Border Collies are on average more impulsive than Labrador Retrievers according to research published in Scientific Reports this week. When comparing working lines - groups within a breed that have been selected to perform a particular task for humans, such as herding sheep - Collies were found to be more impulsive than Labradors. However, there was no significant difference in levels of impulsivity between show lines of the two breeds.
Impulsivity describes the inability to delay reward gratification and, in dogs, may be related to problems such as aggressive behaviour. Traditionally Border Collies and Labradors were selected for working purposes requiring different levels of impulse control - livestock herding and gundog work respectively.
Fernanda Ruiz Fadel and colleagues collected data on 1,161 pure bred Border Collies and Labrador Retrievers using the Dog Impulsivity Assessment Scale (DIAS) - a dog owner reported questionnaire composed of 18 questions. The authors found that working Collies were more impulsive than working Labradors yet show lines of the two breeds did not significantly differ in terms of impulsivity. They suggest that, when appearance rather than behaviour becomes the primary focus for breeders (as in show lines), this may reduce average differences in impulsivity between breeds.
Further studies are required to determine if similar findings are true for other breeds, but the authors note that it would be inappropriate to make predictions about an individual dog’s behaviour solely based on its breed.