Some dogs can be quite aggressive toward strangers, or just bark at everyone passing by. But dog behaviorists said any bad animal behavior can be helped. Now, new research suggests there could be a trick to correct problem pups depending on their owner’s personality.
“Almost nothing is known about how treatment success is influenced by the characteristics of the owner,” Lauren Powell, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told NBC News.
A team from PennVet recruited 131 dog-owner pairs to attend a veterinary behavioral program for six months. The humans were asked to fill out a human personality assessment questionnaire and a dog behavior questionnaire before the start of the study. The dog behavior questionnaire was to be filled out again at three and six months into the study.
Owners were asked to rate their animal companions in the dog assessment, including their aggression directed to strangers, owners and other dogs; fear; separation anxiety; trainability; excitability; and energy level.
On the other hand, humans were assessed based on their extroversion and introversion; agreeableness; conscientiousness; neuroticism; and openness to new experiences.
Researchers found that a dog’s age, sex, and size affected the success of behavioral therapy. After the program, they discovered that big dogs with aggression problems showed more improvement than smaller dogs. Powell said they believe it could be because owners are more attuned to the larger dogs’ behavior since they present more safety risk.
“Extroverted owners were more likely to see improvements in dogs’ fearful behaviors and introverted owners less so,” said Powell, lead author of the study that has been published in Frontiers in Veterinary Service. “Introverted owners may find it tought to leave their dog or give it space if it is required as part of the dog’s treatment.”
Dr. Katherine Houpt, an emeritus professor of animal behavior medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said owners should start training their animal companions early before “mild annoyances become major issues.”
“When the dog is outside in the yard, he barks at everyone who goes by,” Houpt said. “He learns that people go away – because they are going away anyway – when he barks. And he becomes more and more confident of his ability to make things he doesn’t like go away by barking.”