Deleterious effects of pedigree dog breeding on behaviour

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Pedigree dog breeding has led to both direct welfare issues caused by selection for exaggerated
anatomical features and indirect issues by selecting predominantly for appearance without due
consideration of health and behaviour. This paper describes how each of these issues can impact
negatively on the dog’s behaviour, and suitability as a companion in addition to the health implications
commonly discussed. Anatomical features can affect the dog’s capacity to carry out normal behaviours,
and an observation study of naturalistic dog-dog encounters suggests that dogs with very modified
anatomical features, and reduced signalling capacity, are interacted and played with, less often than
those with fuller signalling capacity. By selecting predominantly for physical appearance, breeders
may also have inadvertently selected dogs ill-suited to the companion environment and with a higher
likelihood of developing a range of behavioural problems.
This paper highlights the lack of behavioural data and the dangers in assuming that behavioural
differences are genetically controlled, when the effects of rearing environment may be equally strong.
There are risks if future selection concentrates on the elimination of specific diseases, whilst still
retaining a breed-specific phenotype, and a closed genetic pool. Future breed management plans must
therefore take temperament into consideration, and systems to record and monitor behaviour and the
occurrence of problems should be considered. We all, veterinarians and behaviourists alike, have a role
to play in ensuring we safeguard the behaviour and welfare of future generations of pedigree dogs.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Event 2016 Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations symposium on animal welfare - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 22 Jun 201625 Jun 2016


Conference 2016 Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations symposium on animal welfare
Abbreviated titleFECAVA
Internet address

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