DOI: 10.3390/ani13152461 ISSN: 2076-2615

Influence of Sex of Stranger on Responses of Shelter Dogs during Canine Behavioral Evaluations

Betty McGuire, Andrew Song
  • General Veterinary
  • Animal Science and Zoology

In many situations, domestic dogs display greater uneasiness with unfamiliar men than unfamiliar women. However, little is known about whether the sex of an unfamiliar person is a risk factor for stranger-directed aggression, especially with respect to behaviors less intense than biting. We analyzed data collected by behavioral staff over a 27-month period (n = 283 dogs) at a New York shelter to determine whether the sex of an unfamiliar person influenced behaviors assessed during the Stranger test of the canine behavioral evaluation. Scores ranged from 1 (calm and friendly) to 5 (will not approach stranger or unsafe to allow an approach). No concerning behaviors (scores 1–3) were assessed for 19.2% of 26 undersocialized dogs from one home and 89.9% of the remaining 257 dogs. Within the group of 257, those tested with a male stranger had significantly higher scores than those tested with a female stranger; the effect size was small to moderate. Thus, we found that dogs responded differently to male and female strangers during this testing situation, but from a practical standpoint, our findings do not warrant adjustments in how shelters conduct or interpret tests for stranger-directed aggression. Our findings also highlight the importance of early exposure to different people and situations for dogs.

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