Distribution of Displayed Behaviour

Behaviour Distribution over population

My post about Barking seemed to cause a bit of a stir and this post will clarify that any example behaviour differs across a population of dogs and further to that, it will help resolve the issue of exceptions proving or disproving the rule.

As a quick recap, my post on Barking was backed up with another post on my Facebook timeline which criticised generic advice advocating sensory and social isolation over and above training or conditioning your dog back to a balanced state of being.

Management of behaviour is part of an ongoing enrichment strategy as is conditioning desirable behaviour and eliminating undesirable behaviour. Each dog requires an individual holistic strategy to pull them "back onto the red line". To insist that one can function independent of the other is not wise. The Bell Curve

The above chart is what is known as a Bell Curve. It is used to map out the amount of incidents of an item over a population or time.

In this instance we are examining the intensity of problematic behaviour across a population of dogs. The vast majority of dogs are to be found along the midline - the solid red line dissecting the 1. You can see that this is the tallest column. This column encompasses that single largest group of the population. In the case of barking this would include barking at the mailman, barking when excited and other such commonly found examples. The Columns (Deviations)

The Common

Most owners will notice that their dogs behaviour is in column 1. This is what we would term as commonly occurring. This accounts for around 68% of the behaviours across the population.

For example barking at the mailman, the garbage truck or when excited. These can easily be looked at as problem behaviours and can be relatively and broadly speaking easily modified, through inhibition, redirection, alternative behaviours or other such strategies.

The Easy

As we decrease the intensity of the behaviour we start to see the population that appears in the even numbered columns of 2 and 4. What we see here is a dramatic decrease as we shift away from the midline and into extremes of the curve. This accounts for around 16% of the gross population.

This indicates that whilst the amount of dogs exhibiting this type of behaviour - barking at birds, fish or waiting for the tailgate to be opened - is reduced, the disruptive effect is also reduced. This is due to the availability of the eliciting stimulus to cause the barking. Many of the dogs in this population can be effectively managed and the question can be posed - the further to the left of the midline you deviate - if management could indeed be efficacious compared to a conditioning program.

The Hard

On the other side of the midline - in this case the fictional median - we have the odd numbered columns 3 and 5. For ease of teaching these have the same magnitude of population as columns 2 and 4. Equally this accounts for the remaining 16%. However the contrast is that the odd columns are increasingly disruptive the further to the right of the median that the behaviour occurs.

Barking at neighbours, people or whilst traveling in the car are examples of the more disruptive and nuisance behaviours that you will find in these populations. As the effect of the behaviour is increasingly disruptive the population of dogs exhibiting the behaviour also declines.

In these instances, management is a necessity during training, and in the further extreme cases may require ongoing and intense management. The more extreme the case the more likely it to be a genetic issue such as breed specific - my Terrier is destroying my rodent farm - or breeding related - double Merle to double Merle working Catahoula breedings creating vision and auditory impaired dogs.

The reader can see that these are extremely niche examples of esoteric behaviour, of which the overwhelming number of owners will never experience nor hear of.

The Few

If the behaviour can be quickly managed, restricting access to the backyard only which results in the mailman not being barked at, is that not the fastest and easiest solution, specifically if your dog is no longer responding to the mailman? If the behaviour cannot be managed through sensory and social isolation, is it not humane to imply that addressing the behaviour itself is the key strategy to be supported by management?

The Many

Most problem behaviour dogs will require a holistic approach that changes that dogs lifestyle. This includes an enrichment program of diet, stimulation - mental and physical, environmental, rest as well as addressing the actual behaviour itself.

Vocalising is a normal part of a dogs repertoire and should not be totally eliminated, that would be an unbearable life with exceptional criteria.. We can direct our dogs to not vocalise in those situations that are disruptive to others and situations which could cause a risk to life and lifestyle for that dog; which accounts for easily 84% of the population.

The Goal

In the instance of barking, the vocalising will never disappear, but we can affect our dogs emotional intelligence and maturity so that the reasons for barking become fewer and fewer. Removing the defensive, aggressive and frustrative barking root causes we can shift the expression to play. This then shifts the behaviour further into the even columns past the red dashed line far into the wing of the curve.

The Trap

The trap is being way out in the wings of the distribution and assuming that the entire population can be treated the same as the 2% group we find ourselves in. Social Media allows us to be exposed to such extremes which is a great educational benefit, however, exceptions do not create nor dispel the norm, the population determines what is normal.


From this you can see that the least disruptive and least occurring behaviours lend themselves to management, these are however not the norm, the norm is what grossly speaking falls within the dashed red lines and accounts for around 94% of the population. More accurately the average owner and their dog sit in column 1 closer to the median, the midline and account ofr around 68% of the population. This is why group classes are able to cater for a larger number of similar cases and the fewer require additional individual attention whilst others should be excused from class participation until they find themselves closer to the midline. From which further advancement to normalcy can be facilitated.

#bark #behaviour #genetics

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