Friday, 17 April 2020

Dogs and fearlessness- how are they related?

redandhowling.com
Among the animals fear is a common feature and researchers say fearfulness is one of the most common behavioral disorders in dogs. Fear is a spontaneous or careful response that helps individual to get over  the threatening circumstances. Dog is no exception to it  and when the fearfulness is in excess disturbing  the dog's life, it is often  referred to as a behavioral problem. Under normal circumstances it is fine,  but overwhelming  fearfulness can significantly impair the dog's welfare and hamper or weaken the bond  between dog and  the owner.
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. 
Jenni Puurunen, a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki said, "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,"
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.
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Professor Lohi's group investigates the epidemiology of canine behavior, as well as related environmental and genetic factors and metabolic changes.  Prof. Lohi  is of the view, "Activity and stimuli have already been found to have a positive effect on behavior, 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''.
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. 
Story Source:
Journal Reference:
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
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200401105901.html