of a dog is only formed by the upbringing and experiences he has in his new home. The full personality of most breeds can only be determined at 2 years (in herding dogs at 3 years), when the dog has fully matured; physically and mentally. Before that, he is a rough diamond that only carries certain predispositions, but still need his final touch – from his new family.


It is very interesting that only about 30-35% of the basic personality of the puppy is inherited from the parents, there are two types of personality: the adventurous and the more reserved. Their individual personality, divided into 5 characteristics (open-mindedness, self-confidence, curiosity, affability, concentration), is genetically influenced at only 20% and the individual behavior of the parents is only inherited with approx. 3-5%. The inherited genes only contribute to the first pillar of brain formation and behavior.


The second pillar is epigenetics, the biologically controlled genetic material that “goes beyond genetics”, which primarily includes prenatal experiences, which is what the puppies experience in the womb. These two pillars form the lower level of the limbic system. The limbic system is a functional unit of the brain that controls the processing of emotions and the development of instinctive behavior, it controls which behavior, or reaction, follows on an event in the environment. It is the basic psychological equipment, the emotional brain. Therefore, the well-being and behavior of the bitch during pregnancy is extremely important.


The third pillar forms the mid-limbic lobe and is shaped by the experiences in puppyhood. At this level is the emotional conditioning, reward learning, and the formation of positive and negative habits.


The fourth and last pillar, whose effect connects to the upper limbic system, is formed by general experiences in the environment, thus the raising and socialization that a dog undergoes in his first 2-3 years of life.


So it becomes crystal clear that the nature of a dog is shaped by genetic disposition, as well as environmental influences, the nurturing at the breeder, and above all the owner's education.


So the character is not innate, it's mostly influenced. Therefore, the breeding environment and breeder's nurturing plays a vital role, because the epigenetics and early socialization, which characterizes the personality during pregnancy in the womb and in the first days of life after birth, has a great influence on further development – and also on the health of the dog, because stress and nervousness have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system and metabolism.


So much for that.. now we want to look at both genders .


It is often assumed that females do not show "alpha behavior", but are docile and attentive and do not participate "in the struggle for supremacy". However, this could not be further from the truth, because in the wild females are the leaders of the pack, are in charge, and compete for the ranking. Therefore, even among today's family dogs, females are more independent, stubborn and more territorial than their male colleagues. Therefore scuffles are more common between two bitches than among males, although males usually get off lightly and for females it often ends badly. Of course, this cannot be generalized, because usually the dog owners are responsible for how their dogs react and usually only aggravate the situation through their behavior and intervention.


Males, on the other hand, are usually affectionate, cuddly, attentive and joyful workers. They are very loyal companions who do not question commands, listen more reliably and are less moody. They are often more open-minded and loving when dealing with other animals and people. Males do not "discuss", they faithfully follow their leader. Females on the other hand always want to have the last word and like to test the limits, they have more energy and are generally more alert and sassy. Males are in need of love and generally more relaxed, as they don't feel the need to get things in line, compared to females. Males stand by your side enthusiastically and want to make you happy "till death do you part". Females, on the other hand, often become a little more reserved, listless and stubborn with increasing age, but sometimes they also get more affectionate and cuddly.


There are no major differences in terms of urine marking, because bitches also tend to "lift their legs" and leave their scent behind, especially when they are about to come into heat and are in heat. But the desire to mark is mostly just a habit, which can be influenced and controlled through nurture in both males and females.


Speaking of heat: There are males who get lovesick over certain females and then go deaf or don't want to eat anything. This time can be just as uncomfortable for a bitch though, the hormones go crazy and they tempt to search for a male that's ready for mating during the fertile phase. It can also happen that you suddenly find your male drooling in the neighbor's garden, because he wants to make a female happy. However, in both cases, this is not the rule and also depends on the upbringing. In addition, homeopathic remedies can be given to the dogs during this phase.


It's also interesting to see how the position in the womb affects the behavior of a bitch, because her cells are just as susceptible to testosterone as the male's cells are, just that it has no visual effects in bitches, it only affects the development of the character. So it also matters whether there are brothers or sisters next to a bitch.


To sum up: If you raise your dog with loving consistency right from the start, the choice if male or female shouldn't be the decisive factor, because a Mini American Shepherd always is a unique enrichment of life.


In addition, there are no scientific studies showing that, for example, anxiety is only passed on to bitches and aggressiveness is only passed on to males ;)


© Julia Bettendorf, 2019
Further information "The dog's brain"

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