The shorter the dog, the more likely it is to march to the beat of its own drum, according to a study on the relationship between a dog’s shape and its behavior.
AsianScientist (Dec. 26, 2013) – The shorter the dog, regardless of breed, the more likely it is to march to the beat of its own drum, according to new research from the University of Sydney on the relationship between a dog’s shape and its behavior.
“There will always be exceptions but these data on large numbers of dogs help to define a ‘new normal.’ What is normal in terms of dog behavior clearly depends on more than simply its breed,” said Professor Paul McGreevy from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.
The study, published in PLOS One, used owners’ reports on the behavior of over 8,000 dogs from across 80 breeds and related them to the shape of 960 dogs of those breeds. It revealed strong relationships between height, body weight, skull proportions (relative width and length) and behavior.
The researchers discovered that 33 out of 36 undesirable behaviors considered were associated with height, body weight and skull shape. For example, as a breed’s average height decreased, the likelihood of behaviors such as mounting humans or objects, owner-directed aggression, begging for food and attention-seeking behavior increased.
“The only behavioral trait associated with increasing height was ‘trainability.’ When average body weight decreased, excitability and hyperactivity increased,” said McGreevy.
McGreevy noted that long skulled dogs – such as afghans, salukis and whippets – appear to be a product of selection for hunting and chasing characteristics as they excelled on those indicators.
“According to owners’ reports, they flunked on fear of strangers, barking persistently, and stealing food. Given hunting dogs have not traditionally been companion animals sharing close quarters with humans this may not be surprising,” he said.
In contrast, short-skulled dogs, such as pugs and boxers, the result of generations of selective breeding, retain some ‘puppyish’ characteristics as adults but have lost many of their hunting traits entirely.
“Undesirable behaviors such as owner aggression, or mounting, occur more often among small dogs. This suggests that, in small dogs, these behaviors are tolerated more than they would be in larger dogs where such behaviors are more unwelcome and even dangerous. Equally, such behaviors in small dogs may be a result of their being overindulged and over-protected,” he said.
“These findings will interest dog owners, breeders, veterinarians and evolutionary biologists. They remind us that domestic dogs are an extremely useful model for exploring the biological forces that produce diverse animal structures and their related behaviors.”
Source: The University of Sydney; Photo: ETersigni/Flickr/CC.
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