Science - November 26, 2010

New dog aggression test has more bite

Current tests to exclude aggressive dogs in breeding programmes are only effective in 33 percent of the cases. Additional test elements could show up more dogs which have a tendency to bite.

Patting with an artificial hand is part of the new test.
This is the conclusion published this month by Wageningen animal researcher Joanne van der Borg in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science. She looked into whether the test for pedigrees is able to identify dogs which have a heightened disposition to bite humans. This test is being used for cynological matters in the Netherlands by the Dutch Kennel Club, the umbrella body which is also in charge of the breed register for pure-bred dogs.
Bite history
The MAG-test for socially accepted behaviour comprises sixteen sections with which breeders can determine excessive fear or excessive aggression in their animals. Van der Borg carried out this test on 345 dogs. She compared the test results with the reports of the owners concerning the 'bite history' of their dogs. This comparison has shown that only 33 percent of the dogs with a bite history have been identified. Dogs without a bite history have, on the other hand, been identified by the test to be aggressive in seven percent of the cases.
Dummy dog
Van der Borg recommends adding three test components to improve the test sensitivity. Meanwhile, in consultation with the kennel club, she has developed a test component to measure aggression at the feeding bowl. She has also improved the evaluation of aggression towards other dogs by using a dummy dog. 
Sanctuary
By testing the behaviour of dogs more extensively, breeders can provide more detailed behavioural profiles of the parent dogs. The improved test is not only suitable for pure-breeds which are listed on the 'pit bull list' of aggressive animals up to 2009, such as the Mastina Napolitano and the American Straffordshire terrier, but also suitable for evaluating dogs from a dog sanctuary. In addition, behavioural therapists are better able to prescribe a treatment for problem dogs based on this test

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