Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stress in Dogs 201

The authors surveyed the owners of 224 dogs and their lifestyle.  The survey contained 40 questions, covering individual data, lifestyle, and stress symptoms.  Results were weighted to determine a point system of stress levels. The surveys were rated to determine average acceptable stress levels as well as stress levels that fell above and below.

Keep in mind that these are conclusions based on symptoms of stress and that individual results may vary.  The point is to take these factors (as well as the stress causes in part 2) into account when making decisions about our dog's life.  The more you know, the better you can make changes to allow your individual dog to live well and free of chronic stress.

Survey Results
  1. Working dogs and Nordic breeds had significantly higher than normal stress points.
  2. Neutered male dogs had higher stress points than intact male dogs – males had higher stress than females.  Spayed females were slightly higher than intact females.
  3. Dogs that slept/rested less than 17 hours a day had higher stress.
  4. Dogs left alone for more than 5 hours a day had higher stress levels.
  5. Dogs enjoy their walks, but more than 2 hour walks slightly increases stress levels and over three hours significantly increases stress levels.
  6. Dogs who have opportunities to run free and come into contact with other dogs have less stress than other dogs who run free with no contact.  Dogs who never run free, whether or not they have contact with other dogs, have a little more stress than dogs who run free and have contact with other dogs, but less than run-free-no-contact dogs.
  7. It should come as no surprise that dogs that "frequently" or "often" feel threatened showed 50% more stress than dogs that "never" or "seldom" feel threatened, regardless of whether there is an actual threat.  Feeling threatened is based on the dog's perception, not our human "reality".
  8. Surprisingly dogs who are not played with by the owner have significantly less stress than average stress and less than dogs who do play with their owner or with children.  These were mostly experienced dog owners, so it can be assumed the children were well guided/supervised.  Dogs who are played with are only a little bit more stressed than the average dog – though type and length of play periods would have a bearing.
  9. Dogs engaged in no dog sports up through two different dog sports are within the normal range.  Dogs engaged in three or more different dog sports are at higher risk of increased stress.  Owners who participate in multiple dog sports need to be sensitive to not overburdening the dog.
  10. Dogs that are frequently or often ill have 50% higher stress levels than normal.  Of the dogs reported for allergies, skin problems and digestive issues, those with frequent digestive issues or diarrhea had the highest stress levels of the group.
  11. Of the dogs with frequent or often digestive issues and higher than the group's average stress levels, the surveys were further analyzed for whether the dogs were exposed to stress causing factors. These common factors were found:
  • 78% sleep or rest less than 17 hours
  • 39% stay alone for more than 5 hours per day
  • 61% go for walks of 3 hours or more per day
  • 56% of the dogs felt frequently or often threatened
For the stress symptom list, those where owners reported the symptom was observed frequently or often – the breakdown from most reported to least reported is:
  • 39% reported Very Frequent Display of Calming Signals
  • 29% reported Frequent Barking or Whining
  • 22% reported Aggressive or Anxious Behaviors
  • 19% reported Lack of Concentration
  • 16% reported Hyperactivity
  • 16% reported Displacement Activity
  • 16% reported Very Frequent Urinating
  • 14% reported Restlessness
  • 11% reported Dog Appears "Distant"
  • 11% reported Panting
  • 8% reported Compulsive Behavior
  • 8% reported Excessive Self-Grooming
  • 6% reported Underweight
  • 5% reported Muscular Problems
  • 5% reported Destructiveness
Gimme here:  My person knows I need to play with my own kind.  She also knows that not all dogs are kind and she wants to be sure I am always safe.  So we found a special friend who can be counted on to play fair.  He and I have great fun running and playing together as often as our people can arrange it. 

Obviously there are some exceptions to a straight up application of these survey results.

As always Know Your Dog...

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