Does subjective rating reflect behavioural coding? Personality in 2 month-old dog puppies: An open-field test and adjective-based questionnaire

Shanis Barnard, Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Chiara Passalacqua, Valentina Beghelli, Alexa Capra, Simona Normando, Annalisa Pelosi, Paola Valsecchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
213 Downloads (Pure)


A number of studies have recently investigated personality traits in non-human species, with the dog gaining popularity as a subject species for research in this area. Recent research has shown the consistency of personality traits across both context and time for adult dogs, both when using questionnaire based methods of investigation and behavioural analyses of the dogs' behaviour. However, only a few studies have assessed the correspondence between these two methods, with results varying considerably across studies. Furthermore, most studies have focused on adult dogs, despite the fact that an understanding of personality traits in young puppies may be important for research focusing on the genetic basis of personality traits. In the current study, we sought to evaluate the correspondence between a questionnaire based method and the in depth analyses of the behaviour of 2-month old puppies in an open-field test in which a number of both social and non-social stimuli were presented to the subjects. We further evaluated consistency of traits over time by re-testing a subset of puppies. The correspondence between methods was high and test-retest consistency (for the main trait) was also good using both evaluation methods. Results showed clear factors referring to the two main personality traits 'extroversion,' (i.e. the enthusiastic, exuberant approach to the stimuli) and 'neuroticism,' (i.e. the more cautious and fearful approach to the stimuli), potentially similar to the shyness-boldness dimension found in previous studies. Furthermore, both methods identified an 'amicability' dimension, expressing the positive interactions the pups directed at the humans stranger, and a 'reservedness' dimension which identified pups who largely chose not to interact with the stimuli, and were defined as quiet and not nosey in the questionnaire.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0149831
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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