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The C-BARQ Study

What's really in a dog breed? By Claudia Bensimoun

What is the C-BARQ?

The C-BARQ which is an online tool that dog owners use to fill out and rate their dog's behavior, questions pet parents as to how their dogs respond to certain stimuli in their environment. Today with more than 80,000 surveys, author and founder of the C-BARQ test, Dr. James Serpell, University of Pennsylvania, Center for Interaction of Animals & Society, has gathered one of the largest databases in the world for canine behavioral information.

  • The C-BARQ is a canine behavioral assessment and research questionnaire.
  • It is one of five surveys sections in the Animal Ownership Interaction Study that will continue for the next two years to find out more about what influences the canine-human behavioral bond.
  • Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania at the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society developed this test.
  • C-BARQ helps you to understand your dog's temperament and quirks much better.
  • It is designed to provide dog owners and professionals with standardized evaluations of canine temperament and behavior.
  • It is the only behavioral assessment tool of its kind today to be tested extensively for reliability and validity on large samples of multiple dog breeds.
  • There are 101 questions asking the different ways in which a dog would respond to certain stimuli in their homes.
  • It's easy to use, and anyone that understands or owns dogs can use it.
  • The test can be completed in 10-15 minutes.
  • All veterinarians, dog rescues, breeders, researchers, behavioral consultants and working dog organizations have access to the C-BARQ.
  • Right now it is available to all dog owners for the current research that Dr. Serpell is doing about dog breeds. He is working together with Dr. Nick Dodman in "The Gift of Life" to help give all dogs a better chance for a home for life.
Variations Among Dog Breeds

Does your cute and cuddly Dachshund sometimes act aggressively? According to a new and ongoing study by renowned animal behaviorist, Dr. Serpell says there's a lot more to a dog breed than you may think. In a video and article from PRI Science Friday with Ira Flatow, Dr. Serpell says, "There is no other breed or species of animal with such a wide variety of appearance and behavior."

The article starts off stating that C-BARQ is one of the largest studies involving more than 80,000 individual dogs. Dr. Serpell points out that there's plenty of variation among any given breed, most especially when it relates to aggression. What's most interesting is that this study demonstrates how our dogs watch us, and how our behavior affects the way our dogs behave, even when we're not giving our dogs any direct signals!

"Dogs perceive signals from us that we're not even aware we're giving. Little attributes of personality that we may have, probably change the way they typically behave. Its unendingly interesting to me." --Dr. James Serpell 

According to the video from PRI Science Friday with Ira Flatow, Dr. Serpell says, "The fundamental purpose of dogs now is just to provide people with companionship. This started around 33,000 years ago when man wanted companionship from dogs. In the early days dogs were used to hunt and guard. With the change that occurred by the mid-19th century, dog owners wanted to breed for aesthetic purposes and started showing their dogs. Many of these breeds still show those original behavioral predispositions to do particular things." 

Influence of Dog Owner and Environment

All the data obtained from the C-BARQ test indicates that breed traits are not as cut and dried as one would imagine.

Dr. Serpell advises against judging a dog solely based on its breed because this overlooks a very important factor: the way a dog's environment influences him, and also how much the dog's owner's personality will influence the behavior of a dog.

Ever wonder how how deeply ingrained certain canine behaviors actually are? Dr. Serpell wanted to find out if certain behaviors were inherent to specific breeds.  But he faced a problem. Studying domesticated dogs meant having to study them inside their own homes. It was because of this situation that he created the C-BARQ online test. "The behavior of dogs is difficult to study because they live in people's houses where you can't really observe them. Dogs perceive signals from us that we're not even aware we're giving," says Dr.Serpell via Science Friday with Ira Flatow video. "Little attributes of personality we may have probably change the way they typically behave. It's unendingly interesting to me."

To learn more about this study, The Gift of Life by Dr. Nick Dodman at Tufts, and Dr. James Serpell, visit

For more information on the C-BARQ, visit:



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