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Why bees aren’t having sex in the heat?

Today is World Bee Day, and after the positive news this week that a presumed-extinct species has been rediscovered, it turns out there are now different issues for the insect to contend with.

bees having sex in the heat

New research has found that bees struggle to reproduce in the heat. Rising temperatures are now believed to be partially sterilising insect populations. This unexpected side effect of global warming is bad news for us humans too, as bees pollinate a third of the food we eat.

The impact of climate change on bee reproduction has been carried out by teams at the University of British Columbia and North Carolina State University, who wanted to track how warm temperatures are impacting our buzzing friends.

“We think honey bees can help us track how climate change is making it harder for insects to reproduce,” explains biochemist and lead author of the paper Alison McAfee. “Terrestrial insect populations are declining around the world. Heat stress, like what can happen during heat waves, partially sterilizes [insects] by damaging their sperm.”

First McAfee’s team exposed queen bees to simulated heat waves, noting a spike in specific proteins in their bodies. Then the researchers used this as a benchmarker to create a diagnostic lab test. In other words, the team made a set of signifiers for heat stress which could then be used when examining new specimens, to see if an insect had been exposed to heat.

Heat stress has been found to impact other species’ reproductive abilities too. Scientists at Western Sydney University found that merino ewes and koalas “experience chronic stress as a result of extreme heat, and research indicates that it may also be affecting their ability to breed,” says lead researcher Dr Edward Narayan.

Because bees are crucial pollinators, they are essential parts of our ecosystem. This means protecting their fertility is vital for the food supplies we rely on. However, the findings have implications beyond just the birds and the bees, for bees.

bees aren’t having sex in the heat

Heat waves are damaging bees’ sperm, making it harder to reproduce.

“We are looking for signs of heat stress in queens as an indicator of what’s going on in the environment,” says McAfee. “If we start seeing signs of heat stress in honey bees, that’s when we really need to be worried about wild insects, which don’t have stewards like beekeepers, and are often solitary, making them more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.”

In fact McAfee hopes to be able to collaborate more with beekeepers around the world, as queen bees are usually replaced every couple of years by keepers. McAfee wants to use these queens in lab tests to monitor whether they have experienced heat stress in different environments as the climate changes.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?

Despite the enormity of this situation, there are practical things we can do to help. More generally, we can work to ensure we are incorporating sustainable and eco-friendly choices throughout our lives, to help minimise our respective carbon footprints.

But if you want to help bees specifically, there are easy ways we can help them directly.

“The bees that really need our help are the wild bees, like bumble bees, leafcutter bees, and sweat bees,” explains McAfee. “They don’t have beekeepers to care for them and are often suffering from habitat loss, leaving them with too few places to forage or build nests.”

McAfee says giving wild bees places to live is crucial when it comes to supporting them.

“The bees would actually love it if you left your yard in a mess,” she says. “Lots of them nest in old sticks, crevices, or small burrows in the dirt, and flowering weeds are great forage.

“If you can’t do that, then try planting pollinator-friendly flowers using a mix of plant species that are native to your area. The best mixes have varieties that flower at different times, so they provide forage throughout the season.”

Interestingly, as with other animalsthriving during lockdown, bees have been no different. McAfee explains, “they’ve actually benefited from the pandemic because more green space is being left unmanaged, letting the weeds flourish like a buffet.”

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British family offer £4,000 reward after 17 dogs and puppies stolen from kennels

A family is offering £4,000 as a reward for finding their two pets, which were among a haul of 17 dogs and puppies stolen from a kennels. Melissa Murfet and Darren Neal dropped their three dogs Annie, Betsy, and Storm off at the kennels last Thursday, before heading off with their four children to their holiday lodge for the weekend. But just hours later, that evening, the couple got a call to say that the animal care centre had been broken into – and Annie and Betsy were among 17 dogs stolen. The daytime raid on Fiveways Boarding Kennels and Cattery in Barton Mills, Suffolk, saw 13 puppies stolen – some of which were not yet old enough to be apart from their mothers.

Seventeen dogs and puppies were stolen from a kennels (Picture: SWNS)
Seventeen dogs and puppies were stolen from a kennels (Picture: SWNS)

The devastating theft has forced the family kennels to close its doors, as Suffolk Police investigate the incident and appeal for witnesses to come forward. Meanwhile, Melissa and Darren are offering £2000 each for the safe return of chocolate-coloured cocker spaniel Annie, and grey and white cockapoo Betsy, to their home in Chippenham, near Newmarket.

In a post on Facebook, Melissa, 39, wrote: ‘We need to get them home.’ ‘We know they will be scared and anxious if they are not together and not with people who love them. ‘We are worried about what conditions they are being kept in and know they will be scared. ‘They are much loved and missed family pets by us and our children, who are also distraught that someone has them.’ Melissa added: ‘More dogs and puppies were also stolen from the kennels on Thursday when Annie and Betsy were taken, and dogs from another local kennel were stolen on Friday. ‘This was a well established, secure, safe kennels where the owners love our dogs as much as their own. ‘This has to stop. These low lives know exactly what they are doing but they don’t understand the devastation for our families.

‘We are offering £2000 for each dog, no questions asked. Please return them or release them to be found and returned home.’ Sarah Francis, who runs Fiveways Kennels with her husband and daughters, has described the dog thieves as ‘vile people’. She told a local newspaper: ‘They see them as just a financial gain, they don’t see them as our forever friends or beloved pets. ‘One of the litters they stole they left the mother behind and now it is likely they won’t survive without her there to feed and support them. ‘These kinds of people won’t be giving the puppies the round-the-clock care they need.’ As well as Annie and Betsy, the stolen dogs included two female Lhasa apso dogs – one black and white, one honey and white coloured. Seven lhasa apso puppies were also stolen – one honey-coloured and three black and white-coloured males, and two black and white-coloured females.

And a litter of six, five-week-old Labradors – two yellow-coloured males, two black-coloured males, and two black-coloured females – were also taken from Fiveways Kennels. Suffolk Police believe the incident took place on July 9, some time between 3.45pm and 7.10pm. They believe the thieves entered the kennels from fields at the rear of the site, and removed hinges from gates to steal the dogs. The dogs were housed in a purpose-built kennel on the site. Police say another dog was also recently stolen in the area on July 6. The cocker spaniel, named Penny, was taken at some point between 1pm and 2.20pm, from the garden of a farm in Holywell Row. The dog was left in a pen enclosure in the garden. She has black fur with a white bib and lip markings. Police are investigating both incidents and have not ruled a connection between the two. Anyone with any knowledge of either theft, or knows of the whereabouts of any of the dogs, should contact Mildenhall police.

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Firefighters document the dramatic rescue of a puppy trapped in a drain in southeast Texas

Firefighters in southeast Texas lassoed and rescued a wayward puppy that had become trapped in a sewer pipe on Friday, authorities said.

firefighters

The hour-long animal emergency operation unfolded in Atascocita, about 25 miles outside of downtown Houston, where the pooch fell down the exposed pipe, officials said.

The line ran about seven feet deep before it curved, stopping the puppy’s fall and allowing firefighters the chance to painstakingly wrap rope around it, Battalion Chief Vincent Rodriguez told NBC News.

“It was a very small puppy and it was very scared,” said Rodriguez. “We were getting a little worried for a while, but those guys (firefighters) remained calm and got the job done.”

Firefighter Keith Sagray “lassoed” the pup, Rodriguez said, while Jennifer Hannon shined a light down the long, six-inch-wide pipe and rookie Colin Kuykendahl handed out all the tools during his first day on the job.

The department live tweeted the operation, commenting “so close” during near misses before finally declaring: “PUPPY RESCUED!!!”

Firefighters told the relieved puppy owners to place chicken wire over the hole, and then call the city to have the opening permanently filled.

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What information you need to know before bringing home your new pet ?

In the past couple of months, pretty much everyone I know has chosen to foster or adopt a pet. Most were prompted by a gut need for unconditional love and companionship. So, it’s no wonder that dog and cat fostering and adoption levels are at an all-time high. Kelly DiCicco, manager of adoptions promotions at the ASPCA Adoption Centre, says “there’s no doubt that the response from people across the country willing to open their homes to animals in need during this challenging time has been enormous and unprecedented.”

But as tempting as it may sound to have a furry friend to comfort you these days, there is much to consider before you bring an animal into your home, not least of which is the fact that animals will forever be dependent on you; unlike kids, who eventually (you hope!) fend for themselves, you will always need to feed, discipline and clean up after your pet.

Pat Miller, a certified professional dog trainer and behaviour consultant and the director of Peaceable Paws Academies in Fairplay, Maryland, says she sees too many people getting pets without thinking through all that it entails – a phenomenon not unique to the pandemic. “Happens all the time. We are just seeing more of it now because so many people who are sitting at home with nothing to do are deciding it’s a good time to get a pet.”

Miller says that before you get a pet, you must make sure everyone in your home is on board. That doesn’t mean everyone in the house needs to be responsible for taking care of the pet, but there needs to be some level of universal agreement around having the pet.

“Animals do not need to come into an environment where there is conflict over their presence,” she says. She suggests setting clear guidelines and rules of what the pet is allowed to do – and not do – in advance. Questions to consider: is the animal allowed on the furniture? Where will the animal sleep? Who is going to clean up, walk and feed the animal? Who is the primary trainer? What happens when everyone goes back to school and back to work? “The more you think through ahead of time, the less conflict and confusion there is for the animal.”

Miller also suggests finding a vet, groomer, pet sitter (you’ll need one someday!) and trainer before bringing an animal home. Interview them about their methods and determine whether they are on the same philosophical page as you. For example, Miller is a force-free trainer; she is adamant about not using pain coercion in training, but there are others, she says, who are not.

Other prep work to do: purchase supplies in advance, and set everything up before the pet’s arrival. DiCicco’s must-have list for cats: a collar, litter and litter box (make sure you have a spot to put them), food, toys and bowls. For dogs: a leash, collar and harness, bed, food, toys, bowls and crate.

DiCicco says you also need to make sure that your home is safe before and after you bring your pet home. Remove all items from the floor that could be eaten or chewed, and keep electrical wires out of reach. Also, check that your house plants are safe. The ASPCA has compiled a list of plants that are toxic to animals that should be removed from your home or put out of reach (aspca.org). Other potential pet hazards: vertical blinds, curtains that pool on the floor, tassels and long cords.

If you are adopting/purchasing a cat, install high-quality metal screens on all windows. And keep in mind that cats are excellent climbers, so pet-proofing for a cat means more than just keeping the floor area safe; move plants and fragile objects to a protected area. For kittens, DiCicco says to block any small hideouts where the kitten could escape or get stuck, including around and underneath appliances.

Because scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, DiCicco recommends investing in a scratching post to prevent destruction of other objects. And just as cats need to be able to scratch, dogs need to be able to chew. Provide appropriate chew toys; Miller suggests Kong dog toys (kongcompany.com), which come in a variety of sizes and firmness, or Dog Tuff toys (dogtuff.com).

If you are getting a puppy or dog who is not yet house-trained, create a special area for the dog using baby gates or a collapsible pen, so any accidents don’t damage carpets. (You should roll up and store decorative rugs until your new dog is fully house-trained.) Miller prefers baby gates that are pressure-mounted (no need to screw them into door frames) and that are easy-open walk-through. And she suggests using a crate to help train your dog. “When properly used, a crate is the easiest way to house-train and manage a puppy, because dogs come with a natural inhibition against soiling their own den.” For the house-training process, Miller says to use a smaller crate, so the dog can’t soil one side and lie comfortably on the other. Once a dog is fully house-trained, switch to a more spacious crate.

When you bring your pet home, DiCicco says to give them some space to get acquainted with the sights, sounds and scents of their new home while keeping an eye on them as they settle in. “And remember to take things at their pace and follow their lead.”

Some cats are more sensitive than others, so they may settle in better if initially confined to one room, DiCicco says. Gradually give them more space to explore over time. This helps them adjust to their environment without feeling too overwhelmed.

If you already have pets, provide the new pet with a quiet area away from the other animals while they get acclimated, potentially for their first few days or weeks, and take initial introductions very slowly. DiCicco suggests trying scent swapping – giving one animal something that smells like the other – before introducing them. This improves your chances of having a successful first introduction.

Miller is not a fan of animal doors; she says it’s best that you control when your dog goes in and out. “It’s your responsibility to make sure that your dog gets out as often as he needs to, not only to go to the bathroom, but also to exercise.” She adds: “If your animal has an accident indoors, it’s your fault.”

Lastly, Miller says to opt for a physical fence and not an invisible underground shock fence (which she thinks should be illegal). “Invisible dog fences don’t keep things out, so they don’t protect your dog from something coming in and getting them, and they contribute to unwanted aggressive behaviour.”

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How canine friends have helped humans cope during the pandemic?

As lockdown descended, people across the UK sought comfort and distraction from the coronavirus pandemic from their pets – old and new. Demand – and prices – for puppies soared, and the Dogs Trust was inundated with interest from those wishing to adopt, while reports of thefts of popular breeds also increased.

canine help

We’d like to hear from people about how their canine friends have helped them cope in lockdown, particularly if you live – or have been shielding – alone.

Share your experiences

Have you spent more time with your dog during lockdown? Did you buy a new puppy or rescue a dog during this period? If so, how did the buying or rescue process work? And are you worried about how your dog will cope if and when you return to work?

You can leave your story in comments at our Facebook page.

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From ice cubes to sun cream. How to keep your dog cool in the hot weather

The UK saw its hottest day of the year on Thursday but as Brits enjoy a week of glorious sunshine, those with pets have more to think about than just which factor SPF to apply. 

dog cool in the hot weather

Over-exposure to heat and sunshine can be harmful for animals as well as humans.

Vets Now, a provider of emergency veterinary care, warned that the average survival rate of a dog diagnosed with heatstroke was 50 percent.

The RSPCA said it had received 330 calls in regard to animal welfare and the hot weather since March 23, adding it was expecting “hundreds more” as temperatures increase this week.

Heatstroke, sunburn and dehydration are all things to consider when it comes to caring for your pet.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts to help you keep your dog cool, healthy and happy during the heatwave.

Remember water

If you go for a walk, take a bottle of water so your dog can drink from your hands every hour. If you plan to linger away from home, take a water bowl as well.

Provide ways to cool down

Even if you do not have enough space for a paddling pool or garden sprinklers (although these will go down well!), laying out a damp towel in the shade is a great way to give your pup a quick way to cool down. If you’re dog is looking very hot and bothered, hold an ice cube to the back of his neck.

Groom regularly

Grooming prevents knots building up in your dog’s coat. Matting like this can trap heat and be very uncomfortable during the summer.

Consider buying sun cream

Dogs with thin coats or lightly-coloured fur are the most vulnerable to burning. Speak to your vet about whether your animal needs sun cream. If so, you can pick up specialised creams at most pet shops.

Look out for symptoms of heat stroke

Heatstroke occurs when an animal is unable to reduce its body temperature. It can be fatal.

Battersea Dogs Home has listed the following as symptoms to watch out for:

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid pulse
  • Excessive salivation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

If your dog is suffering from many of these symptoms, you need to act fast. Immediately take them out of the sun and help them to cool with wet towels, ice cubes and drinking water.

Don’t:

Leave your dog in a car

Like babies, dogs should not be left in cars. Under the sun’s glare, cars can rapidly reach dangerously hot temperatures with fatal consequences. If you see a dog in a hot car (even in the shade) call 999.

Play high-exertion games

Fetch might not be ideal for dogs who struggle with heat. If your dog seems to be one of them, play around with slow-paced games, like hiding treats for them to sniff out.

Go for a walk in the heat of the day

Avoid the hours around midday for your walk – if you feel the need to wear a hat, that is sure indication your dog will be uncomfortable walking under the glaring sun. Pick a route with a good amount of shade.

Expect your dog to walk on boiling surfaces

Again, if you are tiptoe-sprinting over a surface like hot coal, your dog’s paws are probably burning too. Tarmac and sand can be too much for a dog’s foot pads after a roasting in the sun, so help him or her find another way.

Over-cool your dog

If you do sense your dog is overheating – even if they have severe heatstroke symptoms – be wary over-cooling. Ice baths, for example, could send your pet into shock if its body temperature is very high. Stick to cool towels and single ice cubes. Give them small sips of water rather than enormous gulps.

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How to find good pet insurance

We may earn some commission if you click on a link in this article and buy a product or service, but we never allow this to influence our coverage

Very cute pet

If something happened to your cat, dog or other family pet could you afford the treatment? The Money Advice Service (MAS) reports that the average pet insurance claim is £793, although the costs can run into thousands if an animal is seriously hurt or requires ongoing medical treatment.

Yet the Association of British Insurers says pet policies cost an average of £279 a year in 2018, so the cost of cover is not insignificant. No one wants to be forced to choose between their family finances and the fate of their furry friend (or lizard, or whatever). That’s why pet insurance exists, to ensure vet bills are affordable.

Many policies also offer cover for other unexpected costs including the cost of advertising a lost or stolen pet, the cost of a reward for one that has gone missing and liability cover if someone is injured as a result of your animal. Some of the best and most comprehensive policies will even cover emergency veterinary treatment abroad or kennel and cattery fees if you have to go into hospital unexpectedly.

But different polices offer different things and some have very different levels of cover. Here’s what you need to know to find the best pet insurance.

There are different kinds of cover

Most pet insurance comes with three different levels. Accident only is the most basic form of insurance. As the name suggests, it would cover your pet for an accident like swallowing a rock or being hit by a car but not if it fell ill. Then there is annual pet insurance, where you pay for 12 months of cover and renew each year, choosing the best and most cost-effective policy you can each time.

For the best and most comprehensive insurance you need lifetime cover. With this kind of policy you pay premiums each year to the same insurer, who must agree to continue insuring you regardless of how old the animal is or what ongoing conditions it develops. Those comprehensive policies are usually subject to restrictions and conditions. The premiums will usually rise each year as your pet gets older.

What should you look out for?

The small print really matters with pet insurance. Most will have an upper limit on cover and that may be per year or per condition. Per year means there’s an upper limit to the total cover paid out in any one year. Per condition means that once the upper limit is reached for a particular condition, the insurer will not pay out for any further treatment.

There are lots of different pet insurance providers and it’s important to find one that offers the best value for the most comprehensive cover you can afford.

So which are the best pet insurance providers in the UK? Here are some of the best available.

Petplan: best for long term

This is one of the most successful pet insurance providers in the UK. Their policies are straightforward and easy to understand and there are no nasty surprises lurking in the small print.

Best of all, Petplan offers a “covered for life” insurance plan for your pet, meaning you can continue to get help with any ongoing treatment. It also won’t increase the premium as a result of any claims you make – although it will rise based on your animal’s age.

The Kennel Club insurance: best for keeping it simple 

With the KC there is just one standard policy available and you can choose a maximum annual cover limit of £7,500 or £15,000. It provides dental cover and part of the cost of any prescription food required. Although there are some restrictions it’s a fairly comprehensive and straightforward type of policy.

More Than: best for support

With the big name insurer More Than, you get wide-ranging and tailored pet insurance policies. It also offers a range of discounts for booking online and for multiple pets. An additional perk is its phone service, offering 24-hour advice when your pet is unwell.

Sainsbury’s: best for loyalty perks

With a Sainsbury’s policy, you can get a discount on new policies and also an additional discount for Nectar card customers. If you have a Nectar card you will also get double points on shopping and fuel while you hold the policy (there is a limit to that). On top of those perks there’s also a veterinary advice helpline running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Direct Line: best for first-year discounts

With any insurance policy, it’s not about finding the cheapest policy it’s about finding the best price for the cover that you need. So looking for the lowest premium might mean you end up with only limited cover when you come to claim. However, finding a decent discount does help ease the cost of insurance and that can help in the first year when it’s a new bill to think about. 

Direct Line Pet Insurance offers a comprehensive level of cover, complete with an initial discount when you buy online that means you pay for only nine months in the first year. Insuring multiple pets and having other policies with Direct Line could also bag you a decent discount. It also provides access to a vet, including video calls, and access to medication at a reduced price.

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Scientists planning first ever complete list of all animals and plants on Earth, in effort to halt extinctions

As worsening trends reveal plight of various flora and fauna, a comprehensive directory of all known life could help authorities and researchers understand and protect natural world, writes Harry Cockburn.

knobbed-hornbill

A new effort is underway to create an overarching list of all the world’s plant and animal species.

Currently there is no single compendium of all of our planet’s species, with some types, such as mammals, the focus of numerous indexes, while other groups are not represented on lists at all.

A comprehensive catalogue of every species will help conservationists, scientists, governments and other organisations understand and protect the biodiversity on Earth.

“Listing all species may sound routine, but is a difficult and complex task,” said Professor Stephen Garnett of Charles Darwin University, who is spearheading the initiative. 

“Currently no single, agreed list of species is available.”

A paper published in the open access journal PLOS Biology outlines a roadmap for creating, for the first time, an agreed list of all the world’s species, from mammals and birds to plants, fungi and microbes.

The authors said organisations and governments need reliable, agreed, scientifically defensible and accurate lists for the purposes of conservation, international treaties, biosecurity, and regulation of trade in endangered species.

There are numerous difficulties which must be overcome in order to create a coherent document which usefully details the planet’s vast array of life.

The paper outlines a potential means of streamlining some classification processes. This is in the form of a set of ten principles for creating and governing lists of the world’s species, and a proposed governance mechanism for ensuring that the lists are well-managed and broadly acceptable.

“Importantly, it clearly defines the roles of taxonomists – the scientists who discover, name and classify species – and stakeholders such as conservationists and government and international agencies,” said Dr Kevin Thiele, the director of Taxonomy Australia and a co-author of the paper. 

“While taxonomists would have the final say on how to recognise and name species, the process ensures that stakeholders’ needs are considered when deciding between differing taxonomic opinions.”

The natural world is facing numerous unprecedented threats, with scientists warning we are accelerating into the midst of a sixth mass extinction event.

The increasing burden of human activities, which are driving the climate crisis, causing pollution, land clearing, disease and over utilisation, are combining and resulting in a rapidly worsening extinction crisis. 

“Developing a single, agreed list of species won’t halt extinction,” said Professor Garnett, “but it’s an important step in managing and conserving all the world’s species, great and small, for this and future generations.”

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Dog delivers food to quarantined neighbour

A dog in Colorado has been helping its owner’s neighbour get through self-isolation by delivering food supplies to her home.

Dog delivers food during Covid-19

Renee Hellman has underlying respiratory issues and has been advised to quarantine herself completely due to the coronavirus outbreak, making her unable to go food shopping.

“She got the list, she gave it to Sunny, Sunny brought it to me,” Ms Evelth told KKTV. “I went to the store, got her groceries, and he delivered them all to her.”

Ms Hellman has said the visits from Sunny have not only helped her immensely, not just from a practical perspective, but from a companionship one too given that she is home alone.

“It’s been fun,” she said. “It’s been a real treat.

“Little things like Sunny coming over to visit is nice and it makes you feel good. It’s a way of communicating.”

Sunny has also been collecting the post for Ms Evelth, who hopes her story will inspire similar acts of kindness.

“Anybody can do something small, that can be so helpful,” she said.

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Urban dogs are more fearful than their cousins from the country

Fearfulness is one of the most common behavioural disorders in dogs. As an emotion, fear is a normal and vital reaction that helps individuals survive in threatening circumstances. When the fearfulness is excessive and disturbs the dog’s life, it is referred to as a behavioural problem. Excessive fearfulness can significantly impair the dog’s welfare, and it is also known to weaken the relationship between dog and owner.

urban dogs

Social fearfulness in dogs is particularly associated with fearfulness related to unfamiliar human beings and dogs. At the University of Helsinki, risk factors predisposing dogs to social fearfulness were investigated with the help of a dataset pertaining to nearly 6,000 dogs. The dataset was selected from a larger set of data, a behavioural survey encompassing almost 14,000 dogs.

Based on the survey, inadequate socialisation of puppies to various situations and stimuli had the strongest link with social fearfulness. The living environment also appears to make a difference, as dogs that live in urban environments were observed to be more fearful than dogs living in rural environments.

“This has not actually been previously investigated in dogs. What we do know is that human mental health problems occur more frequently in the city than in rural areas. However, further studies are needed before any more can be said about causes pertaining to the living environment,” says Jenni Puurunen, a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki.

Supporting prior research evidence, social fearfulness was demonstrated to be more common among neutered females and small dogs.

Alongside size and gender, activity is another factor associated with fearfulness. Fearful dogs were less active than bolder ones, and their owners also involved them in training and other activities significantly less often. Professor Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki speculates whether this is a cause or consequence.

“Activity and stimuli have already been found to have a positive effect on behaviour, in both dogs and humans. Of course, the lesser activity of fearful dogs can also be down to their owners wanting to avoid exposing their dogs to stressful situations. It may be that people just are not as active with fearful dogs,” Lohi points out.

Furthermore, significant differences between breeds were identified in the study. Spanish Water Dogs and Shetland Sheepdogs expressed social fearfulness the most, while Wheaten Terriers were among the bravest breeds. The Cairn Terrier and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi expressed only little fearfulness towards other dogs.

“Differences between breeds support the notion that genes have an effect on fearfulness, as well as on many other mental health problems. This encourages us to carry out further research especially in terms of heredity. All in all, this study provides us with tools to improve the welfare of our best friend: diverse socialisation in puppyhood, an active lifestyle and carefully made breeding choices can significantly decrease social fearfulness,” Lohi sums up.

Professor Lohi’s group investigates the epidemiology of canine behaviour, as well as related environmental and genetic factors and metabolic changes.

Materials provided by University of Helsinki.