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A behaviour test on German Shepherd dogs: heritability of seven different traits

By S. Ruefenacht, S. Gebhardt-Henrich, T. Miyake, C. Gaillard

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In this study, genetic and non-genetic effects on behavioural traits were estimated, based on records of the field behaviour test of the Swiss German Shepherd Dog breeding club. This standardized test has been applied since 1949 and comprised the following seven traits: self-confidence, nerve stability, temperament, hardness, sharpness, defence drive and fighting drive. The analyses were based on the test results of 3497 German Shepherds between 1978 and 2000. Gender, age, judge and kennel had significant effects on all behaviour traits. The heritabilities were calculated using three different methods and ranged between 0.09 and 0.24, with a standard error varying between 0.04 and 0.06. Phenotypic correlations among the traits lay between 0.28 and 0.94, the genetic correlations between 0.34 and 1.0. No significant correlations between hip dysplasia scores and the behavioural traits were found (-0.04 to 0.01). The modest genetic improvement over the last 25 years in the studbook population of the German Shepherd dog (GSD) was due to the low heritabilities of the behaviour traits but mainly because of the low selection intensities after the test (only 8% failed). Some recommendations were made to improve the test and selection response.

Date 2002
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 79
Issue 2
Pages 113-132
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00134-X
Author Address Division of Genetic Epidemiology, Institute of Animal Genetics, Nutrition and Housing, University of Berne, Bremgartenstrasse 109a, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland.silvia.ruefenacht@itz.unibe.ch
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Age
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal genetics
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Carnivores
  6. Developed countries
  7. Dogs
  8. Europe
  9. Genetic correlations
  10. Genetics
  11. Heritability
  12. Mammals
  13. OECD countries
  14. peer-reviewed
  15. Pets and companion animals
  16. phenotypes
  17. responses
  18. sex differences
  19. Switzerland
  20. traits
  1. peer-reviewed