Canine Anxiety and Origins Tuesday Training Tips with Tuff

 Tuesday Training Tips with Tuff

Tuesday Sept 15, 2020

Canine Anxiety and Origin

Problematic behaviors are severe welfare issues for one of the world’s most popular pets, the domestic dog. One of the most prevalent behavioral problem that causes distress to dogs is social fearfulness, meaning fear of non-specific objects or unfamiliar people (Puurunen, 2020)

Large and stable personality differences (also called coping styles, temperament, behavioral syndrome) are observed in many behavioral traits, such as in aggressiveness or fearfulness across species (Sih, 2204)

Fear and anxiety are both emotions with negative valence (Ramazan, 2016). Fear is suggested to be brief in duration, stimulated by a specific stimuli, and resulting in either fight or flight, whereas anxiety is prolonged, focused on the future, and does not necessarily have a specific object of threat (Tiira, 2015). In dogs, fearfulness can be categorized based on the object and the situation into social and non-social fearfulness (Blackwell, 2013). The social category includes fear of unfamiliar people and dogs, whereas the non-social fear –category includes fear of different objects such as new situations, loud noises (noise phobia / noise sensitivity), heights, or shiny/slippery floors. Fearfulness and noise sensitivity have relatively high heritability (Goddard, 1982), but are largely affected also by the environment. Two major environmental factors known to affect general fearfulness in dogs include lack of juvenile experiences and aversive learning. Deficits in early socialization and unpleasant experiences at any age affect a dog’s fearfulness. Noise sensitivity is often thought to occur as a consequence of adverse experiences, however, other mechanisms are also most likely involved in the development of this problem. (Tiira, 2015)  A fundamental emotion, such as fear, may, however, turn into pathological traits when prolonged and generalized. (Tiira, 2016) 

In the literature, fear of loud noises is often referred to as noise phobia because of extreme panic reactions in some cases. However, we prefer to use the proposed term ‘noise sensitivity’ since often fearful behavioral reactions towards loud noises, such as thunder storms, fireworks or gun shots, do not fulfill the criteria of phobia. (Sherman, 2008)  

Personality and anxiety disorders across species are affected by genetic and environmental factors. Shyness-boldness personality continuum exists across species, including the domestic dog, with a large within- and across-breed variation. Domestic dogs are also diagnosed for several anxiety-related behavioral conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorders, phobias, and separation anxiety. (Tiira, 2015) 

Separation anxiety in dogs refers to a behavior that includes signs of anxiety, fear, or phobia expressed by a dog when separated from the owner. (Sherman, 2008)  Dogs with separation-related behavior problems engage in undesirable behaviors when left alone. The most common of these are destruction and excessive vocalization, including whining and barking. Less common problem behaviors include inappropriate elimination (urination and defecation), self-injurious behavior (eg, over-grooming), increased or repetitive motor activity (eg, pacing), attempts to escape, trembling, salivation, and depression. (Sargisson,2014)

Signs of fear and/or anxiety: (Not a complete list)

  • Spontaneous elimination (urination/bowel movement)
  • Destructive behavior
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Whining/whimpering
  • Passive escape
  • Trembling/Shivering
  • Excessive licking of people, furniture, carpet
  • Dilated pupils
  • Avoiding interactions
  • Displacement behaviors: yawning, lip licking, air sniffing, “shaking it off” like a wet dog
  • Barking or howling when owner isn't home
  • Running away and/or cowering in the corner of a house
  • Excessive Digging
  • Escaping the yard
  • Destroying furniture
  • Self-harm, including excessive licking or chewing
  • Not eating
  • Urinating more frequently
  • A general inability to settle
  • Showing whites of the eyes
  • Lifting a paw
  • Looking away

Anxiety disorders are classified according to symptoms, time course and therapeutic response. Concurrently, the experimental analysis of defensive behavior has identified three strategies of defense that are shared by different animal species, triggered by situations of potential, distal and proximal predatory threat, respectively. The first one consists of cautious exploration of the environment for risk assessment. The associated emotion is supposed to be anxiety and its pathology, Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The second is manifested by oriented escape or by behavioral inhibition, being related to normal fear and to Specific Phobias, as disorders. The third consists of disorganized flight or complete immobility, associated to dread and Panic Disorder. Among non-specific interactions lies a forth defense strategy, submission, that has been related to normal social anxiety (shyness) and to Social Anxiety Disorder. In turn, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder do not seem to be directly related to innate defense reactions. Such evolutionary approach offers a reliable theoretical framework for the study of the biological determinants of anxiety disorders, and a sound basis for psychiatric classification. (Shuhama, 2007)

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“Anxiety Disorders in Dogs | IntechOpen.” n.d.

Blackwell, Emily J., John W. S. Bradshaw, and Rachel A. Casey. 2013. “Fear Responses to Noises in Domestic Dogs: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Co-Occurrence with Other Fear Related Behaviour.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 145 (1): 15–25.

Col, Ramazan, Cam Day, and Clive J. C. Phillips. 2016. “An Epidemiological Analysis of Dog Behavior Problems Presented to an Australian Behavior Clinic, with Associated Risk Factors.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research: Official Journal of: Australian Veterinary Behaviour Interest Group, International Working Dog Breeding Association 15 (September): 1–11.

Goddard, M. E., and R. G. Beilharz. 1982. “Genetic and Environmental Factors Affecting the Suitability of Dogs as Guide Dogs for the Blind.” TAG. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. Theoretische Und Angewandte Genetik 62 (2): 97–102.

Puurunen, Jenni, Emma Hakanen, Milla K. Salonen, Salla Mikkola, Sini Sulkama, César Araujo, and Hannes Lohi. 2020. “Inadequate Socialisation, Inactivity, and Urban Living Environment Are Associated with Social Fearfulness in Pet Dogs.” Scientific Reports 10 (1): 3527.

Sargisson, Rebecca. 2014. “Canine Separation Anxiety: Strategies for Treatment and Management.” Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports, October, 143.

Sherman, Barbara L., and Daniel S. Mills. 2008. “Canine Anxieties and Phobias: An Update on Separation Anxiety and Noise Aversions.” The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice 38 (5): 1081–1106, vii.

Shuhama, Rosana, Cristina M. Del-Ben, Sônia R. Loureiro, and Frederico G. Graeff. 2007. “Animal Defense Strategies and Anxiety Disorders.” Anais Da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias 79 (1): 97–109.

Sih, Andrew, Alison M. Bell, J. Chadwick Johnson, and Robert E. Ziemba. 2004. “Behavioral Syndromes: An Intergrative Overiew.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 79 (3): 241–77.

Tiira, Katriina, and Hannes Lohi. 2015. “Early Life Experiences and Exercise Associate with Canine 

Tiira, Katriina, Sini Sulkama, and Hannes Lohi. 2016. “Prevalence, Comorbidity, and Behavioral Variation in Canine Anxiety.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research: Official Journal of: Australian Veterinary Behaviour Interest Group, International Working Dog Breeding Association 16 (November): 36–44.

“What Is Causing My Dog’s Anxiety?” 2018. June 29, 2018.

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