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kotmj

Gloriously off-topic

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I saw an ad yesterday about a Portuguese Water Dog for adoption. I had never considered this breed, and after some research, thought it would be a better idea than a Labrador. It doesn't shed. It is medium sized. It kept fishermen company on small boats, so is inherently people oriented. It loves to swim. Obama has one.

 

I went to the shelter/boarding house in Bukit Rimau, where I used to live, to see it, and the owner, a Spaniard, strongly pushed me away from the PWD. He told me to take the other dog he has for adoption, a Golden Retriever.

 

So here I am, sitting in my armchair, Surface in hand, with a sleeping Golden Retriever on the floor next to me. The very picture of bliss. Except it took the whole evening to get him to sleep.He is so much dog.

 

I'll be busy tomorrow buying pet supplies.

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It is comparatively very intelligent. I used to have a mongrel as a child. It was the gentlest creature ever. Loved it to bits. But it is almost comatose compared to this GR I have here. It learns so fast. It is so observant.

 

What dog do you have?

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I never had my own dog before because my family did not allow dogs in the house, but I used to work with dog rescue. Mongrels are great, but the problem is that because they have never gone through generations of artificial selection, they exhibit a wide variety of temperament and intelligence level across individuals. You can get really sweet and smart ones, and you can also get really nasty ones. Some say the individuality is what makes them special. 

 

A golden retriever, on the other hand, is a nice combination of pleasant personality and intelligence. They just need sufficient mental and physical stimulation. 

 

How old is your golden retriever? 

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When I saw him at the pet boarding house, I could not believe he is a purebred GR. "Aren't they larger?" I asked the Spaniard who runs the place. I was told he's about 1 year old and not yet fully grown. He was relinquished by 'an elderly lady who found him hyperactive.'

 

I am glad to report that I managed to tire him out today. We were out at 10am, after a short toilet walk, and reached home at 7pm. Went to collect spring water from nearby. Went down to Gombak to buy pet supplies. Walked him from Cap Square to Masjid India to the haberdasher, who found him fascinating. Waited for me while I picked up pants from trousermaker. Waited while I bought groceries. Then cloth distributor. Then shirtmaker. Then coatmaker.

 

Now, he's on the floor beside my bed and he can't sleep. He'd settle down, then minutes later start jerking and panting and wake himself up that way. When I was young, I too had difficulty sleeping after a stimulus packed day.

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J is so comatose it's up to me to be vigilant about the car.

IMG_4791_zpscc0c778d.jpg

 

It sure is nice not to be cooped up in the house.

IMG_4793_zps687b6279.jpg

 

Despite my size I'm still a juvenile dog, barely out of puppyhood.

IMG_4767_zpsdfab4760.jpg

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It might not be sleeping because it is still new to the environment. It will settle down once it gets used to the new home and routine. You do have to take a bit of care to ease it into your environment gradually. It is a gorgeous dog by the way.

 

So what happened after you took the last photo? It looked like it was flying towards you lol. 

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He slept very well the first night he was here. It's the second night (last night) that he couldn't sleep.

 

Yeah he ran down the falls and the last meter he leapt at me. Camera sustained no damage.

 

Had the funnest time with him this evening. I brought him for a toilet walk (so that he doesn't defecate at home), but ended up playing with him for an hour. Man, I have so much work I should be doing instead of playing with a dog.

 

When I brought him home on Sunday, he was afraid of ascending stairs and totally would not descend them. He learnt to climb stairs very rapidly, within a couple of hours, but I'd still have to carry him down stairs. Until just now. After much coaxing over the last two days he finally learnt to descend stairs.

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I seem to recollect that Golden Retrievers do not cope well in our climate. Air-conditioning in the afternoons?

It's the reason I wanted a Labrador with their shorter coat. It does sometimes pant a great deal. Its favourite place is on the terrazzo floor in the living room, directly under the fan. He prefers this over the air conditioned bedroom with the wood flooring. I think a cool flooring like terrazzo/marble is a big deal.

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Your Goldie is probably gonna be very active until it's about two years old. That was the case for our lab. In those 24 months he managed to destroy a variety of things, including a car's rear bumper, a teak door and several dropped mobile phones. But it looks like you're well placed to channel your dog's energy productively. 

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He does have a chew drive. I give him a rawhide bone when I can't supervise him. I'm planning to get a Kong next. This is a rubber toy you stuff with treats. It's very popular. It engages them for about an hour.

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We have had loads of those. We have now moved on to these, partly because of ageing and partly because he's no longer that interested in the other toys. Do watch out for hip dysplasia in your dog, it is a painful condition that tends to affect retrievers. Long term preventive measures can make living with it slightly easier. 

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One of the first things I checked was the retrieving instinct of the dog. I threw a stick/twig. He trotted to it half-heartedly, sniffed it, and lost interest. Duh.

 

Then today I bought some tennis balls. It was like crack to him. Just the sight of the bright neon colour fascinated him, and when I bounced it off the floor he went wild.

 

I threw the ball and he chased after it, pounced on it, secured it in his jaws, and trotted back to me with it. We played fetch like this about 20 times today on the lawn. The perfect retriever.

 

It appears retrievers only retrieve objects of value, not any random sticks.

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I'm thinking of something quite profound right now. It's not a distilled, systematised thought. What I'm thinking about comes from the merging of three strands of thought, or maybe more, I can't count that well.

 

There is much talk about the behaviour of humans regarding nature vs nurture. How much of our personalities come through our life experience, and how much is genetic?

 

I'm not the only person who has noticed that humans find it difficult to be happy. This is a topic that has engaged many people, from Gautama Siddhartha to Mitch Albom ("Tuesdays With Morrie").

 

The third strand of thought has to do with a vid I watched of an Amazonian tribe with very limited contact to other tribes.

 

The remarkable thing about that tribe is how non-accumulative they are. We here accumulate so much. They don't. Also, they do not cling to life -- most commit suicide while relatively young, believing death to merely be the passage to another existence in another realm. These are a gentle, well-adjusted people.

 

Think of the difference between a German Shepherd and a Golden Retriever. They look very different. They have very different temperaments. Much of my Goldie's characteristics come from his breed, his genetics, and has nothing to do with training/nurturing.

 

So here is the thought:

 

When the human population was small, there were many tribes with very limited contact with other tribes. It has to be so when population density was thin. There was more variety in disposition and temperaments from tribe to tribe. Some tribes are like perfect Buddhists. Some are savage.

 

As these tribes grew in size, and population density increased upon the face of the planet, these tribes come into more frequent contact with each other.

 

What happens then?

 

Then, the more savage, more aggressive, the more destructive tribe will displace the gentler one.

 

Eventually, most of the Far East came to be dominated by the Han Chinese, a particularly accumulative, self-preserving and -propagating, aggressive, with a hard baked animosity to other tribes, warring.

 

All around the world as populations grew, it was always the most war-loving, destructive tribes who dominated, eventually decimating the gentler ones.

 

The reason humans are so unhappy is because we are descended from these tribes. We are the warring breed of humans. Our predecessors have crushed and vanquished so many other tribes.

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But that suggests the tribes have different 'nature' characteristics which didn't change as the tribes themselves propagated through time and space. Do they? Your theory also ignores the fact that most modern dog breeds are the result of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of generations of selective breeding by humans. So the 'nature' we see in dog breeds today is really the result of nurture. 

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So long as the breeding is kept within the tribe, yes, it does appear it remains fairly constant through time and space. It is the character of my Golden Retriever that showed me this is likely: Mine likely has not been selectively bred for specific traits for many generations, and was likely bred indiscriminately to be sold in a pet shop, yet my Golden, bred in Malaysia in 2013, has all the "nature" of a Golden Retriever: strong retrieving instinct, relatively barkless, gentle, kind, non-aggressive. It is very different in temperament from a Malaysian street dog, and more different still than a German Shepherd.

 

How many Labradors and GRs today come from a rigorous selective breeding for athleticism, retrieving instinct, and a mild temperament? They are bred today more for looks than anything else yet the result is still very much a retrieving dog. It's the same with German Shepherds. They basically mate two purebred GSDs and call it a day. Yet the result is very much a war dog (GSDs were created for war use from shepherd stock by a captain of the Prussian army). GSDs do not breed to become like GR.

 

Traits acquired through selective breeding over many generations result in nature. What the puppy was trained to do or not to do is nurture. This much is unambiguous.

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finally made the multi-hour hike to the waterfall near my place. This is one secluded waterfall, for it is deep in the jungle.

 

It's a "multi-step" waterfall, not a big single step one.

IMG_4834_zps68db6484.jpg

 

IMG_4837_zps3d181696.jpg

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Your goldie is very brown. Or is that just his colour when wet?

 

re: nature/nurture

what constitutes nature or nurture is far from unambiguous. in your human example, since humans share the same DNA with miniscule variations in its composition, how do you explain as 'nature' the variations in human behaviour? additionally we find that variations in human behaviour can be classified across multiple variables, among them geography, attitudes to authority, attitudes to monotheism, predilection for shiny objects, propensity to travel by sea, and on and on. do we classify this entire multi-variate system as simply nature or nurture?

 

and back to dogs. of course your goldie was selectively bred in malaysia. this is what puppy mills and dog breeders do. but you say selective breeding is nature, even though it is a wholly artificial endeavour. even if that were so, you now rip a hole in the separation between nature and nurture. if artificial activity can turn what was nurture into nature, as in selective breeding, then the distinction between the two is practically meaningless. you might as well say 'i wonder what dogs/humans can learn in their lifetimes'. in other words, your detailed explanation of the concepts reveal that they have little to no bearing on the larger question you posed. 

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Debate has its uses in politics, but I do not debate my thoughts/observations. I explain them, I am interested in related thoughts from others, but I do not debate.

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Could it be that the behaviour of a certain dog breed be a function of their physical traits, rather than pure behaviour alone? A GR could be good at retrieving stuff because of better eyesight, longer limbs, etc. etc., rather than an innate interest at playing catch.

 

Having said that, I sometimes find that my sons do stuff...weird, kid-stuff...that only I would have known about.

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^ yes, it is... but the relationship is recursive. the physical traits are a function of selective breeding, which is a function of the breeder's desire for certain traits and behaviours. so traits do not cause behaviours. in fact, it is behaviours which caused the traits, via breeding. 

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The pics show him in a fox red colour, but in person he is an unambiguous tan. He is much lighter in shade than these two wonderful exemplars:

xsigpic22118_12.gif.pagespeed.ic.ivGe5up

 

Some Goldens have the skull of a Labrador, i.e. wide and squat. Mine has the skull of a spaniel, narrow and with a bulging skull like the Golden on the right above.

 

As to whether

 

Behaviour = f(Physical traits)

 

it's difficult to say. I like to think they are integrated. I don't think physical traits even begin to suggest the differences in behaviour. Compare the temperaments of the GR against the GSD.

 

Anyway, my GR is definitely a "scent" dog, not a sight dog. He has sharp enough vision, but he never believes what he sees without a confirming scent. This applies even to me, his owner. He would see me from say 20 meters, but keeps sniffing and sniffing. He only shows recognition (tail wags, starts running towards me) when he picks up my scent. Also when chasing tennis balls, he uses his vision to get within a radius of 4 meters to the ball. He relies on motion -- the bouncing of the ball -- to perceive the ball. I think they have poor colour perception, almost colour blind, so cannot see the contrast between ball and grass. Once the ball stops bouncing, he relies on scent to locate it. This ties in well with their being employed to retrieve shot birds in thick cover -- the fallen birds are obscured by tall grasses, the only way to locate them is by scent.

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