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Behavior and personality assessment in dogs
The behavior and temperament in dogs are defined as the dog attitude towards other animals and people. This attitude varies depending on many environmental and inherited factors.
Behavior and personality assessment of dogs is extremely useful as it allows breeders to identify the right type of training to adopt and helps owners to raise sociable dogs.
It also helps determine the dog’s suitability for a specific role and diagnose some eventual behavior disorders.
The dog’s personality determines behavioral traits and trends.
In this article you will learn about the different types of dog personalities, the main factors that influence the dog’s personality as well as the methods of characterization of behavior and personality in dogs.
Also, you will get a grasp of how to deal with each type personality and if it is possible to craft a specific one for your dog.
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Do dogs have personalities?
Just like humans, dogs also have different personality profiles. If you understand your dog’s personality, it will be easier for you to train him and reach advanced levels of interaction and understanding.
You certainly noticed that your dog could manifest many personality types, but one type will always be dominant.
According to a study by Wilsson and Sundgren in 1997, there is a considerable hereditary component to dog personalities.
In 2002, Svartberg and Forkman identified the main variables that define the dog’s personality:
- Desire to chase
Based on these variables, the dog can be either:
- Shy/ Timid,
- Adaptable, or
Does the breed matter?
Many factors influence the personality of dogs such as breeding, training, and the surrounding environment. Yet, some recent studies showed that even the dog’s breed has a strong influence on his personality:
In 2005, some scientists successfully sequenced the dog’s genome, and also attempted to discover the exact genes responsible for the personality of each dog breed, but due to the important variability within the dogs of the same breed, the results were not significant and reliable.
Some dog breeds are very sociable and naturally well-behaving which makes them suitable to any individual, but others are difficult to train or pet because of their stubbornness and bad temperament.
It could be interesting to assess a dog’s behavior and personality before you bring him home. But for working dogs it is a necessity.
Here are some personality characteristics of some dog breeds in relation with the type of work/activity:
Herding Dog Personalities
Dogs that belong to this group are serious, intelligent, and full of energy. They have a territorial nature that explains why they are wonderful guard dogs.
Herding dogs like to live in large families and companionship is their common trait of character. The main breeds that belong to this group are:
- German shepherd,
- Belgian Sheepdog,
- Australian Shepherd.
Sporting dog personalities
Sports dogs are best known for their active and alert nature all the time. These dogs have multitasking skills and can be easily trained and raised.
Some breeds of this group love to swim and can happily spend the whole day at the beach. These dogs can also serve as assistant or therapy dogs.
Many breeds belong to this group:
- Cocker Spaniel,
- Golden Retriever,
- Korean Jindo Dog,
- Labrador retriever, and
Hound Dog Personalities
Hound dogs are of two types: Scent hounds and Sight hounds.
They are strong, agile, and fast, which makes them perfect hunters, thus you need to have enough space to fulfill their need to explore.
Since these dogs are interested in tracking, they are always kept on a leash; otherwise, they may get loose.
Among this category, there are several breeds such as:
- Basset Hound,
- Norwegian Elkhound,
- American Foxhound, and
Terrier dog personalities
Terrier dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They are territorial by nature and can be used for hunting purposes. Also, those dogs have a high level of energy and they always like to work because it seems like playtime to them.
This group includes:
- Rat Terrier,
- Miniature Schnauzer,
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and
- Jack Russell Terrier
Toy Dog Personalities
Toy dogs are small in size but have a large character, they are very territorial and can be the perfect match for people living in confined spaces.
The dogs that belong to this group are:
- Chinese Crested Dog,
- Pug, and
Can we craft our dog’s personality?
The way you treat your dog will considerably impact the development of his personality as he grows to become an adult. A well-treated puppy will grow into a healthy and happy dog. Consequently, the sooner you start training your dog the better.
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), you can start training your puppy for socialization as early as 2 months of age. And when it comes to training, you should seek the best training programs in the market, the ones designed by professional dog trainers with accredited certifications, such as Adrienne Farricelli who is a CPDT-KA certified dog trainer with over 10 years of practical experience.
Check out her dog training program called Brain training for dogs.
Major changes in human’s life have an important influence on their personality traits. And the same goes for your little pup, in fact, his personality can be affected to a greater extent.
According to a recent study conducted in the Michigan State University by William J. Chopik and his colleague Jonathan R. Weaver, on a sample of 1681 dogs from 50 different breeds, with different ages and both sexes, the majority of dogs tend to adopt the lifestyle of their owners:
Dogs living with active people are very energetic and dynamic while the ones owned by lazy people tend to be sedentary.
The same study also revealed that your dog’s personality can predict many important life outcomes. As a matter of fact, his personality and behavior will define how close he feels towards you and even predict the development of some chronic illnesses.
How to deal with each personality?
If you identify the personality of your dog, you can easily figure out how he sees the world and accordingly, will understand how to properly deal with him.
Below are some types of dog personalities with tips on how to manage them:
The Shy or Timid Dog
Like some humans, dogs can also be shy and reserved. If you force your dog into an uncomfortable situation, they will interpret the negative effect of this effort.
They may be afraid and this could lead to mistrust. Shy dogs don’t like the noisy and chaotic environment and will feel insecure.
You can deal with shy dogs by giving treats, lots of praise and encouragement, and then introducing them to new people and the environment at a slow pace.
The Confident Dog
A confident dog is a born leader, easy going, comfortable and always ready to adapt no matter what the situation or the surroundings.
Sometimes confident dogs can display dominant behavior and if you react harshly to this behavior, this will lead to aggression or further stubbornness. The only effective way to deal with these dogs is through positive reinforcement.
The Independent Dog
Some breeds of dogs like to live, think, and act freely with no restrictions or guidance, and these instincts remain throughout their lives. The independent dog will only bond with a person he considers as a leader; otherwise, he can be perfectly fine on his own and may even seem distant.
An independent dog is difficult to train as he needs the right motivation and an extremely dedicated master.
Don’t try to force him to socialize, this can backfire and cause aggression.
The Adaptable Dog
Those dogs are the most outgoing and can adapt to any environment and will do anything to please their owners.
Adaptable dogs are cooperative, extroverted and easier to train due to their strong desire to please and their submissive nature, which makes them compatible with all people and other animals.
You will almost never notice any resort to violence or aggression from this type of personality.
The Couch potato/Happy Dog
Dogs belonging to this category are overly enthusiastic and everyone will love them. They will get along well with all people and animals and can even lead a thief to valuable family items with a wagging tail.
They are always excited and jump on strangers to make friends with them.
You need to train them adequately to remain calm when they meet people.
Is there any method to assess the behavior and personality in dogs?
Assessment of behavior and personality in dogs, also known as, BPH (Beteende och Personlighetsbeskrivning Hund), is a behavioral assessment technique developed in 2012 by the Swedish Kennel Club.
The basic behavior and personality assessment will describe seven traits that are:
- Behavior towards a stranger
- Play drive
- Behavior towards food
- Response to Auditory Stimuli
- Response to a threat
- Response to Tactile Stimuli
The assessment of dog’s personality and behavior is extremely important for its predictive value, as it allows to figure out, with an incredible level of precision, the predisposition to certain behavioral problems at an early age and even predict some chronic illnesses.
Nowadays, potential owners are pickier and want to have a dog with a personality that suits their lifestyle.
Also, different agencies and dog shelters use the behavior and personality assessment to facilitate the adoption process, help to find the best suitable working dog, and decrease the incidence of dog aggressions.