Prevalence, Comorbidity, and Breed Differences in Canine Anxiety in 13,700 Finnish Pet Dogs

Scientific Journal Articles

Behaviour problems and anxieties in dogs decrease their quality of life and may lead to relinquishment or euthanasia. Considering the large number of pet dogs and the commonness of these problematic behaviours, a better understanding of the epidemiology and related molecular and environmental factors is needed. We have here studied the prevalence, comorbidity, and breed specificity of seven canine anxiety-like traits: noise sensitivity, fearfulness, fear of surfaces and heights, inattention/impulsivity, compulsion, separation related behaviour and aggression with an online behaviour questionnaire answered by dog owners. Our results show that noise sensitivity is the most common anxiety-related trait with a prevalence of 32% in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs. Due to the high prevalence of noise sensitivity and fear, they were the most common comorbidities. However, when comparing the relative risk, the largest risk ratios were seen between hyperactivity/inattention, separation related behaviour and compulsion, and between fear and aggression. Furthermore, dog breeds showed large differences in prevalence of all anxiety-related traits, suggesting a strong genetic contribution. As a result, selective breeding focusing on behaviour may reduce the prevalence of canine anxieties. Anxious animals may suffer from chronic stress and thus, modified breeding policies could improve the welfare of our companion dogs.

Salonen, M., Sulkama, S., Mikkola, S., Puurunen, J., Hakanen, E., Tiira, K., Araujo, C., and Lohi, H. (2020). Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs. Scientific Reports, 10, 2962.

Photo: Raykova

View Resource
Topic(s): Behavior, Breeder Resource, Problem Abnormal Behavior, Recognition