Factors associated with aggressive responses in pet dogs

Yuying Hsu*, Liching Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


This study used The Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) and regression models to explore the relative importance of dog and owner characteristics, living environment and owner-dog interaction to household dogs' aggressiveness towards strangers, owners and other dogs. Exploratory factor analysis revealed 10 interpretable factors from the Chinese translation of C-BARQ: stranger-directed aggression, owner-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression, social fear, nonsocial fear, separation-related behavior, attachment or attention-seeking behavior, trainability, excitability and pain sensitivity. The factor structure of our study largely resembled that reported in Hsu and Serpell (2003) and van den Berg et al. (2006; Dutch translation of C-BARQ). All factors of the translated C-BARQ have adequate reliability (Cronbach α: 0.74-0.93) and are thus suitable for measuring temperament traits in Taiwan's pet dogs. Intrinsic and environmental variables important to the three aggression subscales were not entirely the same, but breed (P ≤ 0.020) and physical punishment (P ≤ 0.053) had significant relationships with all of them. Golden Retriever scored the lowest while dogs subjected to physical reprimands scored significantly higher on aggression subscales. In addition, higher scores on stranger-directed aggression were associated (P ≤ 0.027) with living in rural areas, in houses with yard space and with more household members and being acquired either as puppies or for guarding purposes. Higher scores on owner-directed aggression were associated (P ≤ 0.040) with male and older dogs, being neutered/spayed, having female owners, fewer other dogs in the household and being kept outside the house. Higher scores on dog-directed aggression, on the other hand, were associated (P ≤ 0.050) with living in houses with either yard space or more household members and with spending less time with owners. Stranger- and dog-directed aggression had more important intrinsic and environmental variables common to them than did owner-directed aggression, which suggests that aggression towards owners may be regulated by different mechanisms from aggression towards strangers and other dogs. Although no causal relationship between dog aggression and environmental variables can be implied from observational studies, the results of this and other studies lend support to the possibility of reducing dogs' aggressive responses through proper management by owners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-123
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Mar


  • Aggression
  • Pet dogs
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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