Three different coping styles in police dogs exposed to a short-term challenge

Zsuzsánna Horváth, Botond Zoltán Igyártó, Attila Magyar, Ádám Miklósi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Scopus citations


According to some researchers, animals show different coping styles to deal with stressful situations. In the case of social carnivores, social stress is a substantial part of the overall stress load. Previous research has established two extreme (proactive and reactive) coping styles in several animal species, but means of coping with social stress has not yet been investigated in the case of dogs. The aim of this current study was to examine whether (1) experienced working police dogs adopt different coping strategies during a short-term unexpected social challenge presented by a threatening human, (2) whether this affects post-encounter cortisol levels, and (3) whether there is an association between the cortisol response and the behavior (coping strategy) displayed during the threatening approach. Using factor analysis, we have identified three different group of dogs which were characterized by either fearfulness, aggressiveness, or ambivalence and in parallel showed specific differences in their reaction norm when threatened by an approaching stranger. This grouping also allowed to draw possible parallels between aggressiveness and the proactive behavior style and fearfulness and reactive coping style, respectively. In addition, we have revealed a third group of animals which show ambivalent behavior in a social threatening situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-630
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007


  • Age
  • Aggression
  • Ambivalent behavior
  • Coping styles
  • Cortisol
  • Police dogs
  • Threatening test

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