Owner Perception of Problem Behaviours in Dogs Aged 6 and 9-Months

Scientific Journal Articles

Problem behaviours may lead to compromised welfare, risk of relinquishment and euthanasia for dogs, as well as distress and safety issues for owners. This study used data provided by 1111 UK and Republic of Ireland participants in the ‘Generation Pup’ longitudinal study of canine health and behaviour. The aims were to; i) identify the proportion and type of problem behaviours reported by owners when their dogs were 6 and 9-months; ii) identify risk factors for behaviours owners reported as a ‘problem’ when their dog was 9-months old; iii) identify risk factors for behaviours reported to occur but not recorded as a ‘problem’ by owners when dogs were 9-months old; and iv) identify whether and how owners sought help for undesired behaviours. In the 6 and 9-months questionnaires, 31 % and 35 % (respectively) of owners reported their dog to be showing behaviour(s) that they found a problem. Owners most often sought help for these behaviours from dog trainers (72 % at 6-months and 68 % at 9-months), and online sources excluding those associated with welfare organisations (which were listed separately) (34 % at 6-months and 27 % at 9-months). The most commonly reported problem behaviours at both ages were pulling on the lead, jumping up at people and poor recall. Multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that female owners, owners who were unemployed/homemakers/pensioners/retired, owners who did not attend (nor planned to attend) puppy classes, and owners who reported they used a mixture of positive reinforcement and positive punishment or positive punishment only training methods at 9-months had increased odds of reporting a problem behaviour in their dogs at that age. Further investigation determined risk factors for owners reporting one or more of the three most commonly reported problem behaviours (pulling on the lead, jumping up at people and poor recall) in their dog’s 9-months questionnaire compared with those owners who separately recorded the occurrence of these behaviours, but did not report any to be problematic. Owners who were employed/self-employed/students, owners who reported that they used positive reinforcement only, owners that had not attended puppy class, and owners of small dogs had increased odds of not reporting a behaviour to be problematic despite evidence of the behaviour having been observed by the owner. These results indicate that not all potentially concerning canine behaviours were perceived by the owners to be problematic, and has identified groups of owners more likely to require support with behaviour issues in their dogs.

Lord, M.S., Casey, R.A., Kinsman, R.H., Tasker, S., Knowles, T.G., Da Costa, R.E.P., Woodward, J.L., and Murray, J.K. (2020). Owner perception of problem behaviours in dogs aged 6 and 9-months. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 232, 105147.

Photo: iStock.com/Cunaplus_M.Faba

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Topic(s): Behavior, Pet Families, Problem Abnormal Behavior, Recognition