It’s Leung’s job to sort this out so her client can win obedience competitions, but the situation poses a real chicken-or-egg dilemma. âIs the dog frightened because my pupil is frightened, because everyone is frightened when she is frightened, because we all say: ‘What was that? Oh, it was just a leaf that fell from a tree. Okay ‘âsaid Leung. âIs the dog afraid because he is afraid? Or is she scared because her dogs have been startled in the past and tried to run away? I can’t really tell you, and neither can she because I asked her. “
Animal researchers believe they now have the answer to that question. Leung’s student doesn’t make her Shelties nervous by being overprotective and responding to any perceived threat, the researchers said. No evidence was found that such “helicopter” dog parenting caused dogs to become reactive and neurotic.
Importantly, the study rules out two other strong possible explanations for canine anxiety problems. The researchers also found no evidence that dogs became anxious because their owners used excessively compulsive training methods, which caused their dogs to become nervous.
Co-researcher James Serpell is director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia. He said, âAs dog trainers say, fear can be transmitted over the leash, so to speak. If you’re a dog owner, you can send that fear message to the dog almost over the leash and the dog can pick it up. âA new study recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior concluded that dogs are worried about theirs Owners ingest and absorb, and this is what fuels anxiety-related behavior problems in dogs.
For this study, the research team analyzed data from more than 1,100 dog owners who took part in an online survey. Addressing fears “You have eliminated both the training route and the helicopter education route,” said Serpell. “Their results indicate a direct influence of the owner’s personality on the dog’s behavior.”
Fear and anxiety among dogs did not differ either because of their humans’ training methods or because of their protective instincts. However, a dog’s fear-related behavior problems were significantly linked to its owner’s self-reported anxiety, the investigators found. The questionnaire collected information about fear, training methods and the protective behavior of humans towards their dogs. The dogs’ fear and anxiety levels and their emotional response to their humans were also assessed through questions to the owners.
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