Developmental and other predisposing factors contributing to behavioural disorders related to fear and anxiety in the domestic dog
Developmental factors are known to contribute to behavioural disorders related to fear
and anxiety. Based upon the established association between restricted early life
experiences and the development of inappropriate avoidance and fear-related
aggressive behaviour, a series of experiments was designed to test whether a dog's
capacity to remain in emotional homeostasis at 7 to 8 weeks of age can be increased
by exposure to video images during the period of parasympathetic dominance between
3 and 5 weeks of age. First, it was demonstrated that puppies between 3 and 5 weeks
of age do react to video images. Second, the reactions of puppies, exposed to video
images for 30 minutes per day for 14 days between 3 and 5 weeks old, to test objects
in both familiar and unfamiliar environments, were compared with those of control,
unexposed puppies; the control puppies visited most of the objects significantly more
frequently than did the exposed puppies. Third, another sample of puppies given the
same treatments was tested at 7-8 weeks of age; the control puppies were significantly
more fearful than the exposed, and also tended to visit the objects more frequently.
A new classification of one class of problem behaviour related to anxiety and fear,
separation problems. was developed and validated using a retrospective study of
clinical data. In the same data. no evidence was found that a restricted maternal
environment predisposed puppies to the development of separation problems; indeed,
puppies raised in domestic maternal environments, seemed to be predisposed to have
separation problems if they were homed at 7 weeks, but not at or after 8 weeks of age.
Lxposure to busy urban environments on a regular basis post vaccination, seemed to
protel:t against separation problems triggered by noxious events.