Qualitative Behaviour Assessment of dogs in the shelter and home environment and relationship with quantitative behaviour assessment and physiological responses

JK Walker, AR Dale, RB D'Eath, F Wemelsfelder

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37 Citations (Scopus)
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Qualitative Behaviour Assessment (QBA) was utilised to examine the behavioural expression of dogs in different housing environments and the results were compared to measurements of quantitative behaviour and physiology. Firstly, quantitative behavioural and physiological differences were investigated between dogs in 3 housing environments (short-term shelter confinement, ≤4 days, n = 10; long-term shelter confinement, >30 days, n = 9; and domestic living situations, n = 10). Each dog’s behaviour was recorded over a 4 h period using an ethogram consisting of 21 behaviour categories. Dogs in both short (SD) and long (LD) term confinement displayed higher frequencies of paw-lifting (P < 0.001), displacement behaviour (digging and/or drinking P < 0.01), vocalisation (P < 0.05) and locomotory activity (P < 0.001) compared to dogs maintained as family pets (PD). Salivary cortisol concentrations did not differ amongst groups (H = 0.55, P = 0.76). Secondly, quantitative behaviour and QBA were combined to investigate differences among these same 29 dogs when filmed for 1 min in both their Home Environment and a standardised Novel Environment. QBA of these video clips was made by 10 observers utilising Free-Choice-Profiling methodology. Generalised Procrustes Analysis was used to calculate a consensus profile and three main dimensions of dog expression in both Environments. The observers repeated dog scores on these dimensions with high accuracy (P < 0.001). Observers perceived dogs as more ‘relaxed/content’ in the Home Environment (H = 17.86, P < 0.0001), and more ‘calm/relaxed’ in the Novel Environment (H = 13.58, P < 0.001), than SD and LD dogs. In the Novel Environment, LD dogs were perceived as more ‘inquisitive/curious’ (H = 5.97, P < 0.05), and SD dogs as more ‘curious/cautious’ (H = 6.82, P < 0.05), than the other groups. Quantitative assessment of the 1 min Home and Novel Environment video clips were analysed using Principle Component Analysis (PCA), generating two main factors explaining 88% and 76% of the variation respectively. PCA factor 1 (‘rest’) and QBA Dimension 1 (‘relaxed/content’) correlated (P < 0.0001) in the Home Environment’. In the Novel Environment PCA factor 1 (‘stand’, ‘sniff’) correlated with QBA Dimension 1 (‘clam/relaxed’) and PCA factor 2 (‘sniff’, ‘walk’) correlated with QBA Dimension 2 (‘curious/inquisitive’). There was no correlation between QBA dimensions and cortisol concentrations. In sum, these results indicate that a combined quantitative/qualitative assessment facilitates the interpretation of behavioural variances resulting from housing differences and supports utilising QBA for the assessment of dog behavioural expression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97 - 108
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication statusPrint publication - 31 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note



  • Behavioural expression
  • Canis familiaris
  • Dog
  • Qualitative behavioural assessment
  • Saliva cortisol
  • Shelter


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