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Effects of breed, sex, and neuter status on trainability in dogs

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Abstract:

In a previous study of canine temperament (Hsu and Serpell 2003), a distinct “trainability” factor was identified, characterized by a dog's willingness to attend to its owner and obey simple commands, combined with a high “fetch” motivation, and low levels of distractibility and/or resistance to correction. This paper explores the distribution of this trait in a large sample of dogs in relation to breed, sex and neuter status. The owners of 1,563 dogs belonging to 11 common breeds were invited to assess them for “trainability” using a standardized questionnaire (C-BARQ©). Highly significant breed differences in trainability were detected. In two breeds with distinct field and show bred lines, show bred dogs obtained significantly lower trainability scores. Although no overall sex differences in trainability were detected, male Dachshunds and West Highland White Terriers were found to be significantly more trainable than females. Neutering was not associated with any differences in trainability in female dogs in any breed, but was associated with positive effects on trainability in male Shetland sheepdogs. The findings suggest that there is scope for improving trainability in most breeds of dog, and emphasize the dangers of generalizing among breeds with respect to sex differences in trainability or the benefits of neutering. The biological basis of the trainability trait is also discussed in light of recent research on the evolution of canine social cognition.

Keywords: BREED DIFFERENCES; DOG; SOCIAL COGNITION; TEMPERAMENT; TRAINING

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/089279305785594135

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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