Questionnaires and subjects
A standard questionnaire was developed to investigate the types of training technique used and the prevalence of undesired behaviours in a population of dog owners in the UK. Owners of multiple dogs were asked to only complete a single questionnaire, with respect to their youngest dog. The questionnaire, adapted from Blackwell et al. [2
], was refined after piloting using a population of 15 dog owners in the Somerset area. The questionnaire was divided into four sections: owner demographics; dog demographics; information about training classes and training techniques used by owners with the focal dog; and information on the occurrence of a number of commonly reported undesirable behaviours in dogs.
In the first section data were collected using predominantly closed questions, and the options provided are shown in brackets after each variable: owner age (<25, 25–40, >40-60 and >60
years); owner gender (male, female), and experience in owing and training dogs (professional dog trainer; experienced dog owner with considerable training experience; experienced dog owner but limited experience in training dogs; inexperienced dog owner and trainer; not interested in dog training; other). This section also included an open question asking respondents to indicate which county in the UK they resided. The second section consisted of three closed questions and two open questions. Dog gender (male, female), neuter status (neutered, entire) and where the dog came from (breeder, re-homing centre, bred at home, or other for which respondents were given an open response section to specify) were closed questions. Breed and age of dog were asked as open questions. The third section included questions about the type of training classes attended. These were closed questions, and asked the respondent to indicate if they had attended puppy classes, obedience training classes, agility, flyball, gundog training classes, ringcraft classes or other types of training. Where these were selected, owners were also asked to complete two additional open questions: ‘How long did you attend?’ and ‘How old was your dog when you attended?’ In addition, owners were given a list of specific types of training technique. These were:
· Food rewards (giving a treat) when the dog does a correct behaviour
· Bark activated citronella collar (automatically spays strong smelling liquid to stop barking)
· Harness to prevent pulling on the lead
· Verbal punishment (e.g. telling off or shouting) when the dog does something wrong
· Shutting away (physically removing from the room, sometimes called “Time out”) when the dog behaves badly
· Stroking or patting when the dog behaves well, verbal praise
· Pet corrector (aerosol type spray directed at dog to interrupt unwanted behaviour)
· Electronic boundary fence to prevent the dog from wandering off the property
· Physical punishment (e.g. smacking) when the dog does something wrong
· Withhold treats or food when the dog does something wrong
· Ignoring (stopping giving the dog any attention when he or she does something wrong)
· Electronic training collar (to give a remove electronic correction when the dog does something wrong)
· Choke chain (metal collar that tightens on the dog’s neck) to prevent pulling on the lead
· Playing (e.g. throwing a toy when the dog does a correct behaviour)
· Physical Manipulation (e.g. pushing the bottom down) to encourage a correct behaviour
· Pulling back on lead when the dog pulls
· Bark activated electronic training collar (automatically gives electronic correction to stop barking)
· Water pistol (sprayed to interrupt a behaviour when dog does something wrong)
· “Husher” device that prevents the dog barking
· Clicker Training (using the ‘click’ sound, followed by a treat when the dog does a correct behaviour)
· Stopping forward movement or changing direction when the dog pulls on the lead
· Non- verbal sound distraction (e.g. a can of stones, ‘training discs’ or air horn) to stop the behaviour when the dog does something wrong
· Prong collar (metal chain with extensions that put pressure on dog’s neck when it pulls on the lead)
· Citronella Collar (to give a remotely initiated unpleasant smelling spray when the dog does something wrong)
· Other (please describe)
For each they were asked if the training technique was used, and where this was affirmative, additional questions were asked (‘Why did you decide to use this technique (e.g. used in training class, trainer recommended, found on internet)?; ‘For which behaviours did you use this technique (e.g. barking, pulling, not coming back when called)?’, and ‘Was the technique successful? (Yes, No)). In the final section, owners were given a list of 37 common undesired behaviours. These were not described as ‘undesirable’ but listed as brief descriptions to reduce the influence of subjective interpretation by owners as much as possible. For each behaviour, owners were asked to report whether the behaviour occurred currently (Yes / No), whether it had ever occurred in the past (Yes / No) and whether they considered the behaviour a problem (Yes / No). The behaviours requested are listed below:
· chew inappropriate items when you are present?
· chew or destroy anything when you are out?
· bark or howl when you leave the house?
· house soil when you are in the house?
· house soil whilst you are out of the house?
· bark or whine whilst you are in the house?
· growl at or bite other dogs within the household?
· bark, lunge, growl at or bite other dogs when out for a walk?
· hide or run away from family members?
· hide or run away from unfamiliar people?
· bark, growl at or bite family members?
· hide from or avoid other dogs when out of the house?
· bark, lunge, growl at or bite unfamiliar people in the house?
· bark, lunge, growl at or bite people you meet when out on walks?
· jump up to greet you?
· paw at you or demand attention in other ways?
· pull on the lead when on a walk?
· growl or bite when told off?
· wake you up in the middle of the night?
· eat faeces?
· chase things (e.g. cars, people, bikes)?
· eat excessively and vomit?
· always follow you around the house?
· steal food?
· steal objects?
· not come back to you when out for a walk?
· mouth hands, arms or clothing?
· show sexual behaviour towards people (e.g. mounting)?
· have a fearful response to noises (e.g. fireworks)?
· obsessively lick him/herself?
· keep spinning or whirling for no apparent reason?
· spin or whirl when told off?
· guard his/her food bowl?
· become very excitable with visitors?
· become very excitable when out?
· show excitable behaviours in many situations?
· become very excitable when told off?
A convenience sampling method was used to recruit dog owners to the study between May 2007 and August 2009. Dog owners out walking their dogs, attending agricultural shows and dog-related events, or visiting veterinary surgeries and pet shops in locations across UK were asked to complete the questionnaire (Table
). Questionnaires were distributed with a reply paid envelope to maximise return rate. The protocol received approval as a study involving human participants from the local Ethical Review process at the University of Bristol.
Distribution of owner questionnaires