Assertive, trainable and older dogs are perceived as more dominant in multi-dog households

Autoři: Lisa J. Wallis aff001;  Ivaylo B. Iotchev aff001;  Enikő Kubinyi aff001
Působiště autorů: Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary aff001
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 15(1)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227253


Social dominance is an important and widely used concept, however, different interpretations have led to ambiguity in the scientific literature and in popular science. Even though in ethology dominance is an attribute of dyadic encounters, and not a characteristic of the individual, ‘dominance’ has often been referred to as a personality trait in animals. Since few studies have specifically examined the link between personality traits and dominance status, we investigated this in dogs living in multi-dog households using a questionnaire, which required owners to specify whether the dog had a dominant or submissive status, and comprised items of both the features of the individual (i.e. personality traits) and previous social experience (interactions with group members and strangers). Four distinct personality factors emerged from 23 behavioural items by principal component analysis, labelled as assertiveness, trainability, intraspecific aggression and independence. Binomial logistic regression was used to examine how the demographic information of the dogs and the personality factors predicted the owner’s estimate of the dog’ status as dominant or submissive. The personality factor assertiveness accounted for 34% of the variance in dominance status, trainability 5% and dog age contributed 4%. Dogs perceived as dominant scored more highly on the factors assertiveness and trainability, which can help explain why ‘dominance’ has often been suggested to be a personality trait, rather than a dyad-specific social status according to different traditions in behavioural research. Similar to the ‘social dominance’ trait in humans, owner ascribed dominance showed a quadratic trajectory in cross-sectional mean change across the lifespan, increasing during adulthood and then maintaining high levels until old age. Overall, our study proposes a multifactorial background of dominance relationships in pet dogs, suggesting that not only previous experience of social interactions between individuals but also age and personality traits influence owner perceived dominance status in multi-dog households.

Klíčová slova:

Aggression – Animal behavior – Dogs – Personality – Personality tests – Personality traits – Pets and companion animals – Questionnaires


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