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Licentiate thesis, 2015

Everyday behaviour in dogs

Eken Asp, Helena


The absolute majority of dogs are kept as companion animals. Dogs kept as family pets are frequently exposed to noisy and crowded environments, and often have to interact with unfamiliar dogs and humans. In Sweden, we have a long history of recording behaviour in dogs on a large scale. The Swedish Working Dog Association (SBK) has, since 1989, carried out a standardized behavioural test called Dog Mentality Assessment (DMA). Results from the DMA can be condensed into five personality traits: playfulness, sociability, curiosity/fearlessness, chase-proneness and aggression. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the possibility to use information from the DMA to select for improved everyday life in dogs and to study the genetic background of everyday behaviour. This was done by estimating factors affecting everyday life behaviour as well as the genetic background of behaviour assessed either through a questionnaire or measured in the DMA. In the first study (I) we investigated factors affecting everyday behaviour in 20 dog breeds. The analysis was based on records from a total of 3,591 dogs. In the second study (II) we estimated genetic parameters for behaviour in the Rough Collie both for everyday behaviour assessed through a questionnaire and for behaviour assessed in the DMA. The analysis included records for 1,738 dogs on everyday behaviour and records for 2,953 dogs from the DMA. Results from the studies showed that age, sex, breed and breed group (working vs non-working breeds) had a significant effect on everyday behaviour. Working dog breeds were overall more interested in playing with humans and more trainable. Phenotypic correlations showed, for example, that more fearful dogs were more aggressive and dogs that were more eager to play with humans were easier to train. The estimated heritabilities for both everyday behaviour and DMA behaviour traits ranged between 0.06 and 0.36. The genetic correlations between everyday behaviour traits and DMA results indicate that the DMA could be used as an effective tool for selection of everyday behaviour in the Rough Collie.


Behaviour; Dog; Genetic analysis; Questionnaire; Dog mentality assessment; Companion dog; Temperament

Published in

ISBN: 978-91-576-9332-7, eISBN: 978-91-576-9333-4
Publisher: Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Eken Asp, Helena
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics

UKÄ Subject classification

Genetics and Breeding

URI (permanent link to this page)