Behavior Genetics

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 882–902 | Cite as

Phenotyping of Aggressive Behavior in Golden Retriever Dogs with a Questionnaire

  • L. van den Berg
  • M. B. H. Schilder
  • H. de Vries
  • P. A. J. Leegwater
  • B. A. van Oost


Reliable and valid phenotyping is crucial for our study of genetic factors underlying aggression in Golden Retriever dogs. A mail questionnaire based on the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (CBARQ; Hsu and Serpell, 2003, JAVMA 223(9):1293–1300) was used to assess behavioral phenotypes. Owners of 228 Golden Retrievers completed the questionnaire. These dogs had been referred to our clinic for aggression problems several years earlier or they were related to aggressive dogs. In this paper, three sets of results are presented, which indicate that behavior scores from the CBARQ can be applied to genetic studies. First, factor analysis demonstrated that CBARQ items can be grouped into 10 behavioral traits, including three types of aggression: stranger-directed aggression, owner-directed aggression, and dog-directed aggression. The results were remarkably similar to those reported by Hsu and Serpell. The aggression scores showed considerable variation in our dog families, which is a prerequisite for genetic studies. Second, retrospective questions enabled us to study changes in the aggressive behavior of the dogs in the course of time. After an average time interval of 4.3 years, over 50% of the dogs had become less aggressive. Third, we analyzed data obtained with an aggression test of 83 dogs. Two out of the three CBARQ aggression factors were also found in the aggression test data.


Dog Aggression Phenotyping Questionnaire Aggression test 



The “Jubileumfonds Hoogleraren Diergeneeskunde” and Eukanuba supported this work. We would like to thank dr. James Serpell for putting the CBARQ at our disposal and for his comments during the design of the questionnaire and the analysis of the results. We are grateful to Matt Bruce for correcting the manuscript. Edith de Leeuw, Joop Hox, and Nienke Endenburg are thanked for advice on questionnaire design. AnneMarie Droogleever, Kim Boerkamp, Lonneke Corten, Ad van Deelen, Rutger van Deelen, Wilma van Deelen, Hendrike Valkenburg, Mieke Holtslag, Jan Jansen, Carrie Kamerbeek-van Lexmond, Bart Knol, Laura Lancee, Polona Stabej, Anne Thaysen, Monique van Wolferen, and one anonymous Golden Retriever owner volunteered to be a test person for the draft version of the questionnaire, which is highly appreciated. Master students Irene van Andel, Laura Kwant, and Jesse Willemse are thanked for technical assistance; and the Golden Retriever owners and breeders for their willingness to cooperate with our project.

Supplementary material

10519_2006_9089_MOESM1_ESM.doc (53 kb)
Supplementary material (DOC 53 KB)
10519_2006_9089_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (368 kb)
Supplementary material (PDF 368 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. van den Berg
    • 1
  • M. B. H. Schilder
    • 2
  • H. de Vries
    • 3
  • P. A. J. Leegwater
    • 1
  • B. A. van Oost
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Animals, Science and Society, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Behavioral Biology, Faculty of BiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.American University of the CaribbeanCupecoyThe Netherlands

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