Nav: Home

Urban dogs are more fearful than their cousins from the country

April 01, 2020

Fearfulness is one of the most common behavioural disorders in dogs. As an emotion, fear is a normal and vital reaction that helps individuals survive in threatening circumstances. When the fearfulness is excessive and disturbs the dog's life, it is referred to as a behavioural problem. Excessive fearfulness can significantly impair the dog's welfare, and it is also known to weaken the relationship between dog and owner.

Social fearfulness in dogs is particularly associated with fearfulness related to unfamiliar human beings and dogs. At the University of Helsinki, risk factors predisposing dogs to social fearfulness were investigated with the help of a dataset pertaining to nearly 6,000 dogs. The dataset was selected from a larger set of data, a behavioural survey encompassing almost 14,000 dogs.

Based on the survey, inadequate socialisation of puppies to various situations and stimuli had the strongest link with social fearfulness. The living environment also appears to make a difference, as dogs that live in urban environments were observed to be more fearful than dogs living in rural environments.

"This has not actually been previously investigated in dogs. What we do know is that human mental health problems occur more frequently in the city than in rural areas. However, further studies are needed before any more can be said about causes pertaining to the living environment," says Jenni Puurunen, a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki.

Supporting prior research evidence, social fearfulness was demonstrated to be more common among neutered females and small dogs.

Alongside size and gender, activity is another factor associated with fearfulness. Fearful dogs were less active than bolder ones, and their owners also involved them in training and other activities significantly less often. Professor Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki speculates whether this is a cause or consequence.

"Activity and stimuli have already been found to have a positive effect on behaviour, in both dogs and humans. Of course, the lesser activity of fearful dogs can also be down to their owners wanting to avoid exposing their dogs to stressful situations. It may be that people just are not as active with fearful dogs," Lohi points out.

Furthermore, significant differences between breeds were identified in the study. Spanish Water Dogs and Shetland Sheepdogs expressed social fearfulness the most, while Wheaten Terriers were among the bravest breeds. The Cairn Terrier and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi expressed only little fearfulness towards other dogs.

"Differences between breeds support the notion that genes have an effect on fearfulness, as well as on many other mental health problems. This encourages us to carry out further research especially in terms of heredity. All in all, this study provides us with tools to improve the welfare of our best friend: diverse socialisation in puppyhood, an active lifestyle and carefully made breeding choices can significantly decrease social fearfulness," Lohi sums up.

Professor Lohi's group investigates the epidemiology of canine behaviour, as well as related environmental and genetic factors and metabolic changes.
-end-


University of Helsinki

Related Dogs Articles:

Tracking the working dogs of 9/11
A study of search and rescue dogs led by the School of Veterinary Medicine showed little difference in longevity or cause of death between dogs at the disaster site and dogs in a control group.
Fighting like cats and dogs?
We are all familiar with the old adage ''fighting like cat and dog'', but a new scientific study now reveals how you can bid farewell to those animal scraps and foster a harmonious relationship between your pet pooch and feline friend.
Why cats have more lives than dogs when it comes to snakebite
Cats are twice as likely to survive a venomous snakebite than dogs, and the reasons behind this strange phenomenon have been revealed by University of Queensland research.
Adolescence is ruff for dogs too
The study, headed by Dr Lucy Asher from Newcastle University, is the first to find evidence of adolescent behavior in dogs.
Urban dogs are more fearful than their cousins from the country
Inadequate socialisation, inactivity and an urban living environment are associated with social fearfulness in dogs.
Veterinarians: Dogs, too, can experience hearing loss
Just like humans, dogs are sometimes born with impaired hearing or experience hearing loss as a result of disease, inflammation, aging or exposure to noise.
Dogs and wolves are both good at cooperating
A team of researchers have found that dogs and wolves are equally good at cooperating with partners to obtain a reward.
Hidden danger from pet dogs in Africa
Researchers at the Universities of Abuja and Nigeria, in collaboration with the University of Bristol, have detected a potentially human-infective microbe in pet dogs in Nigeria.
How humans have shaped dogs' brains
Dog brain structure varies across breeds and is correlated with specific behaviors, according to new research published in JNeurosci.
Parasitic worms infect dogs, humans
A human infective nematode found in remote northern areas of Australia has been identified in canine carriers for the first time.
More Dogs News and Dogs Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Sound And Silence
Sound surrounds us, from cacophony even to silence. But depending on how we hear, the world can be a different auditory experience for each of us. This hour, TED speakers explore the science of sound. Guests on the show include NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth, writer Rebecca Knill, and sound designer Dallas Taylor.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven't always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.