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Behaviour: Need for Breed-Specific Understanding

    In several of the action items identified as need for international efforts related to dog behaviour (in a broad sense) the issue of breed differences - in, e.g. reaction to and evaluation on various difference tests; and genetic and breeding considerations was raised.


    This is a topic of interest in the behaviour literature as evidenced by the excerpts below.


    As is often the case, this material is hard for the breeding public to access and we need to find ways to bring to the people on the front lines the most salient and applicable findings from the academic world.


    In June 2014, Lindsay R. Mehrkam and Clive D.L. Wynne, presented


    Behavioral differences among breeds of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris): Current status of the science


    in Volume 155, Pages 12–27; Applied Animal Behavior Science

    In both popular media and scientific literature, it is commonly stated that breeds of dogs differ behaviorally in substantial, consistent and predictable ways. Since the mid-twentieth century, scientists have asked whether meaningful behavioral differences exist between breeds of dogs. Today, there are over 1000 identified dog breeds in the world, but to date, fewer than one-quarter of these are represented in studies investigating breed-specific behavioral differences. We review here scientific findings of breed differences in behavior from a wide range of methodologies with respect to both temperament traits and cognitive abilities to determine whether meaningful differences in behavior between breeds have been established. Although there is convincing scientific evidence for reliable differences between breeds and breed groups with respect to some behaviors (e.g., aggression, reactivity), the majority of studies that have measured breed differences in behavior have reported meaningful within-breed differences has well. These trends appear to be related to two main factors: the traits being assessed and the methodology used to assess those traits. In addition, where evidence for breed differences in behavior has been found, there is mixed consistency between empirical findings and the recognized breed standard. We discuss both the strengths and limitations of behavioral research in illuminating differences between dog breeds, highlight directions for future research, and suggest the integration of input from other disciplines to further contribute to our understanding of breed differences in behavior.


    Breed, Dog, Behavior, Temperament, Cognition


    But this topic has been a focus for many years, e.g. including this article from 2008 in


    Applied Animal Behavior Science, Volume 114, Issues 3-4, Pages 441–460




    Breed differences in canine aggression, online or in our Downloads section.


    Deborah L. Duffy, Yuying Hsu, James A. Serpell
    Accepted: April 18, 2008;


    Canine aggression poses serious public health and animal welfare concerns. Most of what is understood about breed differences in aggression comes from reports based on bite statistics, behavior clinic caseloads, and experts’ opinions. Information on breed-specific aggressiveness derived from such sources may be misleading due to biases attributable to a disproportionate risk of injury associated with larger and/or more physically powerful breeds and the existence of breed stereotypes. The present study surveyed the owners of more than 30 breeds of dogs using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), a validated and reliable instrument for assessing dogs’ typical and recent responses to a variety of common stimuli and situations. Two independent data samples (a random sample of breed club members and an online sample) yielded significant differences among breeds in aggression directed toward strangers, owners and dogs (Kruskal–Wallis tests, P < 0.0001).


    Eight breeds common to both datasets (Dachshund, English Springer Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Rottweiler, Shetland Sheepdog and Siberian Husky) ranked similarly, rs = 0.723, P < 0.05; rs = 0.929, P < 0.001; rs = 0.592, P = 0.123, for aggression directed toward strangers, dogs and owners, respectively. Some breeds scored higher than average for aggression directed toward both humans and dogs (e.g., Chihuahuas and Dachshunds) while other breeds scored high only for specific targets (e.g., dog-directed aggression among Akitas and Pit Bull Terriers). In general, aggression was most severe when directed toward other dogs followed by unfamiliar people and household members. Breeds with the greatest percentage of dogs exhibiting serious aggression (bites or bite attempts) toward humans included Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers (toward strangers and owners); Australian Cattle Dogs (toward strangers); and American Cocker Spaniels and Beagles (toward owners). More than 20% of Akitas, Jack Russell Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers were reported as displaying serious aggression toward unfamiliar dogs. Golden Retrievers, Labradors Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Brittany Spaniels, Greyhounds and Whippets were the least aggressive toward both humans and dogs. Among English Springer Spaniels, conformation-bred dogs were more aggressive to humans and dogs than field-bred dogs (stranger aggression: Mann–Whitney U test, z = 3.880, P < 0.0001; owner aggression: z = 2.110, P < 0.05; dog-directed aggression: z = 1.93, P = 0.054), suggesting a genetic influence on the behavior. The opposite pattern was observed for owner-directed aggression among Labrador Retrievers, (z = 2.18, P < 0.05) indicating that higher levels of aggression are not attributable to breeding for show per se.


    Aggression, Dog, Breed, Agonistic behavior




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