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Article

An Investigation into the Impact of Pre-Adolescent Training on Canine Behavior

1
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA
2
Center for Canine Behavior Studies, Salisbury, CT 06068, USA
3
Boston K9 Concierge LLC, Boston, MA 02127, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Niwako Ogata and Paola Maria Valsecchi
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1298; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051298
Received: 4 March 2021 / Revised: 26 April 2021 / Accepted: 28 April 2021 / Published: 30 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Canine Behavior, Behavioral Wellbeing)
Current thinking about puppy training is that it should be performed as early in a dog’s life as possible to prevent the later development of behavior problems. However, no study has been performed to see if early puppy training (before 3 months of age) does present clear advantages over training at a later age, in terms of the subsequent development of adult behavior problems. This retrospective study examined the age at which adult dogs were trained as puppies and whether there were advantages of training puppies before 4 months of age or between 5 and 6 months of age. We found no difference in the age of puppy training and the subsequent development of behavior problems. Aggression, compulsive behavior, destructive behavior, and excessive barking were all reduced in dogs that had attended puppy training before 6 months of age compared to a control group of dogs that had not attended puppy training classes. Ancillary findings about the entire study population were that dogs acquired as pups at 12 weeks of age or less had reduced odds of exhibiting fear or anxiety and engaging in destructive behavior. In addition, male dogs were found to have reduced odds of developing aggressive behavior, compulsive behavior, and mounting/humping and increased odds of rolling in repulsive materials. Neutered dogs of either sex were found to have increased odds of developing fear and anxiety, increased odds of escaping/running away, exhibiting coprophagia, and rolling in repulsive materials. The odds of problematic jumping decreased with age.
An online survey about puppy training was sent to members of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies and posted on our social media platforms. Six hundred forty-one (641) qualifying owners provided information on 1023 dogs. About half (48%) of the dogs involved in the study attended puppy training and the balance (52%) did not. The goal of the study was to find out whether puppy training at various ages (1–3 months, 4 months, 5–6 months) helped prevent behavior problems later in life (≥1 year). Attending training at 6 months of age or younger resulted in 0.71 the odds of developing aggressive behavior (95% CI: 0.53–0.97; p = 0.030), 0.64 the odds of having a compulsive behavior (95% CI: 0.45–0.92; p = 0.015), 0.60 the odds of exhibiting destructive behavior (95% CI: 0.37–0.96; p = 0.035), 0.68 the odds of excessive barking (95% CI: 0.47–0.99; p = 0.043), and 1.56 the odds of house soiling (95% CI: 1.08–2.27; p = 0.019). Ancillary findings about the entire study population were that dogs acquired at 12 weeks of age or younger were found to have 0.65 the odds of fear/anxiety (95% CI: 0.46–0.92; p = 0.016) and 0.50 the odds of exhibiting destructive behavior (95% CI: 0.31–0.79; p = 0.003). In addition, male dogs were found to have 0.68 the odds of developing aggressive behavior (95% CI: 0.53–0.88; p = 0.003), 0.66 the odds of developing compulsive behavior (95% CI: 0.49–0.88; p = 0.006), 0.37 the odds of mounting/humping (95% CI: 0.26–0.52; p < 0.001), and 1.53 the odds of rolling in repulsive materials (95% CI: 1.18–1.97; p = 0.001). Neutered dogs of either sex were found to have 3.10 the odds of fear/anxiety (95% CI: 2.05–4.72; p < 0.001), 1.97 the odds of escaping/running away (95% CI: 1.12–3.69; p = 0.025), 2.01 the odds of exhibiting coprophagia (95% CI 1.30–3.19; p = 0.002), and 1.72 the odds of rolling in repulsive materials (95% CI: 1.12–2.66; p = 0.014). The odds of problematic jumping deceased by 0.84 for each 1-year increase in age (95% CI: 0.80–0.88; p < 0.001). View Full-Text
Keywords: dogs; survey; questionnaire; behavior problems; training dogs; survey; questionnaire; behavior problems; training
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MDPI and ACS Style

Dinwoodie, I.R.; Zottola, V.; Dodman, N.H. An Investigation into the Impact of Pre-Adolescent Training on Canine Behavior. Animals 2021, 11, 1298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051298

AMA Style

Dinwoodie IR, Zottola V, Dodman NH. An Investigation into the Impact of Pre-Adolescent Training on Canine Behavior. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051298

Chicago/Turabian Style

Dinwoodie, Ian R., Vivian Zottola, and Nicholas H. Dodman 2021. "An Investigation into the Impact of Pre-Adolescent Training on Canine Behavior" Animals 11, no. 5: 1298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051298

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