Thunderstorms, loud noises and fireworks, oh my – understanding fearful behavior
Fear and anxiety behavior is one focus of the annual Golden Retriever Lifetime Study owner questionnaires. While golden retrievers tend to have open and loving personalities (part of what make the breed so popular!) they, too, can be fearful and anxious.
Fearful behavior is common in dogs, and likely evolved in ancestor dogs because it was beneficial for survival. Today, dog behavior is the result of many forces beyond ancestral roots, including breeding practices for specific physical and behavioral traits, training, home environment, outdoor experiences, and so much more. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will help us understand the prevalence of fear and anxiety behaviors, as well as when they begin to appear, and if there are factors leading up to the emergence of these behaviors.
The questions used in the questionnaire are derived from the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ©) developed by James Serpell, a well-known behaviorist and member of the Morris Animal Foundation Canine Lifetime Health Project steering committee. Nonsocial fear describes fears such as fear of loud noises or unfamiliar objects, and is one type of fear and anxiety measured in the study questionnaire.
We took a look at baseline study data related to nonsocial fear, and, not surprisingly, our study participants are one mellow group of dogs! The accompanying chart shows owner’s perceptions of a participant’s fear response to a variety of objects/situations. As shown in the graph, the majority of study dogs showed little to no fear of noises, traffic, unfamiliar objects or situations, or wind-blown objects.
By asking owners to respond to the same questions each year, we will learn whether behaviors change over time, or if fear responses remain relatively unchanged over life.
One of the objectives of the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is to gain insight into canine behaviors and how other factors, including environment and genetics, may influence behavior. This study is one of the first to examine behavioral traits over time.