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  • 1.
    Foyer, Pemilla
    et al.
    Swedish Defence University, Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division.
    Wilsson, Erik
    Wright, Dominic
    Jensen, Per
    Early experiences modulate stress coping in a population of German shepherd dogs2013In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, ISSN 0168-1591, E-ISSN 1872-9045, Vol. 146, no 1-4, p. 79-87Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Early experiences may alter later behavioural expressions in animals and these differences can be consistent through adulthood. In dogs, this may have a profound impact on welfare and working ability and, it is therefore interesting to evaluate how experiences during the first weeks of life contribute to shaping the long-term behaviour. We analysed data from 503 dogs from 105 litters, bred at the Swedish Armed Forces Dog Kennel. For each dog, the data comprised information on dam and sire, sex, litter size, sex ratio of litter, date of birth, and weight at birth, and at 10 days of age. Between the ages of 377 and 593 days, the dogs were tested in a temperament test, assessing their suitability as working dogs. The behaviour test comprised 12 different sub-tests, and was scored on a behavioural rating scale. A principal component analysis showed that the test performance could largely be attributed to four principal components (explaining 55.7% of variation), labelled Confidence, Physical Engagement, Social Engagement and Aggression. We analysed the effects of the different early life variables and sex on the principal component scores (PC scores) using linear modelling. PC scores on Confidence were affected by parity, sex and litter size, and Physical Engagement was affected by parity, growth rate, litter size and season of birth. Social Engagement was affected by growth rate and sex, and Aggression was affected by sex. Some of these effects disappeared when they were combined into a single linear model, but most of them remained significant also when controlling for collinearity. The results suggest that the early environment of dogs have long-lasting effects on their behaviour and coping styles in a stressful test situation and this knowledge can be used in the work with breeding of future military or police 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.

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