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Behavior Differences Between Search-and-Rescue and Pet Dogs

By Elizabeth Hare, Kathleen M. Kelsey, James A. Serpell, Cynthia M. Otto

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Behavioral traits such as trainability, fearlessness, and energy are required for dogs to succeed as search-and-rescue (SAR) dogs. Certification by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ensures that dogs and handlers have extensive training and have demonstrated specific skills in the field. To determine whether behavioral differences exist between SAR and pet dogs, and between FEMA-certified USAR and non-FEMA-certified SAR dogs, the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) was administered to 129 SAR dogs participating in the post-9/11 medical surveillance study and a breed-matched sample of 2,131 pet dogs. Non-parametric mixed models were fit for each C-BARQ subscale with explanatory variables SAR/non-SAR status, FEMA certification status, breed, sex, neuter status, and age. SAR dogs had higher scores for trainability (P < 0.001) and energy (P < 0.001), and lower scores for aggression toward strangers (P < 0.01), aggression and fear toward dogs (P < 0.01), fear of dogs (P < 0.001), chasing (P < 0.001), fear of strangers (P < 0.001), and non-social fear (P < 0.001) than pet dogs. FEMA-certification was associated with lower fear of dogs (P < 0.05) and separation-related issues (P < 0.01) than non-FEMA certified SAR dogs. The traits identified in this study could provide guidance for more efficient selection of candidate SAR dogs and breeding stock.


Katie Osborn

Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
ISBN/ISSN 1663-4365
Publisher Frontiers
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Elizabeth Hare; Kathleen M. Kelsey; James A. Serpell; Cynthia M. Otto (2018), "Behavior Differences Between Search-and-Rescue and Pet Dogs,"

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  1. Aggression
  2. Animal roles
  3. Dogs
  4. Fear
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. Pets and companion animals
  9. Search and rescue
  10. training
  11. Working animals
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed