"Reactivity to Stimuli” Is a Temperamental Factor Contributing to Canine Aggression

Please note: The following is a summary of a research article, referenced at the end of this page, by Sayaka Arata, Yukari Takeuchi, Mai Inoue, Yuji Mori.


Canine aggression is a prevalent issue that can lead to the surrender or euthanization of the dogs exhibiting it (Arata, Takeuchi, Inoue, Mori, 2014). A previous study on Shiba Inus associated “reactivity to stimuli” with aggression toward owners, children, strangers, and other dogs” (Arata et al., 2014). This article describes the contents and results of a revised questionnaire sent to people who own dogs insured by Anicom Insurance Inc. (Arata et al., 2014). The goal of the new questionnaire was to determine if “reactivity to stimuli” is related to various types of aggression in other breeds like it is for Shiba Inus (Arata et al., 2014).


The questionnaire included a section asking for general information, including the following: “breed, date of birth, age, sex, age of neutering, source of acquisition, age at acquisition, [and] housing condition” (Arata et al., 2014). Then, on a five-point scale, participants could score their dogs’ behavior and aggression in the last 3 months (Arata et al., 2014). The options were “unknown” or “5 = always,” 4, 3, 2, and “1 = never” (Arata et al., 2014).


There were 5,610 valid replies, with the most responses coming from 1,299 Toy Poodles, and the least coming from 124 Pugs (Arata et al., 2014). Yorkshire Terriers were 262 of the collected responses (Arata et al., 2014). Through factor analyses, five factors were found consistent in 14 breeds (including the Yorkshire Terrier): “‘sociability with humans,’ ‘fear of sounds,’ ‘chase proneness,’ ‘reactivity to stimuli,’ and ‘avoidance of aversive events’” (Arata et al., 2014).


The researchers used a combination of factor analysis, multiple regression analyses, and cluster analysis in the study (Arata et al., 2014). The authors also reinforced that the study produced reliable data, as the results corresponded with previous studies and assessments (Arata et al., 2014). However, 55.9% of the responses indicated aggressive dogs, a statistic that may or may not be related to the dogs’ living in Japan (Arata et al., 2014).


During analysis, 14 breeds were grouped based on their levels of aggression  (Arata et al., 2014). Specifically, Yorkshire Terriers were put in the same cluster as “Maltese, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, [...] Shiba Inu, Papillon, and Jack Russell Terrier” dogs because they displayed high levels of aggression towards their owners but moderate levels to others (Arata et al., 2014). In a different grouping, Yorkshire Terriers scored lower for “sociability with humans” and “chase-proneness,” and higher for “fear of sounds,” “reactivity to stimuli,” and “avoidance of aversive events” (Arata et al., 2014). More broadly, the following significant associations were determined in over 6 breeds:

“sociability with humans” with “child-, stranger-, and dog-directed aggression”;

“reactivity to stimuli” with “owner-, child-, and stranger-directed aggression”;

“avoidance of aversive events” with “child-and stranger-directed aggression”;

and, with less supportive evidence, “chase-proneness” with “dog-directed aggression” (Arata et al., 2014).


Ultimately, the temperamental factor “‘reactivity to stimuli’ was significantly associated with owner-directed aggression in 13 breeds, child-directed aggression in eight breeds, stranger-directed aggression in nine breeds, and dog-directed aggression in five breeds” (Arata et al., 2014). This relationship between one temperamental factor and several kinds of aggression may help explain the “co-occurrence” of more than one type of canine aggression, how genes are related to aggression, and how to treat it (Arata et al., 2014).



Reviewed by: Sofia Hsu, 11/12/18




PDF (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0100767&type=printable) accessed via "Reactivity to Stimuli” Is a Temperamental Factor Contributing to Canine Aggression

Arata S, Takeuchi Y, Inoue M, Mori Y (2014) "Reactivity to Stimuli” Is a Temperamental Factor Contributing to Canine Aggression. PLOS ONE 9(6): e100767.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100767