Measuring your dog’s behavior and temperament can be a difficult task. There are so many variables to keep track of, each of which has its own conditions and circumstances. Add this to the fact that your dog could be facing health challenges, nutrient deficiencies, or simply be having a bad day, and you can very quickly find yourself facing frustration.
21st century trends show us the importance of data, particularly as it relates to personal health. By acquiring a large volume of meaningful data, we can begin to note trends, imbalances, and tendencies. We can also attempt to make change and have a baseline of information with which to track our progress.
The rise in fitness trackers in both the worlds of Sapiens and Canines is proof that we are becoming data-obsessed. It is no longer enough to check-in with our doctor’s once a year. We demand and expect constant feedback loops that can cue us in on our performance regularly. This gives us the power to make strategic, thought-out decisions that have the best opportunity for success.
Finding baseline data for something like behavior or temperament is not as black and white as something like steps or heart rate. As mentioned earlier, behavior is conditional and can be impacted by a wide variety of factors. Fortunately for us, a pair of veterinarians from The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine developed an evaluation tool to address the difficult subject.
The Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) is a survey used by dog owners, vets, and many organizations to evaluate dog behavior. It measures fourteen distinct categories including stranger-directed aggression, dog-directed fear, separation-related behavior, and energy level, to name a few. The test uses clear and precise questions that create a fully comprehensive analysis of your dog.
C-BARQ starts by asking you to categorize your dog. This helps determine whether your dog is a service animal, participating at the request of a veterinarian, a pet, and other specific situations. The test then asks a series of background questions that will make the data set much more valuable. These questions include age, gender, breed, weight, when/how you acquired your dog, whether or not he/she is neutered/spayed, and whether or not your dog is having any behavioral issues, among other information.
Once the background information is complete, you will be brought to the actual questionnaire. The directions state that completion of the test will take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete (it took us about 15). The evaluation is broken down into 7 distinct sections varying in number of questions. The questions are actually statements that you have to rate according to the given scale. The scale changes from section to section and depends on the nature of the category. A few of the categories have a question at the end that allow you to write in a short response at the end.
Once you have completed and submitted all the questions, the C-BARQ formulates an easy to read graph and provides an interpretation of the results. Your dog’s behaviors are ranked in the individual categories and displayed with a bar graph. The bars are color-coded so that you can easily distinguish the problem categories and those categories where your dog scored well (indicated by red, yellow, and green).
Even more, there is a line graph with plotted points that compare your dog’s score with the population’s average. The combination of the color bars and these plotted points give you a very clear and precise description of where your dog stands as it relates to a particular category. When looking at the results, it can become quite daunting and intimidating, especially if your dog did not score well on any of the categories.
The bottom of the page gives a complete breakdown on how to interpret the information and what to do if your dog scored low on multiple scores. It also gives a breakdown of each category and what a low score in that category in terms of concern and urgency. Furthermore, there is a link that takes you to another page that will give you actionable items including resources to use if your dog has significant behavioral concerns.
The C-BARQ is not some Facebook quiz that pops up in your news feed. It is well thought out and gives you meaningful information that you can take action on. Equally as important, the C-BARQ results are entered into a database. This means that the more participants in the study, the more accurate the information will become. This is important when we consider that major organizations use this data to make policy decisions, note trends in medical procedures, and, on an individual level, determine if a dog is fit for adoption or able to lead a normal life.
As dog owners, we should all take the time to complete the C-BARQ so that our current and future dogs can receive the best help possible for any behavioral needs. Having accurate background information and a vast degree of information on behavior can help shed light on lessor known connections to behavior such as the imbalance of hormones created by spaying and neutering.
Gonadectomies are the standard method of birth control in the world of dogs. Veterinarians, adoption agencies, and breeders almost always recommend that your dog be spayed or neutered. In fact, many have policies that require your dog to get the procedure. Because of the difficulties in controlling the Canine population, gonadectomies seem to be a viable option, on the surface. However, it seems that there may be a significant part of the story that we are missing.
Removal of the sex organs have implications that go beyond reproduction. It is becoming more and more evident that the hormones secreted by these organs have roles elsewhere in the body, particularly in regards to behavior, emotions, and overall mental well-being. Changes in mood, aggressiveness, and fearfulness can all potentially be a result of hormonal dysfunction. By taking such substantial actions as removing the sex organs, we are unintentionally causing negative implications to the health of our dogs (we digress, this is a discussion for another day).
The C-BARQ can help make connections between behavioral actions and other areas of Canine health and wellness, such as the aforementioned possible correlation between gonadectomies and diminished hormone function. As with any database, the more participants that accurately participate in the study, the more precise the information will become. This will allow professionals to take deep dives into the numbers and derive meaningful conclusions that can positively impact the daily lives of our beloved Canines. Head over to the evaluation now and add your contribution to the well-being of the dog population!
Did YOU take the C-BARQ yet? What did you think? We want to know! Leave a comment below!