Good Dog: Working Dog Breeds and Behavior


A recent study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science shows that dogs originally bred to perform tasks such as guarding property, pulling sleds, and performing rescues exhibit more positive behavioral traits than non-working dog breeds.



Working dog breeds include the Boxer, Great Dane, Mastiff, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Samoyed, St. Bernard, and Schnauzer, among others. These breeds are characterized by their size and strength, but also by their intelligence, patience, bravery, and loyalty.



Authors of the study surveyed over 3,500 owners of 20 different working and non-working dog breeds. They found that a dog’s everyday behavior was most strongly influenced by age, sex, and breed.


Analysis of the owners’ survey responses found that working dogs were 10% more trainable than non-working breeds. They also showed 30% more interest in playing with humans. The authors found a correlation between eagerness to play and trainability. Working dog breeds were also found to be significantly less fearful than non-working breeds (in some cases as much as 60% less fearful), which translated to more social and less aggressive behavior among the working dogs.



Of course, all dogs are individuals, but it’s likely that dogs bred over the years to perform jobs for humans have developed a particular set of behavioral characteristics that make them good companion animals, even if they are no longer utilized as working dogs.



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  • Aaron Seminoff
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