PDSA findings on dog behaviour in the UK

Posted by Betty. May 20th 2015.

All dog owners know just how important good behaviour is for a pet. While the training of a young dog has a lot to do with socialisation and discipline, few things are more important for the owner than having a thorough understanding of the factors which impact a dog’s behaviour.

PDSA has conducted a thorough survey of pet owners, spanning more than 11,000 people. The results are able to shine a powerful light on how dogs in the UK are cared for and how they behave.

Here are some of the key findings of the survey.

Woman training a dog

Dogs can be afraid

Just as in humans, dog behaviour is often related to their mood. Understanding what kinds of things can make a dog afraid is key to controlling its behaviour. The PDSA study found that 82% of dogs are afraid of something. While the causes of fear were spread over a number of things the most common were shown to be fireworks (scaring 46% of dogs) and thunder and lightning (31%).

The importance of socialising

 The list of things that scare dogs isn’t limited to rare occurrences such as fireworks. Also on the list were a number of more common things such as the use of vacuum cleaners and meeting unfamiliar people. Things like these can only be tamed by socialising your pet from a young age.

While some 44% of dog owners are unaware of the level of socialisation their pets received when they were young, a quarter of owners admit to not having socialised their dog sufficiently.

Taking positive steps in the early stages of a dog’s life can have pleasing consequences for your pet’s behaviour in later life.

Group of dogs sat together

Training isn’t common

 It’s not just getting your dog used to the outside world that should be done when they’re young, training them to be obedient should also be an early-years priority. This can be done at training classes or courses.

While half of owners said they attended courses in their first six months, remarkably, the PDSA study found that just 22% of owners attended on a weekly basis. This is a time when training is at its most important.

A further 22% do not know if their pet attended training courses during this period.

Aggression is a problem

 While training and socialisation were frequently cited as being a problem among dogs, perhaps the most worrying is aggression. This is a particularly key matter for those who have both pets and young children. David Ryan, an Animal Behaviourist, made it clear that aggression is commonly linked to a dog’s early experiences, putting further stress on the importance of socialisation and training in the early stages of a pet’s life.

Overall, the study made clear that investing time in your pet early on can make life a great deal easier down the line.

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