Training Engagement and the Development of Behavior Problems in the Dog: A Longitudinal Study

Scientific Journal Articles

Canine behaviour problems have serious welfare implications for dog and owner. Canine behavioural development can be divided into eight stages. Of these, the first year is most critical as it is the period when most social and environmental learning occurs, learned behaviour patterns become established and problem behaviours are most likely to become apparent (Lund et al, 1996). Whilst experiences during the socialisation period are of great importance, dogs may regress and become fearful if exposure to socio-environmental stimuli is not maintained (Dehasse, 1994; Fox, 1978) as both social and environmental learning continue throughout the juvenile period and adolescence. There is evidence of second phase of heightened sensitivity to fear arousing stimuli at the age of 6 months, around the onset of sexual maturity (Fox, 1972; Serpell and Jagoe, 1995), known as the ‘secondary sensitive’ or ‘secondary socialisation’ period. As with the onset of sexual maturity, the exact timing of this phase is variable between breeds and individuals. It may be that some do not go through this ‘secondary sensitive period’ until later adolescence or that it lasts for a greater or lesser part of the adolescent period (Dehasse, 1994; McBride et al. 1995). The present longitudinal study investigated the relationship between behaviour and early experience and management, including training engagement throughout the first year (Thompson et al, in prep.). 51 owners completed questionnaires at the time of first vaccination (A), 6 months (B), 9 months (C) and 12 months (D) of age. Behaviour was assessed using the Canine Behaviour and Research Questionnaire (Hsu and Serpell, 2003), and responses produced scores on 6 subscales which had been validated by the current authors for this age group (<1 year). Results showed that dogs attending ‘puppy socialisation/training classes’ or ‘puppy parties/socialisation groups’ prior to 6 months of age had significantly lower total problem behaviour scores than dogs attending other training formats or receiving no training. Dogs attending ‘young dogs classes’ between 6 and 9 months of age also showed a significant reduction in total problem behaviour. Six C-BARQ subscales were used: attachment/attention seeking (AAS); non-social fear (NSF); dog-directed aggression or fear (DDAF); owner directed aggression (ODA); stranger-directed fear (SDF) and separation-related problems (SRP). Analysis revealed differential effects of both the age at which the dog was trained and the type and methods of training used. In summary, results indicate that professional training is beneficial in reducing the incidence of problems behaviour and is most effective when engaged in prior to 6 months of age. Furthermore, class formats providing a combination of obedience training, troubleshooting advice and intra-specific socialisation are most effective in producing well balanced dogs.

Thompson, K.F., McBride, E.A., and Redhead, E. (2010). Training engagement and the development of behavior problems in the dog: A longitudinal study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 5(1), 57-57.


View Resource
Topic(s): Behavior, Breeder Resource, Intervention, Problem Abnormal Behavior