Anxiety in Dogs.
Unfortunately some dogs suffer from anxiety. They may be fearful, noise sensitive or have separation anxiety. But why do these behaviours arise in some dogs and not others?
Fearful dogs have often been found to have less socialisation experiences and also a lower level of maternal care during puppyhood. So be sure to socialise your puppy well with different environments as well as with other people and animals. Research on the genetic side of personality is still lacking but personality dimensions have high heritability estimates so try to meet as many other family members as you can when buying a pup.
The largest environmental factor associated with noise sensitivity and separation anxiety was a lack of daily exercise. So make sure when taking on a puppy that you have adequate time to give them what they need. The amount of exercise taken has also been linked in humans with anxiety and depression and is thought to be connected with the release of serotonin which functions like an anti depressant.
More free running at a younger age was also associated with less anxiety in dogs than those kept on a lead. Interestingly obedience level and recall had no correlation to whether the dogs were kept on the lead or let off so as long as you have a safe space try to let your young dog have off lead time to run as well as walking on a lead.
Dogs that have several anxieties have been found to be separated from their mother later, spent less time alone and yet engaged with the owner less often. Most people bring their new puppy home between 7 and 8 weeks of age so it is worth being aware that puppies have a sensitive period of life between 3 and 12 weeks of age where life experiences and events have a pronounced effect on later behaviour. The timing and amount of experiences needed for a balanced happy dog is a difficult one to predict and may vary across breeds but try to have quality time with your pup. Exercise does not need to be all about running. Interacting with your pet in training sessions and cuddle time are also useful in bringing up an happy dog.
Not all anxieties will show at the puppy stage. The median onset for noise sensitivity has been found to be around 2 years of age. Noise sensitivity has sometimes been found to get worse with age. Early neutering has been linked to several anxieties and noise sensitivity has been found to be more common in neutered/sterilised dogs but other findings suggest that there may be an inherent individual predisposition for this type of anxiety in dogs. It has been suggested that noise phobic dogs have an auditory sensitivity to particular sounds. Treatment of this problem should focus on reducing the level of response to the sound rather than on the behaviours exhibited during the fear response.
Behaviour traits can be a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors but early life experiences appear to play a major role in the puppy's development of a fearful personality.