Psychology, Department of




Date of this Version


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Stevens, J. R., Wolff, L. M., Bosworth, M., & Morstad, J. (2021). Dog and owner characteristics predict training success. Animal Cognition, 24(2), 219–230.


Teaching owners how to train their dogs is an important part of maintaining the health and safety of dogs and people. Yet we do not know what behavioral characteristics of dogs and their owners are relevant to dog training or if owner cognitive abilities play a role in training success. The aim of this study is to determine which characteristics of both dogs and owners predict success in completing the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen training program. Before the first session of a dog training course, owners completed surveys evaluating the behavior and cognition of their dog and themselves. Additionally, we collected the dogs’ initial training levels via behavioral tasks. We then examined what factors predicted whether the dogs passed the Canine Good Citizen test after the class ended. In terms of dog characteristics, we found that, while dog age, sex and neuter status did not predict success, owner-rated levels of disobedience did predict completion of the program. In terms of owner characteristics, owners who scored higher on cognitive measures were more likely to have their dogs complete the program. Finally, dog–owner characteristics such as the time spent training predicted success. Thus, characteristics of the dogs, owners, and how they interact seem to predict training success. These findings suggest that there are some owner, dog, and dog–owner characteristics that can facilitate or hinder dog training.

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