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External factors and reproducibility of the behaviour test in German shepherd dogs in Switzerland

Thomas Fuchs, Claude Gaillard, Sabine Gebhardt-Henrich, Silvia Ruefenacht and Andreas Steiger

Revue : Applied Animal Behaviour Science

a - Institute of Animal Genetics, Nutrition and Housing, Division of Genetic Epidemiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Bremgartenstrasse 109a, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland
b - Institute of Animal Genetics, Nutrition and Housing, Division of Animal Housing and Welfare, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Bremgartenstrasse 109a, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland

The Swiss German Shepherd Club (SC) has applied a standardised behaviour test for over 50 years. A successful test is a prerequisite for breeding approval. The aim of the study was to investigate the influence of external factors like socialisation, husbandry, training and others on the results of the behaviour test, and to verify if these results were still consistent after a year. The tested traits were self-confidence, nerve stability, hardness, sharpness, defence drive, reaction to gunfire, and temperament. Information about husbandry, training, socialisation, and the dog's behaviour in certain situations, etc. was collected by a questionnaire. From a total of 185 owners, 149 handlers with their dogs were willing to take part in this study. After 1 year, 38 dogs were tested a second time and their owners filled out another questionnaire very similar to the first one. Logistic regression analyses were used to measure the association between the results of the behaviour traits and the different external factors.
Training of the young dog and contact with school aged children were significantly associated with one or more of the behaviour traits. Significant odds ratios were found for the associations between the puppy training and nerve stability and self-confidence, as well as between young dog training and the same character traits (nerve stability and self-confidence). A further positive association was found between defence drive and the contact of the dogs with school age children. Reproducibilities of the results of the behaviour test varied between traits, so the average scores for sharpness and defence drive significantly increased from the first to the second test, for temperament however, the scores decreased. Lower scores meant a more desired behaviour as rated by the club. The results of the other traits were similar in the two tests.

Keywords: Behaviour test; Breeding; German shepherd dog; Husbandry; Temperament; Behaviour traits

Corresponding author. Tel.: +41 31 631 23 66; fax: +41 31 631 26 40.
1 Present address: Federal Veterinary Office, Monitoring, Schwarzenburgstr. 161, 3003 Berne, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 31 323 30 81; fax: +41 31 323 95 43.
2 Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Dermatology Unit, P.O. Box, CH-3001 Bern, Switzerland.

Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Octobre 2005

 

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