An Epidemiological Analysis of Dog Behaviour Problems Presented to an Australian Behaviour Clinic, with Associated Risk Factors
Behavioural problems (BP) in dogs present serious public health, economic and animal welfare concerns. Many environmental factors, and in particular owners' characteristics (e.g., age, sex, level of education, experience with dogs, personality, area of residence, interaction with the owners) are risk factors for BP.
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the risk factors for behaviour problems in dogs.
Records of dogs that presented to a behaviour clinic servicing the eastern seaboard of Australia around Brisbane and the Gold Coast were analysed for behaviour problems and the related factors. A total of 7858 dogs presenting with 11521 behaviour problems between 2001 and 2013 was analysed, from which 22 principle behaviour problems were identified, of which the most common, in declining order, were aggression, barking and anxiety.
Breed and breed groups were compared with Gold Coast City Council registrations and it was identified that there were more working dogs, hounds and utility dogs and fewer terriers, toy dogs and nonsporting approaching the clinic. Risk factors for individual breeds were identified and breeds that were uncommon in our database were over-represented, compared to Gold Coast City Council registrations. Male dogs had greater risk for several behaviours, compared to female dogs. Low socioeconomic status of owners and a short period spent at home each week were also associated with a higher risk of several behaviour problems.
The risks of developing behaviour problems is discussed in the light of evidence about the dogs and their owners.