Regardless of breeds, all dogs are not receptive to unfamiliar human beings and dogs. Social fearfulness in dogs is observed in many places. The researchers at the University of Helsinki, Helsinki, investigated social fearfulness of dogs with the help of a data set pertaining to nearly 6,000 dogs. The data set was prepared from a larger set of data; the behavioral survey covers about 14,000 dogs of various breeds, sizes, etc.
The study came with a clear observation and noted down that fearlessness is closely associated with inadequate socialization of puppies to various situations and stimuli. An interesting observation made by the study is the behavior pattern of dogs in an urban or rural situation. In the former living environment, dogs were observed to be more fearful than those living in a rural setting.
Supporting prior research evidence, social fearfulness was more pronounced and common among neutered females and small dogs.
The activity of dog is another factor associated with fearfulness, besides size and gender. It is observed that fearful dogs were less active than bolder ones, and their owners did not get them involved in training and other activities frequently. Professor Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki speculates whether this is a cause or consequence.
The study observed considerable differences between breeds. For example 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. Genes have an effect on fearfulness and mental health among breeds. This study needs further research to get to understand the socialization, fearlessness and mental health of man's best friend. This encourages us to carry out further research especially in terms of heredity. This study identifies the basic tools to improve the welfare of dogs: It is observed that diverse socialization right from puppy-hood, an active lifestyle and carefully made breeding choices can significantly decrease social fearfulness, according to Lohi.
Jenni Puurunen, Emma Hakanen, Milla K. Salonen, Salla Mikkola, Sini Sulkama, César Araujo, Hannes Lohi. Inadequate socialisation, inactivity, and urban living environment are associated with social fearfulness in pet dogs. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-60546-w