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Helsinki, Finland

Tiira K.,University of Helsinki | Tiira K.,The Folkhalsan Research Center | Lohi H.,University of Helsinki | Lohi H.,The Folkhalsan Research Center
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2014

Canine behavior can be assessed through behavioral testing or questionnaire surveys. Behavioral tests, often observed by independent experts, can provide objective data, but capture only a short behavioral sequence in a defined situation and are practical only for small study cohorts. Questionnaires can be targeted to much larger populations and provide long-term perspectives on behaviors, including potential correlated environmental factors. However, questionnaires are sensitive for misinterpretations and the subjectivity of the participant may affect the outcome. Therefore, particular attention has to be paid to structure and form of the questions to ensure that the questionnaire measures what it is supposed to measure. We have initiated a program on genetic studies in canine anxiety and have developed a questionnaire for behavioral phenotyping. The aim of the questionnaire is to identify the most fearful dogs (cases) and dogs not showing fear (controls) within and across breeds for gene mapping purposes. Knowing the challenges in the phenotyping of complex neurobehavioral traits, the aim of this study was to assess the external and convergent validity and re-test reliability of the developed questionnaire. External validity was assessed by comparing questionnaire data against short behavioral test of selected dogs (N=54), and convergent validity was estimated using "known group comparisons", i.e. whether the dogs with separation anxiety have also more noise phobia. Re-test reliability was evaluated from the subsample (N=36) of the owners who filled the questionnaire twice within an 8-month period. We found an excellent correlation between questionnaire data and the behavioral test, and the most important questions on the fearful reactions toward strangers, had the highest correlation with the behavioral test in which the dog met a stranger (mean rs=0.63). Convergent validity was also well demonstrated by showing that a known co-morbid anxiety trait, separation anxiety, was more common in noise sensitive dogs as expected (Wilcoxon rank-sum test χ2 1,1732=9.8, p<0.01). Similarly, the test-retest reliability was good (mean values: 0.69 Spearman correlation; 0.59 Kappa value). Most importantly, the questions asking the frequency of fear reactions had excellent repeatability (mean frequency of fear reactions toward humans, dogs and situations 0.78 Spearman correlation, toward thunder, gunshot, fireworks, 0.76 Spearman correlation). These results encourage a conclusion that our questionnaire may serve as a reliable phenotyping tool for fearfulness in dogs, which, in turn, should help us to establish sufficiently large study cohorts for successful genetic analyses. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source


Tiira K.,University of Helsinki | Tiira K.,The Folkhalsan Research Center | Hakosalo O.,University of Helsinki | Hakosalo O.,The Folkhalsan Research Center | And 8 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder observed both in humans and animals. Examples of Canine Compulsive Disorder (CD) include excessive tail chasing (TC), light/shadow chasing and flank sucking. We performed a questionnaire survey to investigate the characteristics of compulsive (TC) and its possible associations with environmental correlates and personality in a pet population of 368 dogs from four dog breeds. We observed an early onset of TC at 3-6 months of age and a large variation in TC frequency in all breeds, with an overrepresentation of milder cases. Almost half of the TC dogs showed lowered responsiveness during bouts and displayed also other types of compulsions more often than the controls. Interestingly, dogs that received dietary supplements, especially vitamins and minerals, expressed less TC compared to dogs that did not receive any supplements. Neutered females had less TC, suggesting an influence of ovarian hormones on TC. Tail chasers were shyer and had separated earlier from their mothers than the controls. Finally, our genetic study did not find an association between TC and CDH2, a locus previously associated with the canine flank sucking compulsion. In conclusion, the early-onset and the variable nature of the repetitive behaviour, which is affected by environmental factors such as micronutrients, neutering and maternal care, share several similar components between canine and human compulsions and supports canine TC as a model for human OCD. © 2012 Tiira et al. Source

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