After humans moved from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to agricultural settlements, they selected dogs based on breed characteristics, relying on dogs to perform tasks in a specific predictable way. Today, the decision is based more on a variety of genetic or portrayed behaviors associated with dogs as family companions. Although temperament is considered a major stipulation for individual selection within a breed, behavioral assessments can be complicated and are not commonly used by breeders. It is important for breeders to know that specific behaviors are critical in determining the success or failure of companion dogs. Most owners want dogs that are safe with children, friendly toward people, calm, and well behaved. Breeders and owners need accurate information about how to prepare (ie, socialization, training) companion dogs for the lives they are expected to lead. Breeders also need access to information that demonstrates whether behavior is highly heritable in dogs and not assume that a dog’s undesirable behaviors are the result of inappropriate learning experiences. Finally, breeders should know about the limitations of existing behavioral assessments and the potential pitfalls associated with measuring behavior.
This review highlighted some important considerations regarding dog behavior and the importance of selecting for certain behaviors to reduce the number of failed owner–dog relationships. It also emphasized the role of veterinarians and behaviorists in bridging the communication and education gaps with breeders when tackling this important concept.While some breeders use academic judgment and common sense, shortsighted perspectives by others are common. Breeders often choose specific animals based on appearance rather than behavior. Hopefully, guidelines such as those proposed by the authors will help raise awareness about the importance of behavior and its role in today’s human– dog relationships.—Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA
Breeding dogs for beauty and behavior: Why scientists need to do more to develop reliable behaviour assessments for dogs kept as companions. King T,Marston LC, Bennett PC. APPL ANIMBEHAV SCI 137:1-12, 2012.