Most dogs are prone to anxiety, new study finds

Studies analyzing the conduct of common dog breeds in Finland has found that a large proportion of our best canine companions suffer some kind of anxiety.

Dog breathing
According to a new study, many dogs show fear. The Lagotto Romagnolo (figure above) is sensitive to noise anxiety.

Recent statistical reports show that up to 89.7 million dogs supplied their human friends in 2017, the latest year for which data is available, with their human friends in the United States.

The dogs are some of the world’s most common pets. They are anecdotally faithful, affectionate friends and a source of endless affection and good fun.

Though, our canine friends will face problems, such as stress and anxiety, just like human beings.

In addition, dogs are particularly prone to a wide range of anxiety-like symptoms, a new study from Helsinki University in Finland reports.

More than 70% of dogs display anxiety

In the recently published research, the first author and her colleagues Milla Salonen studied the behaviors of 13 715 Finnish pet dogs, which are 264 different races. Their findings appear in Scientific Reports.

The researchers asked the owners of the dogs to complete the measured comportements of seven anxiety-related characteristics. These included noise sensitivity, fear of the ground, impulsiveness or carelessness, compulsive behavior, hostility, and actions related to anxiety at separation.

When viewing the survey data, researchers have found that, according to their owners, 72,5 percent of dogs are nervous.

Of the total number of dogs, 32 percent had noise sensitivity, which indicates that at least one noise was afraid. The most common fear of noise prone dogs was that fireworks noises had a “26 percent prevalence,” the researchers write.

Two nine per cent of the dogs were affected by overall terror.’ Specifically, 17% of dogs were afraid of other dogs, 15% were terrified of outsiders and 11% were afraid of new circumstances’ wrote the writers.

According to surveys, the least common anxiety activity was separation-related, affecting 5% of dogs, and violence recorded by owners in 14% of dogs.

The researchers have found that some anxiety-like behaviors, as dogs grow older, seem to get worse. Those include noise sensitivity— especially the fear of thunder — and fear for heights and fear that some forms of surfaces like metal networks will be walking around.

However, younger dogs are more likely to have problems with separation anxieties, such as urination on the floor or damaging furniture, according to their owners reports.

Younger dogs also seemed more likely to be impulsive than older canines.

There were also differences between the two biological sexes, with men showing more attack and signs of impulsivity and women showing more fear.

Breed-specific differences

Different races of dogs were probably also anxiety-related to different kinds of behavior.

They reported that Lagotto Romagnolos, Wheaten terriers, and mixed-race dogs had the highest prevalence of noise sensitivity, much in line with previous studies, whereas miniatures and Staffordshire bull terriers were less sensitive to noise.

The most common canines in which fearfulness was found were spanish water dogs, Shetland sheepdogs and mixed breed dogs. In specific, in rough collie and mixed race dogs, fear of surfaces and fear from height were most common.

In terms of anxiety behavior, large breeds and small species also differed. For example, 10.6 percent of the thumbnails displayed hostility towards strangers in this study, compared to only 0.4 percent of the Labrador retrievers.

But why dogs are so concerned about these behaviors? The scientists can’t assume that the genetic make-up of the dogs can have something to do with their susceptibility to different types of anxiety.

“Compassion has a significant genetic component” they write adding that”[ s]ome[ translation] genomic areas and loci[ translation] are related to problem behaviour.

However, environmental factors such as the instruction provided by dogs are most likely associated with genetic conditions that lead to certain behaviors, or to inhibit them.

“Because anxiety can harm well being and problem-based behaviour can be evidence of poor welfare, it is important for the researchers in their paper to make efforts to reduce the prevalence of these canine anxieties.” You say this further:

“Breeding policies may help to improve dog welfare, as could changes in the living environment.”

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