Behavior problems in dogs: An assessment of prevalence and risk factors based on responses from a representative sample of Danish owners

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It is well known that behavior problems in companion dogs affect the welfare of both the dogs and the owners. However, assessments of the prevalence of the problems vary greatly depending on the source of information and questions the study employs. The most accurate estimate of prevalence is likely to be obtained through study of a representative sample of dog owners. The aim of the current questionnaire study was therefore to investigate the prevalence of and risk factors for dog behavior problems by analyzing the responses of a representative sample of Danish dog owners. To the authors’ knowledge, this kind of study, involving a representative sample of dog owners, has only been conducted once before in the state of Victoria, Australia. We found that 34% (n = 172) of Danish dog owners surveyed (n = 502) perceived their dog to have one or more problems related to behavior. The most common problems were related to fear (n = 90 dogs, 18%) and disobedience (e.g., jumping up at people and not coming when called n = 54 dogs, 11%). The most common fear problem was fear of noises (n = 51 dogs, 10%). Among aggression problems, the most common by far was inter-dog aggression (n = 40 dogs, 8%). We identified dog, owner, and management variables as possible risk factors for dogs with behavioral problems. Increasing dog age was associated with lower levels of problems connected with disobedience. Dog disease within the last year was associated with a higher risk of problems with fear and aggression. Living in an apartment, as opposed to a (sub)urban house or farm/house in the countryside, was associated with a raised risk of fear problems. Daily off-leash time on walks was associated with a lower risk of problems related to aggression and disobedience. Finally, a higher frequency of training with the dog, either at home or in dog training classes, was associated with a lower risk of problems related to all three of fear, aggression, and disobedience. Our data do not allow us to infer causality in the reported associations, and the results are discussed in light of this.

TidsskriftJournal of Veterinary Behavior
Sider (fra-til)24-31
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Skibsredder Per Henriksen, R. og Hustrus Fond, which provided funding for the Danish Research Centre for Companion Animal Welfare through which costs for the study were covered. The authors also thank the dog owners who participated in the study. The funder had no role in the design of the study or the interpretation of its results. The questionnaire study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at the Faculties of Science and of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen (permission no.: 504/0159/20-5000). Respondents did not give informed consent before participation. This approach is employed by Statistics Denmark in all of the questionnaire studies that they conduct.

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© 2023 The Authors

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