A team of researchers in Italy set out to find if there was any statistical correlation between behavioral problems in dogs and various factors such as size, age, sex, mounting behavior, where the dog sleeps, and where the dog came from (e.g., a shelter or acquired from another person).
Turns out, there is.
Among their findings:
- Female dogs were mostly anxious and male dogs were mostly aggressive
- Small and medium sized dogs were mainly anxious
- All the dogs adopted from pet shops were anxious
Other findings include:
- 65% of anxious dogs and 33% of aggressive dogs displayed mounting behaviors toward people
- Neutered males were mainly aggressive and females (both neutered and intact) were mainly anxious
- Intact males were distributed between both diagnostic groups almost equally
- 75% of dogs age 1 year or less were anxious
- 78% of dogs that slept on their owner’s bed were anxious
In terms of treating the behavior problems, aggressive dogs had a better prognosis.
The suggested treatment plan included a combination of four basic strategies: education and modification of the client’s behavior, changes to the patient’s environment, changes of the patient’s behavior, and pharmacological therapy. The behavioral protocols were kept simple so they could be easily integrated into the owner’s daily routine. This also served to clarify owner-animal communication.
Researchers found that dogs who were diagnosed with aggression responded better to the treatment plan than dogs diagnosed with anxiety.
The researchers suggest that one possible reason for that outcome is that aggression is clear and dependent on context, which means the context can often be controlled. Hence, treatment is more effective because it’s easier. Whereas anxiety is generalized and diffused, which means it tends to occur in contexts that are more difficult to control. Hence, treatment is less effective because it’s harder.
Sadly, the disparity in ease of treatment between aggression and anxiety spells more bad news for anxious dogs: The researchers report that owners of anxious dogs were more likely to consider surrendering their dogs for adoption.