Breed differences in everyday behavior of Swedish dogs

Last changed: 11 March 2013

Helena Eken Asp, Katja Grandinson, Freddy Fikse and Erling Strandberg 

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Dept. of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Box 7023, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden 

The objective of this study was to increase the knowledge of the genetic background of everyday behavior, which could be used for breeding purposes in the future. For the study ten breeds were selected based on their ancestry and population size. Breeds included in the study belonged to six of the FCI breed groups and include both working breeds and companion breeds. The study is performed in cooperation with the Swedish Kennel Club (SKC). 

A web-survey based on the canine behavior and research assessment questionnaire with some additional questions has been open from June 2012 to February 2013. The survey was advertised both online and in papers, by the SKC as well as the breed clubs. When the data were collected there were 1522 answers for the 10 breeds. The survey contained questions concerning general information about the dog and its owner, and the dog's behavior reaction in different situations, in total 152 questions. The answers can be grouped into 16 behavioral traits. The dogs included in the analyses were born in the years 2000-2011. The average age, in years, of the dogs when the survey was answered was 4.0 (SD 2.7). 

Preliminary analyses of the ten breeds showed breed differences in most of the behavior traits. In general the breeds that had higher average scores for Human-directed play interest and Stranger-directed interest showed less Stranger-directed fear. These breeds also had higher average scores for the trait Trainability. Breeds that had a higher average score for Dog-directed interest also had a lower Dog Directed Fear. The working breeds had a higher average score for the traits Excitability, Trainability and Human-directed play interest compared to the companion breeds. They also had a lower score for Non-Social Fear compared to the companion breeds. The survey was able to show breed difference and could therefore be a useful tool in finding genetic differences within breeds.