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Study 1 - Animal Ownership Interaction Study (AOIS)

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

Status: Published on PLOS | One, February 14, 2018

Scientific Paper Title: Associations between Owner Personality and Psychological Status and the Prevalence of Canine Behavior Problems


Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. James A. Serpell, University of Pennsylvania

Study Design: Sponsored by the Center, the AOIS survey is the largest of its kind to explore the influence that an owner’s personality, psychological status, and choice of training methods can have on a dog’s behavior. Dr. James Serpell, Marie A. Moore Professor of Ethics & Animal Welfare and Director of the Center for Interaction of Animals and Society at Penn Vet said, “Existing research shows that an owner’s personality can impact a dog’s behavior, but what has not been clear is how the owner contributes to these effects. We designed our study to explore this question and whether the answer might be found in how people interact with their dogs, particularly through training.”

Participating Dog Owners: 1,564 in the USA and UK (the largest of its kind ever).

Study Abstract: Behavioral problems are a major source of poor welfare and premature mortality in companion dogs. Previous studies have demonstrated associations between owners’ personality and psychological status and the prevalence and/or severity of their dogs’ behavior problems. However, the mechanisms responsible for these associations are currently unknown. Other studies have detected links between the tendency of dogs to display behavior problems and their owners’ use of aversive or confrontational training methods. This raises the possibility that the effects of owner personality and psychological status on dog behavior are mediated via their influence on the owner’s choice of training methods. We investigated this hypothesis in a self-selected, convenience sample of 1564 current dog owners using an online battery of questionnaires designed to measure, respectively, owner personality, depression, emotion regulation, use of aversive/confrontational training methods, and owner-reported dog behavior. Multivariate linear and logistic regression analyses identified modest, positive associations between owners’ use of aversive/confrontational training methods and the prevalence/severity of the following dog behavior problems: owner-directed aggression, stranger-directed aggression, separation problems, chasing, persistent barking, and house-soiling (urination and defecation when left alone). The regression models also detected modest associations between owners’ low scores on four of the ‘Big Five’ personality dimensions (Agreeableness, Emotional Stability, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness) and their dogs’ tendency to display higher rates of owner-directed aggression, stranger-directed fear, and/or urination when left alone. The study found only weak evidence to support the hypothesis that these relationships between owner personality and dog behavior were mediated via the owners’ use of punitive training methods, but it did detect a more than five-fold increase in the use of aversive/confrontational training techniques among men with moderate depression. Further research is needed to clarify the causal relationship between owner personality and psychological status and the behavioral problems of companion dogs.

Application for Findings: The Dodman and Serpell findings are not sitting idle on a shelf but are being integrated into a human adopter – canine rescue matching program that will facilitate better adoption matches resulting in improved compatibility on numerous fronts. We hope that more appropriate matches will reduce abandonment, surrender and relinquishment of dogs to shelters and pounds.

Read the Scientific Paper published in PLOS | One here: PLOS ONE:

Read Dr. Dodman’s Dog Owner Friendly Version of the Findings:

Need Link to that article


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