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Age, Sex and Reproductive Status Affect Boldness in Dogs

Melissa J. Starling, Nicholas Branson, Peter C. Thomson, Paul D. McGreevy, 2013


Boldness in dogs is believed to be one end of the shy–bold axis, representing a super-trait. Several personality traits fall under the influence of this super-trait. Previous studies have found that boldness is affected by breed and breed groups, influences performance in sporting dogs, and is affected in some cases by the sex of the dogs. This study investigated the effects of dog age, sex and reproductive status on boldness in dogs by way of a dog personality survey circulated amongst Australian dog owners. Age had a significant effect on boldness (F = 4.476; DF = 16, 758; P < 0.001), with boldness decreasing with age in years. Males were bolder than females (F = 19.219; DF = 1, 758; P < 0.001) and entire dogs were bolder than neutered dogs (F = 4.330; DF = 1, 758; P < 0.038). The study indicates how behaviour may change in adult dogs as they age and adds to the literature on how sex and reproductive status may affect personality in dogs.

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  1. Applies to humans and other mammals as well. Seems pretty intuitive to me; nevertheless, I suppose scientific studies confirming what seems intuitive are useful, esp because a lot of what people deem to be intuitively so often is not. But — no offence intended — this seems to me like stuff my grandma figured out a long time ago. And, not doubt Shakespeare and many others. Maybe I’m prejudiced, bec, for sure, I ain’t no scientist. 🙂

    1. always good to have hard data to back up the intuitively obvious 🙂
      Plus, you can’t intuit what the relationship would be between boldness and age- at what age do you see a decline.
      Also, there are spay/neuter advocates who say that it doesn’t change personality.