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Anxieties and problematic behaviors may be common in pet dogs

Anxieties and problematic behaviors may be common in pet dogs
  • 12 March 2020
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  • richsmith

Anxieties and behaviour problems may be common across dog breeds, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. The findings suggest that noise sensitivity is the most common anxiety trait, followed by fear.

Hannes Lohi and colleagues used an owner-reported survey to examine seven anxiety-like traits and problematic behaviours in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs and found that 72.5% showed problematic behaviours, including aggression and fearfulness. Noise sensitivity was the most common anxiety; 32% of dogs were fearful of at least one noise and 26% of dogs were afraid of fireworks, specifically. Fear was the second most common anxiety, found in 29% of dogs. This included fear of other dogs (17%), fear of strangers (15%) and fear of new situations (11%).

Noise sensitivity, and especially fear of thunder, increased with age, as did fear of heights and surfaces, such walking on metal grids or shiny floors. Younger dogs more often damaged or urinated on items when left alone, and were also more often inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive and chased their tails more than older dogs. Male dogs were more often aggressive and hyperactive/impulsive than female dogs, which were more often fearful.

The authors also found differences between breeds. Lagotto Romano, Wheaten Terrier and mixed breeds were the most noise sensitive while Spanish Water Dogs, Shetland Dogs and mixed breeds were the most fearful. 10.6% of Miniature Schnauzers were aggressive towards strangers, compared to 0.4% of Labrador Retrievers.

The findings suggest that canine anxieties and behaviour problems may be common across breeds. Efforts should be made to decrease the prevalence of these conditions, for instance through breeding policies and changes to the living environment, according to the authors.