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Does the onset of fear-related avoidance behaviours in dogs vary with breed?

M. Morrow, J. Ottobre, A. Ottobre, P. Neville, N. St-Pierre, N. Dreschel, J. L. Pate

FEAR and anxiety are emotional states that are induced by a perception of danger or threat. The onset of fear-related avoidance behaviour marks a significant development period in the domestic dog and the aim of this study was to examine if breed differences exist with this onset.

Ninety-eight purebred puppies were tested that represented three breeds: Cavalier King Charles spaniels (n=33), Yorkshire terriers (n=32) and German shepherd dogs (n=33). Data were collected in weekly intervals from four to five weeks after birth to 10 weeks of age. During each visit, four stimuli were used to test the fear-related avoidance behaviour, these were: a novel item, a seesaw, a step and a loud noise test. Treatment puppies were compared with control puppies. For each stimulus, the presence or absence of fear-related avoidance behaviour and crouched position was noted, in addition to salivary cortisol concentrations in the puppies before and after the test.

Compared with German shepherd dogs and Yorkshire terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels had a later onset of fear-related avoidance behaviour and were also found to exhibit the highest incidence of crouching to the loud noise test. The proportion of treatment puppies that exhibited a …

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