Test Determines if Your Dog's Behavior is a 'Problem'

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Published: March 17, 2014
Test Determines if Your Dog's Behavior is a 'Problem'

My dog Apollo recently took part in a scientific experiment. To be honest, I’m using the words “scientific” and “experiment” in the most general of ways. My 11-year-old neighbor included Apollo in her “Does Dog Breed or Size Influence Trainability” 5th grade science fair project.

Going into the experiment, I was fairly confident which end of the bell curve Apollo would fall on … and he didn’t disappoint (or did, depending on one’s point of view). He didn’t learn how to jump through a hula hoop held just off the ground. He simply leaned toward a treat until it was obviously out of reach and then sat down and looked dejected. He also didn’t understand that a treat was still under a cup if he couldn’t see it and become completely distracted when asked to run between two points that were greater than 100 feet apart despite having multiple people attempting to encourage him over the finish line. Apollo has never been the sharpest tool in the shed.

After I was done laughing over his performance, I decided to evaluate him more officially using the C-BARQ (Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire). The C-BARQ was developed by researchers at the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. It can be used by veterinarians, behaviorists, trainers, scientists, animal shelters, dog breeders, and other organizations to screen dogs for behavioral problems, but frankly I just did it for fun and so can you.

The C-BARQ consists of 101 questions about the way in which dogs over the age of six months respond to “common events, situations, and stimuli in their environment.” It only took me about 15 minutes to complete.

The questionnaire begins by collecting some basic information about the dog’s breed, sex, age, origin, spay/neuter status, etc., and then move on to the behavioral assessment, which is divided into seven sections:

  • Training and obedience
  • Aggression
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Separation-related behavior
  • Excitability
  • Attachment and attention-seeking
  • Miscellaneous (e.g., pulling on the leash, eating feces, and escaping)

The program uses the data entered to calculate a number of “behavior subscale scores, each of which corresponds to a particular characteristic of your dog.” If 20 or more dogs of the same breed are included in the database, breed specific comparisons are also made.

Overall, Apollo did quite well. He got gold stars in stranger-directed aggression, owner-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression, dog-directed fear, familiar dog aggression, chasing, stranger-directed fear, nonsocial fear, separation-related problems, touch sensitivity, excitability, and energy (the last two of which are frequent problems with boxers, way to go buddy!). He got red flags on trainability (no surprise there) and the miscellaneous categories of attachment/attention seeking, escaping/roaming, coprophagia (eating feces), chewing, and pulling on leash.

I don’t find any of Apollo’s “issues” that troublesome. His chewing and pulling on leash are greatly improved, we have a sturdy fence to control roaming, and the rest are, at worst, mild annoyances that I could probably overcome if I had the time or inclination to address them.

Take the C-BARQ if your dog’s behavior is a problem. At the end of the results page, you’ll find a list of organizations that can help with all but the most severe of behavioral disorders.

Dr. Jennifer Coates


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