Test for personality characteristics in dogs used in research
Helena Åkerberg 1, Erik Wilsson 2, Marie Sallander 3, Åke Hedhammar3, Anne-Sofie Lagerstedt 3, Dan Larhammar 1
1Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
2The Swedish Armed Forces, Dog Instructor Centre, Märsta, Sweden.
3Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, Sweden.
Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 2012, 7, 327-338.
The great variation in morphological phenotypes displayed by dogs offers not only excellent opportunities for genetic analyses but also a challenge regarding between-breed and even within-breed variation. Also, behavioral responses may vary between individuals, and are to be taken into account in experimental situations. To our knowledge, no standardized test for scoring personality characteristics (TFPC) in dogs maintained for research under controlled conditions has yet been developed. The present article describes a protocol consisting of 9 test situations that are likely to arise in experimental contexts. The intent was to establish an easy-to-use standardized test protocol. Sixteen beagles were used, all housed in constant and controlled conditions. The results revealed considerable individual differences in response to certain stimuli. The largest within-group variation was found when being caged; the responses varied from passivity to escape attempts (score range: 2-5 in a 5-step scale). Substantial variation was also seen in locomotion and food consumption after exposure to stress (score range: 1-5 in a 5-step scale). In a new environment, the females showed more frequent changes in attention (focusing) compared with males (P < 0.01). There was an age-related reaction to sudden sounds (Spearman rsp = −0.52, P < 0.05). We also describe application of the TFPC to a study of food intake in response to pancreatic polypeptide performed with 6 of the male dogs. A within-group rank-order procedure was used, and interesting correlations between personality characteristics and food intake behavior were identified. We discuss how the TFPC may contribute to improvement of experimental studies in dogs.