New Study Shows More than 70% of Dogs show Anxiety
A new study from Finland looked at behavioural traits among 13,715 dogs representing 264 breeds. This study was carried out using surveys filled out by owners. The researchers asked the dogs’ owners to fill in questionnaires surveying behaviours that related to seven anxiety-related traits.
These were noise sensitivity, general fear, fear of surfaces, impassivity or lack of attention, compulsive behaviours, aggression, and behaviours relating to separation anxiety.
By looking at the survey data, the investigators found that 72.5% of the dogs expressed anxiety-like behaviours.
Surprisingly, noise sensitivity was most prevalent, affecting 32% of all the dogs in the study. Among noise-sensitive dogs, the most common fear was that of sounds associated with fireworks which I would assume is similar to gunshots.
General fearfulness affected 29% of the dogs in the study. “Specifically, 17% of dogs showed fear of other dogs, 15% fear of strangers, and 11% fear of novel situations,” the authors write.
This is the most troublesome trait, since it often leads to unpredictable behaviours such as aggression. In fact the study related the found traits to particular behaviours, which they termed co-morbidity and found that fear and aggression were strongly co-related. I think most dog trainers would have predicted this result, since it is one of the most common problems we encounter.
In our experience the best mitigation of fear/aggression is basic obedience training. One anecdotal case was documented in a post from Dog Training
"I was walking my dog reactive pup on a paved trail this morning. I was giving a little free rein on a six foot leash and she was on my right side. Out of nowhere a woman open her back door to let out her chocolate lab. Also to our right. He came charging and barking down a set of stairs and across the yard to the fence. Only an alleyway separated us. You know how fast it can happen. Before i even had a chance to react, Zoe went into a left side heel and looked straight up at me."
The author attributed this outcome to basic obedience training as we have also seen in many cases.
Interestingly the study related some of the behavioural traits to breeds as shown in these charts.
The study (and larger versions of the charts) can be found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-59837-z#Fig2