Is Your Dog Scared? What Do Genes Have To Do With It?

Does your dog crawl into a corner, fiddle with its tail, and how heartbreakingly? There is no doubt about it: fear is there. Recent research suggests that genes do influence the likelihood of a dog is particularly anxious.

In a Finnish study, the authors compared 14 dog breeds, of which more than 200 dog owners worldwide assessed the insurance behavior of their four-legged friends. Overall, the researchers found that over 70 percent of all dogs exhibit at least one fear-based behavior pattern.

The most common cause of anxiety in dogs is sensitivity to noise. According to a study, about one in three dogs suffers from this. Sensitivity can be expressed, among other things, in Fear of fireworks, thunderstorms, or gunfire. The researchers also found that dogs’ sensitivity to noise increased as they got older.

Strangers, Fireworks, Other Dogs: When Dogs Get Scared

Soon after the fear of fireworks comes the fear of surfaces and heights. Many dog owners are probably familiar with the phenomenon that their dog is reluctant to climb stairs or is extremely skeptical of certain surfaces, such as reflective tiles. About 17 percent of dogs are afraid of other dogs, 15 percent are afraid of strangers and 11 percent are afraid of new situations.

However, in addition to age, the breed also plays a role: different fears arose in different ways depending on the breed of the dog. Almost one in ten Giant Schnauzer displayed fearful and aggressive behavior towards strangers. In contrast, this behavior was not reported in any Labrador Retriever.

Overall, mixed breeds were very troubling. The Lagotto Romagnolo and Irish Soft Cotton Wheaten Terriers were particularly fearful of fireworks.

Overall, the results are a good indication that anxiety in dogs is as genetic as it is in humans.

Fun fact: Previous research has already found that a gene associated with a dog’s social skills is present in the DNA of German Shepherd Dogs. However, this same gene also determines how sensitive dogs are to noise, Science Mag reports. Therefore, researchers in the current study suspect that humans have opted for more noise-sensitive dogs at the same time, favoring more social dogs.

Research Can Provide Interesting Insights Into Your Dogs’ Fears

Research can provide interesting answers to the question of why your dog is worried. Since the owners themselves assessed the behavior of their dogs, there is a risk that the result was slightly skewed.

Plus, not all answers are in the genes. For example, mixed breeds often end up in animal shelters where they often find themselves in a fearful environment. This fact could be one of the reasons why dogs of mixed race were generally considered to be very unsettling.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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