Association between subjective rating and behaviour coding and the role of experience in making video assessments on the personality of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris)

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In this paper our first aim was to investigate the association between behaviour coding based on a test battery called the FIDO Personality test for dogs (Canis familiaris) and a subjective rating given by dog owners. For the latter we asked dog owners to fill in the Dog Personality Questionnaire (DPQ) which established four personality traits for dogs: Stranger- directed Sociability, Activity, Aggressiveness and Trainability. The FIDO Personality test consists of a series of subtests in which we utilised an ethogram and measured different aspects of dog behaviour. Prior to this study we established a set of possible associations between the behavioural and the questionnaire variables. With regard to Trainability no correlation could be detected between any of the questionnaire variables and the hypothetically corresponding test battery variables. In the case of Stranger- directed Sociability, we revealed correlation between owners' reports and the dogs' behaviour during the test situation. Those dogs which were reported 'initiative' and 'not mistrustful with unfamiliar humans' approached the experimenter with shorter latency (r= -0.25, p < 0.01; r= 0.24, p < 0.01) and played more with her than those who were scored lower on these questionnaire items (r= -0.27, p < 0.01). For the factor Activity, no correlation was found between the owners' report and the behaviour of dogs displayed in the Spontaneous activity phase of the test battery. Association was revealed between the owners' report regarding the dogs' preference for ball games and playing and their behaviour in the corresponding subtest. Those dogs which were reported to like ball games and like playing with the owner played with the ball as well as with a tug more in the test situation than those which were scored lower on the questionnaire variable 'likes fetching balls' (r= 0.47, p < 0.001; r= 0.25, p < 0.01). As regards the factor Aggressiveness, the questionnaire variable 'shows a tendency to bark' correlated with the dogs' aggressive reactions (growl, bite, attack) (r= 0.25, p < 0.01) in the Bone take-away subtest and with the 'latency of getting the DNA sample' (r= 0.30, p < 0.001) in the Getting DNA sample subtest. The results show that despite of the investigated associations there is a need for more effort to refine both questionnaire-based and behaviour-based assessment of dog personality.The second aim of our experiments was to reveal whether owner ratings on the above personality factors converged with the ratings of independent groups of observers based on the video recordings of the FIDO Personality test. First, in the case of each factor, we compared the degrees of ratings given by the owners and by the three rater groups with different levels of hands-on experience with dogs. We found no difference in the case of Stranger- directed Sociability, Activity and Trainability (F(3, 128) = 1.17, p= 0.17; F(3, 128) = 0.99, p= 0.4; F(3, 128) = 1.6, p= 0.18 respectively) but there was a significant variability in judging Aggressiveness (F(3, 128) = 2.86, p= 0.04). In the case of Stranger- directed Sociability, Activity and Aggressiveness the owner's report correlated with the assessments of all the three rater groups and the assessments of the rater groups correlated with each other as well. As regards Trainability, the owners' report did not correlate with the assessments of any of the rating groups, but the assessments of all the rating groups correlated with each other.Our investigations provide a contribution to the field of research on comparing behaviour coding based on test batteries and subjective rating based on questionnaire studies as methods for establishing the personality factors of individual animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Coding
  • Dog
  • Personality
  • Subjective rating
  • Test battery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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