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Excerpts from 'Dog Breeds and Their Behavior'

    As outlined in the plenary talks, conclusions and Action Items (related to Selection for Behaviour Traits) developed at the 2nd International Dog Health Workshop there is a role for various types of instruments, tests, evaluations and approaches, although it is cautioned that application of test results must be breed-specific and related to breeding goals. (See also discussion in our Forums).


    Here are presented excerpts from a recent review and presentation of a study that addresses issues of breed-specific behavior evaluation and understanding. It is from: Chapter 2
    Dog Breeds and Their Behavior
    by James A. Serpell and Deborah L. Duffy
    A. Horowitz (ed.), Domestic Dog Cognition and Behavior
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-53994-7_2, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014.


    "Domestic dogs display an extraordinary level of phenotypic diversity in morphology and behavior. Furthermore, due to breeding practices introduced during the nineteenth century, these phenotypic traits have become relatively ‘fixed’ within breeds, allowing biologists to obtain unique insights regarding the genetic bases of behavioral diversity, and the effects of domestication and artificial selection on temperament. Here we explore differences in behavior among the 30 most popular dog breeds registered with the American Kennel Club based on owner responses to a standardized and validated behavioral questionnaire (CBARQ). The findings indicate that some breed-associated temperament traits (e.g. fear/anxiety) may be linked to specific gene mutations, while others may represent more general behavioral legacies of ‘ancient’ ancestry, physical deformity,and/or human selection for specific functional abilities. They also suggest that previous efforts to relate dog breed popularity to behavior may have failed due to the confounding effects of body size."



    The authors present an introduction, discuss "What is a Breed"; review "Measuring Breed Differences in Behavior" and present the results of a recent study:

    "As well as varying greatly in size, shape, and behavior, dog breeds also differ in popularity, with some breeds (e.g. Labrador retriever) maintaining rather consistent levels of popularity over time while others (e.g. Irish setter) have been subject to relatively sudden and rapid fluctuations in popularity (Herzog 2006). One possible explanation for this variation in dog breed popularity is that some breeds possess temperament traits that render them functionally better at serving as pets than others. In a recent study, Ghirlanda et al. (2013) used C-BARQ comparisons to test this hypothesis on a selection of 80 breeds of known popularity, but failed to detect any association with breed behavioral characteristics. In the current study we use breed-specific C-BARQ data to re-examine this possible relationship by focusing on the behavioral traits of the 30 most popular breeds currently registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC)."


    Some of their conclusions include:

    • "Several of the observed breed differences in the study are most plausibly accounted for by reference to the original functional (working) roles of the breeds involved."
    • "Some breeds may also suffer from straightforward morphological and anatomical constraints on their behavior. The low scores for chasing and energy of the some of the brachycephalic and giant breeds are likely to be at least partly a consequence of their lack of stamina due either to their exceptionally large body size or congenital deformation of the respiratory tract and axial skeleton."
    • "With respect to the issue of dog breed popularity, the current findings may also help to explain why Ghirlanda et al. (2013) were unable to detect any consistent relationship between popularity and behavioral characteristics in their study. Miniature and toy breed dogs have grown markedly in popularity throughout the last decade (Euromonitor International 2013), despite the evidence provided here that they are likely to display a range of more severe behavioral problems than larger breeds. Since the effects of canine behavioral problems, such as aggression, excitability, or house soiling, are likely to scale with body size, it follows that dog owners are going to be more tolerant of the same behavior problems produced by a small breed dog compared with a larger one. In which case, any underlying association between breed popularity and behavior will tend to be confounded by the effects of body size."
    • "Finally, these results provide support for the use of the C-BARQ as a behavioral assay for measuring behavioral phenotypes in dogs. According to some authorities, the field of behavioral genetics has been held back in recent years by the lack of reliable behavioral phenotyping techniques (Hall and Wynne 2012; Spady and Ostrander 2008). Hopefully, future genetic association studies will help to determine whether the C-BARQ or other behavioral measurement techniques will be able to fulfill this important role."





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