Self-Reported Comprehension Ratings of Dog Behavior by Puppy Owners

Scientific Journal Articles

Dogs show a range of behaviors that reflect their emotional state. It is important that dog owners recognize these behaviors to accurately assess their dog’s emotional state. We examined dog owners’ self-reported comprehension (SRC) of their dog’s emotional state. Eighty-nine participants attending puppy socialization classes at local veterinary clinics in the Melbourne Metropolitan area, Victoria, Australia, rated their comprehension of their dog’s emotional states (Happy, Sad, Anxious, Angry, Friendly Greeting, and Anxious Greeting) and listed the behaviors they used to judge the emotional state of their dog. In most cases (Anxious Greeting being the only exception), the owners’ perceived comprehension of their dog’s emotional state was not closely related to the number of behaviors they reported. The reported behaviors were mostly restricted to vocalizations and gross body movements. There was also no relationship between SRC and dog morphology. There were relationships between SRC and the age and gender of the participant, and previous puppy ownership. It was concluded that most dog owners report having a good understanding of the emotional state of their dogs, when they seem to have low appreciation of the signals that dogs send in the earlier stages of emotional arousal. An approach to lowering dog owners’ perception of their comprehension of dog behavior, which may increase their willingness to seek education on dog behavior, and increase the efficacy of the education, is suggested.

Kerswell, K., Bennett, P., Butler, K., and Hemsworth, P. (2009). Self-reported comprehension ratings of dog behavior by puppy owners. Anthrozoos, 22(2), 183-193. doi: 10.2752/175303709X434202


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Topic(s): Behavior, Canine Body Language, Pet Families