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  • 1.
    Foyer, Pernilla
    Swedish Defence University, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division. Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för fysik, kemi och biologi.
    Early Experience, Maternal Care and Behavioural Test Design: Effects on the Temperament of Military Working Dogs2015Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Domestication has resulted in animals with broad variations between as well as within breeds, which allows for the selection and breeding of animals for preferred traits. This selection has affected both the genotypes and phenotypes of animals. In dogs, it has allowed for breeding for different purposes, such as companionship or the performance of specific tasks, e.g., herding, hunting, searching and protecting. Each of these types of working dogs has specific traits that are, in part, controlled by genes; however, genes are not solely responsible for the variations in the traits of an individual. The environment also plays a role, which has been studied in rodents and primates in recent decades. For instance, it has been shown that the amount of maternal care that a rat receives as a pup affects its temperament later in life; the more maternal care, i.e., licking, grooming and arched-back nursing (LG-ABN), that a rat receives, the more stress resistant, less reactive and more explorative it will be as an adult. However, the question is whether this is also true for dogs, and the investigation of how temperament in dogs is affected by environmental factors early in life is the main objective of this thesis. Three of the studies presented in this thesis focused on investigating the general parameters, particularly maternal care, that influences offspring behaviour to contribute to the understanding of temperament development in military working dogs. One of these studies concentrated on the environmental factors that influence dogs early in life, and the results indicated that some factors, such as parity, litter size and birth season, affect temperament later in life. Another study investigated how females take care of their young, and the results demonstrated that females consistently vary in their maternal style during the first three weeks postpartum and that this variation affects the temperament of the offspring. The third study focused on factors in the home environment, and the results showed that dogs approved through the evaluative temperament test were significantly associated with being hyperactive or restless and having difficulty settling down in the home environment. However, those dogs were also left home alone for more hours in a day than non-approved dogs. To be able to operate functionally, a military working dog needs to possess certain traits, or a certain temperament, and a vital characteristic is the way it responds to and copes with stress. This was investigated during an evaluative temperament test used to select dogs suitable for further training. Surprisingly, the results showed that the dogs approved for further training had significantly higher levels of salivary cortisol both before and after the test compared with the non-approved dogs. These findings may be of profound importance for understanding individual variations in behaviour and improving breeding schemes for working dogs.

  • 2.
    Foyer, Pernilla
    et al.
    Swedish Defence University, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division. Linköping University.
    Bjallerhag, Nathalie
    IFM Biology, AVIAN Behaviour Genomics and Physiology group, Linköping University, Sweden.
    Wilsson, Erik
    Dog Instruction Centre, Swedish Armed Forces, Sweden.
    Jensen, Per
    IFM Biology, AVIAN Behaviour Genomics and Physiology group, Linköping University, Sweden.
    Behaviour and experiences of dogs during the first year of life predict the outcome in a later temperament test2014In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, ISSN 0168-1591, E-ISSN 1872-9045, Vol. 155, p. 93-100Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Early life experiences are known to shape the behavioural development of animals, and therefore events occurring during preadolescence and adolescence may have long-term effects. In dogs, this period of time may be important for later behaviour and thereby also the suitability of dogs for different working tasks. We used the breeding practice for Swedish military working dogs to investigate this possibility. German Shepherds were bred at a central facility and then kept in host families for about a year, before participating in a standardised test determining their temperament, behaviour, and suitability for further training. We surveyed the link between the behaviour of 71 prospective military working dogs in their home situations during the first year of life as assessed by an amended C-BARQ survey, and their performance in a temperament test (T-test) applied at about 17 months of age. Dogs which scored high for C-BARQ category "Trainability" showed a significantly higher success rate in the T-test (P < 0.001), while dogs that scored high for "Stranger-directed fear", "Non-social fear" and "Dog-directed fear" showed a significantly lower success rate (all P < 0.05). Also dogs with higher C-BARQ scores on "Hyperactivity/restlessness, difficulties in settling down" (P=0.028), and "Chasing/following shadows or light spots" (P=0.035) were more successful, as were dogs left longer times at home (2.97 +/- 0.32 vs. 2.04 +/- 0.33 h/day; P=0.050). Index value, describing the expected success rate in the T-test, was negatively correlated with "Non-social fear" (r = -0.35) and "Stranger directed fear" (r = -0.35). The combined effect of the significant C-BARQ categories explained 29.5% of the variance in the later T-test results (P=0.006). The results indicate that the experiences and behaviour of the dogs during their first year of life is crucial in determining their later behaviour and temperament, something that could potentially be used to improve selection procedures for working dogs. Furthermore, an unsuspected result was that success in the T-test was correlated with behaviours usually associated with problem behaviour, which calls for a deeper analysis of the selection criteria used for working dogs. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

  • 3.
    Foyer, Pernilla
    et al.
    Swedish Defence University, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division. Linköpings universitet, Biologi.
    Svedberg, Anna-Maria
    Linköpings universitet, Biologi.
    Nilsson, Emma
    Linköpings universitet, Biologi.
    Wilsson, Erik
    Swedish Armed Forces Dog Training Unit, Märsta, Sweden.
    Olsen Faresjö, Åshild
    Linköpings universitet, Avdelningen för samhällsmedicin.
    Jensen, Per
    Linköpings universitet, Biologi.
    Behavior and cortisol responses of dogs evaluated in a standardized temperament test for military working dogs2016In: Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, ISSN 1558-7878, E-ISSN 1878-7517, Vol. 11, p. 7-12Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Military and police working dogs are often exposed to stressful or threatening events, and an improper response, e.g., fear, may implicate both reduced working efficiency and welfare. Therefore, identifying individuals that display a favorable response to potentially threatening situations is of great interest. In the present study, we investigated behavior responses of 85 prospective military working dogs in 4 subtests in a standardized temperament test used to select working dogs for the Swedish Armed Forces. Our goal was to evaluate behavioral responses in specific subtests and cortisol responses of candidate dogs. After dogs were rated as approved or nonapproved based on the test leader’s assessment of the full test result, we independently analyzed video recordings of 4 subtests. In addition, for 37 dogs, we analyzed pretest and posttest salivary cortisol levels. Dogs which were approved by the test leader for further training scored higher in the video recordings on emotionality and, in particular, fear-related behavior during a subset of the test and had higher levels of cortisol both before and after the test, than nonapproved dogs. Although this may actually reflect the desired traits, it could also indicate a bias in the selection procedure, which may pose limitations on the attempts to recruit the most suitable working dogs.

  • 4.
    Foyer, Pernilla
    et al.
    Swedish Defence University, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division. Linköpings universitet, Biologi.
    Wilsson, Erik
    Swedish Armed Forces Dog Instruction Centre, Märsta, Sweden.
    Jensen, Per
    Linköpings universitet, Biologi.
    Levels of maternal care in dogs affect adult off spring temperament2016In: Scientific Reports, ISSN 2045-2322, E-ISSN 2045-2322, Vol. 6, article id 19253Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Dog puppies are born in a state of large neural immaturity; therefore, the nervous system is sensitive to environmental influences early in life. In primates and rodents, early experiences, such as maternal care, have been shown to have profound and lasting effects on the later behaviour and physiology of offspring. We hypothesised that this would also be the case for dogs with important implications for the breeding of working dogs. In the present study, variation in the mother-offspring interactions of German Shepherd dogs within the Swedish breeding program for military working dogs was studied by video recording 22 mothers with their litters during the first three weeks postpartum. The aim was to classify mothers with respect to their level of maternal care and to investigate the effect of this care on pup behaviour in a standardised temperament test carried out at approximately 18 months of age. The results show that females differed consistently in their level of maternal care, which significantly affected the adult behaviour of the offspring, mainly with respect to behaviours classified as Physical and Social Engagement, as well as Aggression. Taking maternal quality into account in breeding programs may therefore improve the process of selecting working dogs.

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