The term personality has been applied to human research, whereas the term temperament has been mostly used for animal research. However, both terms have been used interchangeably in the literature, or purely to distinguish humans from animals and avoid anthropomorphism. Personality can be defined by “a set of behaviours that are consistent over context and time”. Human personality is often studied using models that look at broad dimensions of personality. For example, the Five Factor Model is one of the most commonly used model, and the most extensively studied. It is composed of five dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Studies of dog personality have also tried to identify the presence of broad personality traits that are stable over time. Recently, dog’s personality dimension has been shown to be relatively consistent over time.
There are different approaches to assess dog personality:
- Ratings of individual dogs: either a caretaker or a dog expert who is familiar with the dog is asked to answer a questionnaire, for instance the Canine Behavioural Assessment and Research Questionnaire, concerning how often the dog show certain type of behaviour.
- Tests: the dog is submitted to a set of tests and its reactions are evaluated on a behavioural scale. For instance, the dog is presented to a familiar and then an unfamiliar person :in order to measure sociability or aggression.
- Observational test: The dog’s behaviour is evaluated in a selected but not controlled environment. An observer focus on the dog’s reactions to naturally occurring stimuli. For example a :walk through the supermarket can allow the observer to see the dog in various types of conditions (crowd, loud noise …).
Several potential personality traits have been identified in dogs, for instance “Playfulness”, “Curiosity/Fearlessness, “Chase-proneness”, “Sociability and Aggressiveness” and “Shyness–Boldness”. A meta-analysis of 51 published peer reviewed articles identified seven dimension of canine personality:
- Reactivity (approach or avoidance of new objects, increased activity in novel situations)
- Fearfulness (shaking, avoiding novel situations)
- Sociability (initiating friendly interactions with people and other dogs)
- Responsiveness to Training (working with people, learning quickly)
Dog Breed plays an important role in the dog’s personality dimensions, while the effects of age and sex have not been clearly determined. Dogs personality models can be used for a range of tasks, including guide and working dog selection, finding appropriate families to re-home shelter dogs, or selecting breeding stock.
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