Breed Differences in Canine Aggression

To study the variation in aggression across dog breeds, the researchers in this study used C-BARQ, a standardized survey “designed to assess the prevalence and severity of behavior problems in dogs”. It asks 101 questions about a dog’s recent behavior under certain conditions using 0-4 rating scale. There are 13 different categories of behavior. These include things such as stranger directed aggression (SDA), dog-directed aggression (DDA) and owner-directed aggression (ODA), which are elaborated on within this paper. Also addressed is a distinction between fearful responses and aggressive responses.

            The C-BARQ survey was used in two different ways. First, it was sent to 11 AKC recognized breed clubs. Owners were randomly selected to be surveyed within the clubs with the condition that their dogs were at least a year old. The C-BARQ survey was also published online, meaning that people who filled out the survey were self-selected. This is slightly limited because self-selection could be a source of bias, and the information given was only based on what the owners decided to provide.

            The results were consistent between the two survey groups, and were also consistent with previous studies. First, there was a high correlation between aggression and fear in dogs (i.e. dog breeds who were generally rated as aggressive toward strangers were also rated as fearful towards them). Generally, dogs had higher levels of aggression towards unfamiliar dogs than unfamiliar people, and the lowest aggression directed towards their owners.

            Dachshunds were among the highest ranked breeds for aggression in all cases, (SDA, DDA, and ODA) in most cases ranking in the highest decile. The table below elaborates on this point. It shows the 8 breeds that were common amoung the two survey types and rates and ranks their aggression. 







Breed club


Breed club


Breed club


1.37 (1)

0.88 (1)

0.27 (1)

0.13 (2)

1.46 (1)

0.89 (1)

English Springer Spaniel

0.60 (2)

0.51 (5)

0.21 (2)

0.19 (1)

1.19 (2)

0.79 (2)

Golden Retriever

0.23 (7)

0.36 (7)

0.09 (6)

0.05 (7)

0.63 (6)

0.49 (6)

Labrador Retriever

0.41 (5)

0.36 (6)

0.07 (8)

0.02 (8)

0.59 (7)

0.46 (7)


0.55 (3)

0.65 (4)

0.07 (7)

0.13 (3)

0.81 (3)

0.64 (4)


0.55 (4)

0.84 (2)

0.11 (4)

0.09 (5)

0.72 (5)

0.72 (3)

Shetland Sheepdog

0.37 (6)

0.67 (3)

0.09 (5)

0.08 (6)

0.51 (8)

0.41 (8)

Siberian Husky

0.07 (8)

0.14 (8)

0.12 (3)

0.09 (4)

0.75 (4)

0.63 (5)

     The data in this study undoubtedly shows Dachshunds as one of the most aggressive breeds. However, aggression in small breeds is usually much more tolerable and manageable than within large breeds. There was also substantial variation within each breed that had to do with environmental factors. This means that if a Dachshund is raised in the right environment, they can be just as friendly and easy-going as any other dog. In addition, the C-BARQ study was not completely objective as it had a degree of reporter bias (due to the nature of it being a survey). So while these results show Dachshunds as statistically more aggressive, they shouldn't be written off as good companions!

Deborah L. Duffy, Yuying Hsu, James A. Serpel, 2008.  “Breed differences in canine aggression”. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Volume 114, 441-460.

Reviewed by: Anna Day