Objective: To determine prevalence of owner-directed aggression and identify associated environmental and genetic factors in English Springer Spaniels.
Design: Prevalence survey.
Animals: 1,053 adult English Springer Spaniels.
Procedure: A mail survey was sent to 2,400 randomly selected owners of adult American Kennel Club-registered English Springer Spaniels. Dogs with a history of aggression to family members and familiar humans were compared with dogs without such a history.
Results: 1,053 questionnaires (56.1% of the 1,877 delivered) were completed. A history of owner-directed growling or more intense aggression was reported in 510 (48.4%) dogs. Two hundred seventy-seven (26.3%) dogs had bitten a human in the past; 65.2% of bites were directed at familiar (owner or nonowner) adults and children. Variables associated with owner-directed aggression included sex of dog (male), neuter status (neutered, regardless of sex), show or bench lines, age > 4 years, aggression to unfamiliar adults and children, acquisition from a hobby breeder, less responsiveness to obedience cues, and a specific kennel and 1 popular sire from that kennel in a 4-generation pedigree.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Owner-directed aggression in adult English Springer Spaniels was associated with a number of environmental, sex-related, and inherited factors. To reduce the risk of aggression, prospective owners might seek a female, hunting-type English Springer Spaniel from an experienced breeder. However, because risk factors are broad and varied, there are limitations to the extent to which behavior can be predicted and further study is needed of the inheritance of aggression in this breed.