A long read but please, bear with me, this is important!
This is a concept originating in child development, but I use it often to talk about the early developmental stages for dogs too. For us Rommie lovers, it’s important to understand the WHY behind canine behaviour so we can find the best ways to help our dogs.
Brain architecture is basically the way the brain is built - this involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In humans, the brain starts developing shortly after conception, and this process continues until our mid-20s. We go through various stages of neurodevelopment, and the first few years of life especially are a period of intense activity in the developing brain: connections are rapidly being formed among brain cells that allow them to exchange information and form circuits.
Ok, phew, well done if you’ve read this far! Let’s talk about how this can be applied to our dogs.
In order for any mammal to build strong foundations in their brain architecture, they require positive input - gentle, safe and consistent experiences. That’s where we come in - dogs need positive, nurturing interactions with trusted caregivers in order to feel safe and to build a healthy and resilient brain. If a dog doesn’t receive this - and instead experiences abuse, neglect or has no input at all from an early age - they will find it more difficult to develop the confidence and the mental reserves they need to grow into well-rounded and happy beings.
And this is why we see so many common behavioural traits in our rescue dogs - especially former street and shelter dogs. Some have experienced abuse, that’s true. But for the majority, their experience has probably been defined by neglect or complete indifference from humans. Their mother may have been a street dog, transmitting stress hormones to her pups before they’re even born: they may have been born on the streets or abandoned as pups, unwanted. Due to this, they miss out on gentle human interactions; they don’t receive gradual exposure to scary things like loud noises and sensory extremes, their nutrition is poor which affects gut health and therefore brain health. Behaviours like resource guarding, reactivity, aversion to strangers and general anxiety are so common in Romanian dogs because they just don’t have the same mental reserves that promote confidence.
BUT - you can change this! Your Romanian dog’s starting point may be different, but it doesn’t mean they can’t grow and develop in confidence and resilience. This is why I always take a holistic view of each and every dog’s life, and look at ways that we can help build their confidence from the ground up. It’s so important not to compare our dogs to the average breed dog you meet in the park - they’re just not the same and I think that’s what makes them SO special and so unique.
It’s a cliche, but it’s true - rescued is my favourite breed! Let me know if you’d like to work together on your dog’s confidence, from a place of empathy and true understanding ❤️