Behaviour differences in companion dogs in response to unfamiliar conspecific contact and personality measurements

Posluns, Julie A. (2017) Behaviour differences in companion dogs in response to unfamiliar conspecific contact and personality measurements. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The measurement of behaviour and personality can provide valuable information about the individual characteristics of dogs, provided these measurement tools are standardized. In the case of behaviour, an exhaustive list of the domestic dog’s behaviour units has yet to be described. In the case of personality, there is little consensus on the structure of canine personality. I aimed to characterize the individual differences of dogs in the context of unfamiliar conspecific contact. I recorded the behaviour of pairs of dogs in two interactions to examine the effect of familiarity, sex and sex of partner on activity budgets and behaviours of each of the focal dogs. The owner and the dog’s walker completed two questionnaires prior to the dog-dog meetings: the Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire-Revised (MCPQ-R) and the Dog Personality Questionnaire (DPQ). Overall, the data showed that behaviour changed as familiarity increased. This change was influenced by sex, as mixed sex pairs spent more time in close proximity to one another while simultaneously near a human than did other pairs, but only in the first meeting. As well, male pet dogs spent more time overall near people during meetings with an unfamiliar dog, and may use humans to facilitate conspecific contact or minimize potential threat. The two personality assessments were examined for correspondence in structure and for consensus among dog walkers and dog owners. Correspondences between the assessments suggest we are honing in on the structure of canine personality, but personality assessment reliability should be reported and the dog-related experience of personality raters, as well as the context in which they observe the dogs they are rating, should be taken into account. Reliability appears to increase when assessments include separate components for canine-directed aggression, e.g., towards people vs. towards animals. Further research on the factors that influence dog-dog social interactions, such as individual differences in personality traits, sex, and familiarity, may lead to improved canine welfare.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 12909
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Keywords: domestic dog, personality assessment, social interaction, familiarity, behavioural evaluation
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology
Date: October 2017
Date Type: Submission

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