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Extroverts have more success training their dogs than introverts

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Extroverts seem to find it easier than introverts to improve their dog’s behaviour

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Dogs with certain kinds of behavioural problems are more likely to show improvement during training if their owners are extroverts and open-minded.

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After comparing human personalities and the success of behavioural training, scientists have found that introversion, close-mindedness and even conscientiousness are linked to fewer changes in some types of undesirable dog behaviour, including aggression and fearfulness.

The information could help veterinarians identify dog-owner pairs that might need more help during training, says Lauren Powell at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who co-led the study.

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Over a six-month period, Powell and her colleagues followed 131 dogs and their owners attending training sessions with a University of Pennsylvania veterinarian, who performed an initial behaviour assessment of each dog. The dogs had various issues, such as aggression towards people or dogs, chasing cars or animals, general fearfulness, separation anxiety, excessive barking and fear of being touched.

Owners underwent personality testing and provided information about their dogs through a global canine research database called C-BARQ. The researchers also used a survey to evaluate how attached each dog and owner were to one another.

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The most important factor affecting success was how bad the dog’s behaviour was to start with, Powell says. Those with the worst behaviour improved the most over six months – possibly because they had so much to gain from the training.

Confirming previous studies, the group also noted that younger dogs improved more than older dogs, and that the stronger the pair’s attachment, the more successful the training was.

However, their research also revealed that human personality plays a role in corrective training for some kinds of unwanted behaviour.

For example, dogs that were generally fearful or afraid of being touched made more progress during therapy if their owners were extroverted. And people who were open to new experiences tended to have dogs that became gradually less fearful towards other dogs – perhaps because these owners were more willing to adopt the vet’s recommendations, says Powell.

The findings make sense, says Charlotte Duranton, head of Ethodog, a canine behavioural research facility and clinic near Paris, since dogs and their owners tend to “synchronise” their behaviour with each other, especially in social settings.

“When dogs are confronted with a new stimulus – like an unfamiliar human, dog, or object – they’re going to watch the reaction of their owner to know how they themselves should behave,” says Duranton. As such, it is critical for professionals to keep this in mind during behaviour training. “The dog isn’t the only [partner] to consider,” she says.

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As for the more conscientious people, Powell says her data showed that their dogs did not become particularly less aggressive towards strangers despite six months of retraining. But these results might be somewhat affected by the fact that the owners themselves were reporting on their dogs’ behaviour. “More conscientious people may just view their dogs’ behaviour differently than less conscientious people do,” she says.

Journal reference: Frontiers in Veterinary Science, DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2020.630931

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