All dog breeds exhibit unwanted behaviors, such as noise sensitivity, aggression, and separation anxiety, but the differences in frequency between breeds are significant. Various unwanted behavioral traits often occur simultaneously, as a recently completed study by the research group of Professor Hannes Lohi at the University of Helsinki indicates.
Unwanted behavior occurs in many Finnish companion dogs.
âIn the data set of nearly 14,000 dogs that we compiled, one of the largest in the world, unwanted behavior occurred in 73% of the dogs. One of these behavioral traits is noise sensitivity, found in a third of dogs, âsays Professor Hannes Lohi.
Lohi’s research group studied the prevalence of seven unwanted behavioral traits: sensitivity to noise, including thunder, fireworks, and gun shots; fear of humans, other dogs and unfamiliar places; fear of surfaces and heights; inattention and impulsiveness; compulsive behavior; aggressiveness; and separation anxiety. In addition to noise sensitivity, fear and fear of surfaces and heights were very common traits.
As in dogs, so in humans
The study also looked at the connection between individual traits. As observed in previous studies, fear and aggressive behavior are often co-morbid. Some of the findings were new and surprising.
âWe found an interesting link between impulsivity, compulsive behavior and separation anxiety. In humans, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often accompanied by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but this is the first time the same has been seen in dogs. Â», Explains doctoral student Milla Salonen.
The behavioral research conducted by the group has another goal: to understand what underlies human mental health problems. Physiologically and behaviorally, dogs are similar to humans. Additionally, unwanted behaviors are natural in dogs who also share the same complex social environment with humans.
âWith the help of this project and these data, we will continue to study the quality of a model dog species in research focusing on human mental health issues. Our previous genetic research has shown the same genomic domains in fear and noise sensitivity, âexplains Professor Lohi.
Significant and breed-specific differences in behavior
The prevalence of undesirable behavioral traits was compared between the 15 breeds with the most responses received in the related survey, with significant differences identified between breeds.
âThe issues seem to be pretty breed specific. For example, in Border Collies we observed a more compulsive stare and light / shadow pursuit, behaviors that occurred more rarely in all other breeds, âsays Lohi.
The differences in the prevalence of behavioral traits between individual breeds were manifold.
“One of the biggest differences between the breeds was identified in the fear of strangers, in which there was an 18-fold difference between the shyest breed and the bravest breed, the Spanish Water Dog. and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, âsays Salonen.
Behavioral research aims to increase canine well-being. Many unwanted behavioral traits, such as fear and sensitivity to noise, can cause severe stress in dogs. Behavioral issues can cause the owner to abandon the dog.
“Our results indicate that unwanted behaviors appear to be inherited, which means that, through careful selection based on appropriate behavioral indicators, the prevalence of these behavioral traits could be decreased. This would not only improve quality of life. not only dogs, but also their owners, âsays Professor Lohi.
Salonen et al. (2020) Prevalence, Co-morbidity and Breed Differences in Canine Anxiety in 13,700 Finnish Companion Dogs. Scientific reports. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-59837-z
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