Genetic analysis of a temperament test as a tool to select against everyday life fearfulness in Rough Collie

J Anim Sci. 2014 Nov;92(11):4843-55. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-8169. Epub 2014 Sep 24.


Fear-related problems are common among Rough Collies in Sweden. Annually, on average, >200 Rough Collies are subjected to the dog mentality assessment (DMA), a temperament test during which 33 behavioral reactions are rated. Previous research has shown that a dog's DMA result can be condensed into 5 underlying personality traits. The aim of the study was to evaluate if it is possible to use the DMA for selection for temperament in Swedish Rough Collies, in particular to decrease everyday life fearfulness. We also wanted to compare 2 methods to compute the personality traits: summated scales (SS) and factor scores (FS). The DMA data for 2,953 Rough Collies were used to estimate genetic parameters for the 5 personality traits (both SS and FS), using a linear animal model including fixed effects of sex, year and month of test, and random effects of litter, judge, test occasion, genetic effect of the individual, and residual. Age at test was included as linear and quadratic regressions. The DMA personality trait heritability estimates ranged from 0.13 to 0.25. The SS showed greater or equal heritability estimates compared with the FS. To validate the DMA, data on everyday life behavior of 1,738 Rough Collies were collected using an extended version of the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire. Each dog's questionnaire result was condensed into 18 underlying behavioral subscales. Genetic parameters for the subscales were estimated using a linear animal model, including a fixed effect of sex and random genetic effect of the individual and residual. Age when the questionnaire was completed was included as linear and quadratic regressions. Heritability estimates for the questionnaire subscales were 0.06 to 0.36. There were high and significant genetic correlations between DMA personality traits and questionnaire subscales. For instance, the DMA personality trait Curiosity/Fearlessness correlated strongly genetically to the questionnaire subscale Non-social fear (-0.70), DMA Sociability to Stranger-directed interest (0.87) and Stranger-directed fear (-0.80), DMA Playfulness to Human-directed play interest (0.63), and DMA Chase-proneness to Chasing (0.73). We could not detect any obvious difference in validity between DMA SS and FS. We conclude that the DMA is an effective tool for selection of breeding animals with the goal to decrease everyday life fearfulness among Swedish Rough Collies. The DMA can also be used for breeding for other traits. The SS method seems to perform at least as good the FS method.

Keywords: Collie; behavior; breeding; dog; fearfulness; temperament.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Breeding / methods
  • Dogs / genetics*
  • Dogs / psychology*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Genetic Testing / veterinary*
  • Intelligence Tests*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Temperament*