Do Dogs Show Cultural Differences?

Dogs snarling
Dog behavior shows cultural differences from one area to the other (photo by Warren Photography at

I made it to LAX without delays. Long flights these days are a pain except if you fly with a company minded for top service. Guinea pig camps are on a strict budget because we want to keep them the cheapest possible to allow many to participate. “Knowledge to everyone everywhere” commits and so I didn’t fly with one of my favorite but more expensive air carriers. Thai, Emirates, JAL, Singapore Airlines, KLM and Air France get my top grades—now you know it.

Flying from the East to the West still gives me a bit of a cultural shock even though now I’m expecting it. We can’t really say that we have “cultural differences” in Europe. We have different cultural details, but that’s all. Flying to the USA from Europe is slightly different. Still the same culture, but the rules are different. Americans still laugh at the same jokes, which is good—the cultural difference is not that large—but I always need a couple of days to adjust. Political correctness in the US is more complicated than in Europe and I don’t want to get into too much trouble.

Flying to the USA from southeast Asia, particularly if you live there, gives you the complete experience, that is the full cultural shock. It also gives you a jet lag of enormous proportions: I’m writing this at four in the morning.

Do animals have cultural differences? Do dogs behave differently according to their doggy culture?

Yes, they do. Normal behavior is only normal under specific conditions. Normal behavior is the behavior displayed by the majority of the population in a precise area in a particular period. We may not like it, but if most do it, then it is normal. To behave rationally is not normal among humans since most people behave irrationally. Oh, oh, there we go—I hope this one is not too politically incorrect for the USA.

Yes, dogs show cultural differences. Their facial expressions and body languages show slightly different nuances from region to region. Even barking and howling can be distinctive. Davis Mech discovered that when he flew to the Abruzzi to assist Luigi Boitani and Erik Zimen with their wolf research. The Italian wolves howled with an accent (or, then, the Americans did).

Natural selection decides the cultural differences our dogs show from one area to the other. We breed those we like best, and we like them differently from place to place. Remember, selection acts upon the phenotype (the way a dog looks and behaves), but the traits pass to the next generation thru the genes (genotypes) involved in the favored phenotypes. Don’t forget as well that our human choices as to preferred animals are also natural selection.

In the end, we have the dogs we deserve, so to say. We have selected those we wanted for breeding—or then, we haven’t, which is the same.

I’m going to sleep again, but before that allow me to share a trick with you that I’ve learned in southeast Asia. When you’re in doubt whether someone is cracking a joke or attempting to offend you, keep smiling—it’s the safest! Now, you know why I smile so much these days.


"Ethology" by Roger Abrantes

If animal behavior fascinates you, you will enjoy "Ethology—The Study of Animal Behavior in the Natural Environment," the book and course by ethologist Roger Abrantes.
Enrolling for this course puts you in direct contact with the author to whom you can pose any question while you complete your coursework. Click here to read more and enroll.



Autor: Roger Abrantes

Born in Portugal, a citizen of the World. Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, B.A. in Philosophy. Speaks seven languages. Present work: lecturing on Ethology and sailing and diving in Thailand (marine biology environmental management).