Meeting Abstract

P2.112  Friday, Jan. 4  Evaluation of individual variability in the temperament of shelter dogs. DE PALMA, C.; Univ. of Pisa, Italy

Seventy-four dogs, housed in a public shelter and veterinary hospital in Rome, were observed using the "focal animal sampling" and "all occurrences" methods on the basis of a specific ethogram (De Palma et al., 2004, De Palma et al., 2005). Nine observations were carried out for each dog. In addition, three faecal samples were collected from each dog on three consecutive days during daily routine, to measure the levels of cortisol metabolites (CM) and to evaluate adrenocortical activity. A Principal Component Analysis (PCA) has been utilized with the aim of defining the main “factors” characterizing the observed animals. The values of these factors have been correlated with the levels of CM by means of the Spearman rank correlation test. The PCA identified five primary factors (F1 “subordination/aggressiveness”, F2 “intra-specific dominance-activity”, F3 “anxiety-sociability towards dogs”, F4 “playfulness”, F5 “sociability towards humans”) with eigenvalues greater than 1 that accounted for 56% of the total variability. Any correlation of 0.50 or above is deemed relevant for the variable loading on each factor. An inverse correlation has been found between CM levels and the fifth factor of PCA (rho= -0,276, N=39, p=0,08). The results show a very high individual variability. In general a distinction may be introduced between a confident-independent temperament more common in stray dogs and, on the other hand, a sociable temperament which is more likely to be observed in dogs already accustomed to human beings. A low level of anxiety and aggressiveness has been recorded with no depression, apathy, self-mutilations and other stereotypies.