Nature vs Nurture in Animal Behavior

The difference between nature and nurture is an age-old scientific debate dealing with animals. Have you ever had a dog or cat, or even looked at someone else’s dog or cat and wondered is that animal that way naturally or are they trained? You are thinking about the nurture vs. nature debate. The truth about the whole thing is unless you are with an animal from their birth until the point of wondering it can be very hard to tell. When you know a little bit about nurturing and nature you can join in on the debate.

Nature can be thought of as the temperament and/or personality that your animal was born with. Some animals have naturally good temperaments. This means you might have an animal that you have never had to train. He just has always done the right thing to be happy, be friendly, love you etc. There are dogs that from birth you can see that they just seem to do bad things like bite, bark too much, or chew or scratch your couch constantly. My point is that your animal was born with a certain personality or habits that they will naturally do. Some good, some bad. Through training and observation we should always praise the good behaviors and non violently prohibit the bad behaviors.

Nurture can be considered good and bad behaviors that an animal displays based on things that have happened to him from the outside world. If a dog is kicked constantly, he is not going to like that and in turn will become aggressive. He naturally wasn’t aggressive but someone nurtured him into doing that. Same with a dog that follows a command to sit. He is constantly given treats and positive reinforcement for sitting on command. The person has nurtured the sitting behavior with the treats. The dog, naturally, did not sit before.

So you see, animals are born with personalities and behaviors. As owners, we can either enhance our animal’s life by nurturing them positively. I have personally seen a woman who took an aggressive pit bull and turned it into a lovable sweetheart by feeding him well, walking him regularly, and treating as good as a lap dog. Now, the aggressiveness by nature is still there, but the aggression is lying dormant because of the woman’s good nurturing. The best thing we can do for our animals is work with them. Find out what their nature is and positively change the bad behavior and praise the good ones.