Dogs that live with women are more fearful, according to a study.

Cães que vivem com mulheres são mais medrosos, aponta estudo
Dogs that live with women are more fearful, according to a study. Photo: pexels

In Brazil, dogs owned by women, neutered dogs, and dogs that live without the company of another dog are more fearful. Older animals exhibit lower energy levels and a higher potential risk of developing depression.

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Furthermore, the tendency to be more enthusiastic and energetic is more commonly reported in dogs that live indoors. Lastly, mixed-breed dogs are both more fearful and more energetic and enthusiastic compared to purebred animals.

These are the conclusions of a study conducted by researchers from Brazil and the United Kingdom. They used a scale with psychometric parameters to study dogs’ sensitivity to rewards, developed in the UK, and adapted it for use in Brazil.

Until now, many people assumed that simply translating a scale developed in another country and using it would suffice, but this study shows that it is necessary to go further.

Published in Scientific Reports, a scientific journal from the Nature group, the study demonstrated how we should adapt instruments (questionnaires) used to assess dogs’ temperament according to the culture in which the instrument will be used.

Professor Carine Savalli, from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Unifesp) and the first author of the article, emphasizes: “Only cultural adaptation and statistical validation can ensure that the instrument used is truly appropriate.”

For example, a question used in the English version asks about the dog’s behavior in the garden. However, this question proved to be unimportant in the Brazilian version, probably because the life of dogs in houses with gardens is less common in Brazil than in the United Kingdom.

With the necessary adjustments, the researchers established an adapted version of the instrument suitable for use in Brazil.

Professor Carine states that the study presents both theoretical and practical implications. “Brazil has a huge population of dogs. According to official statistics, there are more dogs than children in Brazilian households. A considerable portion of this population consists of mixed-breed dogs, many of which have lived on the streets. This particular profile requires specific studies to understand the behavioral tendencies of dogs in our country.”

Commenting on the study, Professor Daniel Mills from the University of Lincoln, who developed the original instrument in English and is a co-author of this new study, said: “If we want to understand the emotional world of animals like dogs, it is important to have instruments that can be used in different cultures.”

According to the professor, we are now in a position to clearly see the factors that affect dogs’ temperament and the similarities and differences between different countries and cultures, and to identify the unique aspects in each case.

“Unfortunately, the popularity of instruments is not linked to their validity, and many people simply translate instruments from one language to another and assume that the versions are measuring the same things with the same degree of accuracy,” says Mills.

He further states that this research sets a new standard for assessment, ensuring quality data for studying dogs’ temperament.

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