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The interaction between behavioural traits and demographic and management factors in German Shepherd dogs

By Juliane Friedrich, Per Arvelius, Erling Strandberg, Zita Polgar, Pamela Wiener, Marie J. Haskell

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Abstract

As companion animals, a dog’s lifestyle is mainly determined by its owner. Discrepancies between the dog’s preferences and the owner’s lifestyle might lead to the occurrence of unwanted behaviours that affect both the owner-dog relationship and the dog’s welfare. The aim of this study was to identify behavioural traits that are characteristic of German Shepherd dogs (GSDs), and to analyse the relation between behavioural traits and demographic and management factors. Dog owners from the UK and Sweden were asked to complete two surveys, the established C-BARQ behavioural survey and a lifestyle survey developed for the study. A principal component analysis was applied to determine behavioural components for GSDs. Fifteen components were found to sufficiently explain the variance in the responses to C-BARQ, with the components Stranger-directed aggression and Dog-directed aggression explaining the greatest proportion of the variance in the data (12% and 10%, respectively). Linear models were then applied to assess the relationship between behaviour components and lifestyle factors using backward elimination to identify the model that best predicted the behaviour component. The cohort (UK or Sweden) and the age of the dog were associated with the highest number of behaviour components. This study showed that various demographic and management factors were associated with the expression of behavioural traits in GSDs. Results from this analyses may help to understand the interaction between the expression of external factors and dog behavioural traits and thus, improve the well-being of dogs and owners by reducing problem behaviours.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 211
Pages 67-76
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2018.12.004
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. C-BARQ
  3. Lifestyle
  4. Working animals