Influence of early life experiences and exercise in canine anxiety

18 June 2018 – News

As in humans and other species, anxiety is an important facet of canine behavior and affects welfare. To better characterize anxiety, the authors of this study created a validated survey for owners and collected data on 3264 dogs in Finland of various breeds and ages.

The authors studied noise sensitivity, fearfulness and separation anxiety to see how environmental factors could influence these behaviors. Data was collected on animals with these forms of anxiety and on animals that did not present any type of anxiety (control dogs). Analysis of the survey was conducted in three parts:

  • An analysis of animals with one form of anxiety but that might have other types at the same time;
  • Analysis of animals with one form of anxiety;
  • Analysis of animals presenting with all three forms of anxiety simultaneously.

Their conclusions show that early life experiences and exercise are significantly involved in dogs with several forms of anxiety. Fearfulness appeared to be influenced most strongly by a lack of socialization and poor maternal care while noise sensitivity and separation anxiety were influenced by daily exercise habits. The authors suggest that maternal care could be particularly relevant in helping to mitigate anxiety in dogs and recommend further study in this area to help reduce canine anxiety and improve welfare.

In Tiira K, Lohi H (2015) Early Life Experiences and Exercise Associate with Canine Anxieties. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0141907