This year, in the United States alone, an estimated three to six million cats and dogs will be euthanized as a result of behavior problems (Beerda, Bosch, Hendriks, Vander Poel, and Verstegen, 2007). Unwanted behaviors are cited as being the primary reason that canines are relinquished to rescue shelters (Beerda et al., 2007). Individuals that surrender their dogs rarely pursue an active intervention strategy to correct problem behaviors, often claiming that time and financial constraints prohibit further intercession (Marston and Bennet, 2003).
It is important to establish an understanding of how canine behavioral problems develop and what interactions can contribute or deter their negative impacts. Awareness of the progression of these behavioral deficits might help us provide accessible interventions to encourage individuals to alleviate these issues before they become more substantial problems.
Researchers Andrew Jagoe and James Serpell are interested in the implications of the interactions of owner characteristics with their dogs and how they contribute to the prevalence of canine behavior problems. Jagoe and Serpell devised a questionnaire to be administered to four different sources which included: animal behavioral counselors, veterinary surgeons, the teaching hospital at the University of Cambridge Veterinary School and a random door-to-door inquiry (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996). The survey required detailed information regarding the reason for acquiring the dog, any previous ownership of a dog, participation in any obedience training classes, the approximate times the dog was fed, the sleeping habits of the dog, the types of games the owners reported playing with their dogs and a checklist of problematic behavior patterns on a five point scale (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996). From these sources, Jagoe and Serpell were able to collect seven-hundred-and-thirty-seven questionnaires from which they were able to compile their data (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996).
Jagoe and Serpell found that the most common reasons for canine acquisition were companionship (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996). Canines chosen for this trait were reported as demonstrating a lower prevalence of competitive aggression when compared to those acquired for any other purpose (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996). Exercise was the second most frequent motive for adopting a dog; canines adopted primarily for this purpose appeared to have a significantly lower prevalence of dominance-type aggression and competitive aggression (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996). Individuals who sought out dogs for protection reported their canine as demonstrating a significantly higher prevalence of territorial type aggression (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996). Acquiring a dog for breeding or showing purposes was the least likely reason for adoption; canines chosen for this purpose were reported as having a significantly lower prevalence of dominance-type aggression (Jagoe and Serpell, 1996).
The vast majority of respondents were...