Individual and group level trajectories of behavioural development in Border collies

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In order to assess dogs' personality changes during ontogeny, a cohort of 69 Border collies was followed up from six to 18-24 months. When the dogs were 6, 12, and 18-24 months old, their owners repeatedly filled in a dog personality questionnaire (DPQ), which yielded five personality factors divided into fifteen facets. All five DPQ factors were highly correlated between the three age classes, indicating that the dogs' personality remained consistent relative to other individuals. Nonetheless, at the group level significant changes with age were found for four of the five DPQ factors. Fearfulness, Aggression towards People, Responsiveness to Training and Aggression towards Animals increased with age; only Activity/Excitability did not change significantly over time. These changes in DPQ factor scores occurred mainly between the ages of 6 and 12 months, although some facets changed beyond this age. No sex differences were found for any of the tested factors or facets, suggesting that individual variation in personality was greater than male/female differences. There were significant litter effects for the factors Fearfulness, Aggression towards People and Activity/Excitability, indicating either a strong genetic basis for these traits or a high influence of the shared early environment. To conclude, from the age of six months, consistency in personality relative to other individuals can be observed in Border collies. However, at the group level, increases in fearful and aggressive behaviours occur up to 12 months and for some traits up to two years, highlighting the need for early interventions. Follow-up studies are needed to assess trajectories of personality development prior to six months and after two years, and to include a wider variety of breeds.




Riemer, S., Müller, C., Virányi, Z., Huber, L., & Range, F. (2016). Individual and group level trajectories of behavioural development in Border collies. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 180, 78–86.

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