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Choice of conflict resolution strategy is linked to sociability in dog puppies

By Stefanie Riemer, Corsin Müller, Zsófia Virányi, Ludwig Huber, Friederike Range

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Measures that are likely to increase sociability in dog puppies, such as appropriate socialisation, are considered important in preventing future fear or aggression related problems. However, the interplay between sociability and conflict behaviour has rarely been investigated. Moreover, while many studies have addressed aggression in domestic dogs, alternative, non-aggressive conflict resolution strategies have received less scientific attention. Here we tested 134 Border collie puppies, aged 40–50 days, in a personality test which included friendly interactions with an unfamiliar person, exposure to a novel object, and three brief restraint tests. Considering the latter to be mild ‘conflict’ situations, we analysed whether the puppies’ behaviour in the restraint tests was related to their sociability or to their boldness towards the novel object. Strategies employed by the puppies during restraint tests included trying to interact socially with the experimenter, remaining passive, and attempting to move away. In line with findings from humans and goats, puppies scoring high on sociability were more likely to adopt an interactive conflict resolution strategy, while those with low sociability scores tended to react passively. In contrast, avoidance behaviours were unrelated to sociability, possibly reflecting inconsistency in the flight strategy in dogs. Boldness towards a novel object was not related to sociability or to puppies’ reactions in restraint tests. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate a link between sociability and conflict resolution strategies in non-human animals.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 149
Issue 1
Pages 36-44
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.09.006
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Conflict
  2. Dogs
  3. Personality
  4. sociability