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Dogs' features strongly affect people's feelings and behavior toward them

By A. Gazzano, M. Zilocchi, E. Massoni, C. Mariti

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Dogs are a strong appeal for people. The aim of this research was to assess whether different dog features affect people's feelings and behavior toward them. Three puppies (1 Labrador retriever, 1 golden retriever, and 1 Border collie), 7 average adult dogs (3 small, 2 medium, and 2 large), and 2 adult pit bulls (1 black and 1 brown) were involved. They were on the leash with handlers (12 girls) who were instructed to maintain a neutral posture of waiting. People who passed in front of the dog-handler couple were videorecorded and then interviewed through an 8-item questionnaire. Most passersby (81.7%) noticed the dog. Tenderness was higher for the puppies (64.9%) in comparison to the average adult dogs (35.4%) and pit bulls (10.8%) (chi 2=100.442; P=0.000). Pit bulls left more passersby indifferent (36.3%), followed by the medium-sized dogs (26.5%) and then the small dogs (19.2%) (chi 2=37.268; P=0.000). Fear was more common at the sight of a pit bull (10.8%), especially when compared with a puppy (2.3%) or a small dog (0.7%) (chi 2=17.723; P=0.001). More respondents desired to interact with puppies (49.1%) than with pit bulls (22.5%; chi 2=11.133; P=0.000), and they actually related with young dogs (20.5%) more than with the pit bulls (4.9%). A high statistical difference can be observed for the behavior of participants toward the different categories of dogs (chi 2=43.519; P=0.000) and their handlers (chi 2=23.854; P=0.000). In detail, passersby showed more interest toward puppies and interacted more with puppies and large dogs, and their handlers, compared with dogs showing different features. Some factors related to passersby could affect the dog catalysis effect. Women interacted with the handlers more than men did (12.1% vs. 7.3%; chi 2=3.980; P=0.046), but no difference was observed for the number of interactions with dogs. Passersby handling a dog were more predisposed to interact with the experimental dog (45.6% vs. 7.5%; chi 2=139.606; P=0.000) and his or her handler (43.5% vs. 5.7%; chi 2=64,526; P=0.000). Data suggest that puppies and pit bulls are at the 2 extremes of the dog appeal-people axis, with average dogs in the middle.

Publication Title Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Volume 8
Issue 4
Pages 213-220
ISBN/ISSN 1558-7878
DOI 10.1016/j.jveb.2012.10.005
Language English
Author Address Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiologiche, University of Pisa, viale delle Piagge, 2-56124 Pisa,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Bulls
  4. Canidae
  5. Canine
  6. Carnivores
  7. Children
  8. Dogs
  9. Girls
  10. Handling
  11. Humans
  12. Interactions
  13. Mammals
  14. Men
  15. peer-reviewed
  16. Pets and companion animals
  17. Posture
  18. Primates
  19. Questionnaires
  20. tenderness
  21. vertebrates
  22. Women
  23. young animals
  1. peer-reviewed