Nature versus Nurture

There is a lot to to be said about a dog’s ability to adapt, accept whatever circumstances are presented, and to remain happy and grateful throughout it all.  I’ve never seen a thought bubble over Kali’s head that said, “ok, I’ll go if I have to but I won’t like it”.   Or, “Are you kidding me?  Kibble for dinner again?!?”  She goes with the flow.  Rolls with the punches.  She instantly get’s with the program – whatever that program may  be – and is a willing and able participant and collaborator.

Kali is not unique in this manner by any stretch of the imagination.  But it is no less striking how adaptable and agreeable she is.  I regularly see thought bubbles above her head that say things like, “Show me what you want and I will do it”.  And, “It’s a new day – I’m ready for whatever you have in store for me.”  Many dog owners who have rescues muse whether their dog is aware of having a second chance in life and therefore has an increased level of gratitude because of it. Dogs are very smart but I don’t think they are wired in a way that they consciously recall a time months or years ago when they were stray or abused and then apply and compare that memory to their current context.  Instead I believe that dogs – rescued or otherwise – mostly only are aware of “now” and perhaps a bit of the short term past (“that plant doesn’t taste good”) and future (“when he puts on those shoes it means we are going for a walk”).

Having said all that these are my opinions based on my observation of dogs from a purely practical and somewhat romantic perspective.   For a more scientific perspective I can point to a book by Alexandra Horowitz called, “Inside Of A Dog – What Dogs See, Smell, and Know”.   Horowitz teaches psychology, animal behavior, and canine cognition at Barnard College, Columbia University”.  In her book she uses a wonderful blend of science based evidence and a personal perspective as a dog lover to educate the reader about what dogs see, smell and know.  If you really do want to know what your dog may be thinking or experiencing I highly recommend this book.*

*I don’t know Alexandria Horowitz nor do I get paid for my frequent endorsements of her book, although I wish I did on both counts. 🙂

The first five years of Kali’s life are an unknown. I often wonder how much those five years influenced her current behavior and demeanor.  If those years were indeed an influence then she must have had a wonderful and enriching life.  Because the pup that greeted me upon her arrival from Taiwan was calm, trusting, and loving.  Or is Kali’s loving demeanor a byproduct of the great care she received from her care-givers in Taiwan during the weeks between being found stray and sending to me in American in spite of a negative past?

Or is this just who Kali is?  Not unique, but common.   Not a special rescue, but a rescuer.   Its that nature versus nurture discussion.  Is Kali who she is because of her  genes or past experiences?

Kali lays by my feet asleep as I write this with a thought bubble over her head that says, “Ahh…Zzzzzzzz”.   If I was to wake her and ask her why she is who she is I’m pretty sure she would say something like, “Whatever” as she rolled over and went back to sleep.


Kali’s thought bubble:  “The next thing he’ll want me to tell him is the meaning of life.  Sheesh!”


Golden Retriever


I’ve always wondered that, too. My son has a dog that is both over-confident (rather cocky, to be honest) and yet fearful. He can switch from one to the other in a second. While I suspect that he was born a confident dog and the early abuse we know he endured made him fearful in some situations, I honestly don’t know that. It’s possible he was born that way.
I also wish dogs could sometimes tell us what they are thinking! But the good thing is that they do seem to live in the moment, so as long as we are treating them well now, they are happy.
And you Kali is both happy and loving….it doesn’t get much better than that.

Add a Response

Your name, email address, and comment are required. We will not publish your email.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

The following HTML tags can be used in the comment field: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: