Is anxiety in your dog’s genes?

Scientists believe anxiety in many dogs is hereditary. If your dog is one of them, what can you do?

You tried to do everything right – you socialized your dog, used positive training methods, and fed high quality food. So why is your furry friend still so anxious? According to Finnish scientists, the answer may be in their DNA, since anxiety in dogs is likely hereditary.

A Finnish study considered seven anxiety-like traits: noise sensitivity, fearfulness, fear of surfaces and heights, inattention/impulsivity, compulsion, separation issues and aggression.

About 3 out of 4 dogs exhibit a behavior issue

A whopping 72.5% of the study dogs exhibited some kind of highly problematic behaviour, according to their pet parents. Sensitivity to noise ranked as the most common issue, with fear running a close second. Other behavior issues included inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, compulsive behavior, aggression, and separation anxiety.

The results showed that certain breeds are more likely to experience similar anxieties, suggesting genetics play a large role in our dogs’ quality of life. For instance, in the 14 purebred and mixed breed dogs that were part of the study, fear was most common in Spanish Water Dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs and mixed breeds, and least common in Labrador Retrievers. Hyperactive and impulsive behavior was most common in mixed breed dogs, German Shepherds, Spanish Water Dogs and Staffordshire bull Terriers, and least common in Rough Collies, Miniature Schnauzers and Labrador Retrievers.

Sometimes the behaviors are interconnected. For example, fearful dogs are often sensitive to noise, especially if they’re aggressive or hyperactive. Dogs with separation anxiety are also four times more likely to show hyperactive and impulsive behavior.

Tips for helping dogs with anxiety

If anxiety is hereditary in dogs, how do we help them? Behavior modification can certainly help. Consistency and patience are key to this approach.

Aromatherapy is another way to help calm our canines (much like it does humans), as long as you choose therapeutic pure essential oils. These can be massaged in or diffused into the air.

Dogs with severe anxiety may benefit from a pharmaceutical prescription

For dogs who suffer from acute anxiety, pet parents can consider Reconcile®, an FDA-approved medication prescribed by veterinarians for anxiety. Reconcile (fluoxetine hydrochloride) is a once-a-day flavored, chewable tablet typically used in conjunction with behavior modification training.

How to identify a behavior issue

Since anxiety may make your dog more susceptible to diseases and even shorten their lifespan, it only makes sense to address the anxiety as quickly as possible. What does anxiety look like in a dog? Commonly reported behavior problems include:

  • Excessive barking
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Destructiveness
  • Aggression
  • Fearfulness

If your dog exhibits any of these behaviors, it’s worth exploring options to correct them. You’ll both be happier at the end of the day!

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