This documentary provided a factual and scientific backing to my lengthy experience with dogs, and I can safely say that I felt comfortable connecting the dots to many of the interactions i have with my dogs on a daily basis!
I am by no means a professional dog trainer, but I have experience training them in official settings as a job for several years. Dog behavior fascinates me, and during my time in Sarasota while attending Ringling, I managed to pick up my two dogs; one who was a stray living underneath an abandoned car in the farmlands of Myakka, and the other a rescue from a puppy mill. Both are examples of breeds described in the documentary. My big dog, Koa, was from a puppy mill, “advertised” as a “pure bred” golden retriever. He is old, and has symptoms of hip dysplasia, which is a genetic disorder common in labs and golden retrievers. Though he also displays the typical lovable traits of a golden. My other dog, Ipo, was found covered in oil and skinny, full of worms. She is a hodgepodge mix of goodness knows what kind of dogs (my guess is some mountain dog due to her extremely thick fur and undercoat, and a smaller dog with shorter legs due to her awkward medium size) She is very sweet, but has a wild disposition. Both are polar opposites in terms of training. I am assuming Ipo was bred by someone (irresponsibly, if i may add) simply because her looks are very unusual for a stray, and she almost looks like a designer dog. That may have been the intent in having puppies to sell quickly. She is extremely hard to train, and a difficult, stubborn dog. What breeds and traits could have been passed down to equal her temperament? Could it just be her disposition? Kona is the shining example of a dog breed bred for training and communication. While I watched the documentary, I could only think of the many emotions I can understand from Koa, and he from me. It is almost as if he has trained me to understand his emotions and wants from facial and body cues, just as he has come to understand mine without intentional training. He displays his emotions almost as clearly as a child, but in a civil and submissive way, never seemingly surpassing my “authority” as the pack leader.
I am constantly learning new things with each companion I have, with these two proving even more so. Although I would describe them as the two extremes of the “types” being bred for physical appearance and desirable work traits that identify in the documentary, another thread of focus that I found of particular interest to me was the idea of intentional breeding of personality traits, and foregoing appearance standards. I want to go so far as to say that I think this would be a unique situation for dogs/strays in shelters. Most dogs adopted from shelters reciprocate bottomless love and affection, and most of these dogs are mixes. Although we don’t need more dogs running around due to the amount that need homes but are stuck in shelters, these dogs are malleable, and are used in movies, sniffing dogs etc. by many organizations and people who are giving them a chance regardless of breed. Obviously certain dogs would outperform others in certain situations, but they all have the ability and aim to please. It would be an interesting experiment to see mutts from shelters who are adopted and go from one extreme of suffering (not on purpose for the sake of science!) to happiness and comfort, and how that can develop not by nature but instead nurture, and if those traits pass on.