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CANINE STRESS BEHAVIOUR: IS IT EASY TO RECOGNISE? My Insights from a Recent Research Collaboration

As a vet, I know that our dogs experience stress just like humans do. They might feel anxious when we leave them alone, get nervous around strangers, or simply feel overwhelmed by the everyday hustle and bustle. Understanding the signs of canine stress is essential for maintaining our dogs' well-being. But are we, as owners, good at recognising these signs?

The Murdoch University Study

I was recently part of a fascinating research project at Murdoch University's School of Veterinary Medicine with final-year vet student Bianca Blake, Dr Teresa Collins and Emily Taylor. We wanted to see how adept Western Australian dog owners were at identifying canine stress behaviours. The study involved an online survey where owners shared information about themselves, their dogs, and how well they understood stress signals. They were presented with statements, photos, and videos of dogs and asked to interpret the dog's emotional state.

AVA Abstract Canine stress behaviour Bianca Blake 2023
Download PDF • 126KB

What We Found

The results were eye-opening:

  • Confidence vs. Competence: Many owners felt confident in reading their dog's stress cues, but the scores suggested there's still room for improvement.

  • Experience Matters: Owners with prior animal or veterinary experience were notably better at identifying stress in dogs.

  • The Challenge of Visuals: It seems harder for owners to read stress from pictures and videos compared to written descriptions.

  • The Importance of Education: As veterinarians, we have a clear opportunity to help owners learn more about canine stress language!

Why This is Important

When a dog's stress goes unnoticed, it can lead to more serious behavioural issues down the line. It might even strain the beautiful bond between dog and owner. By learning to pick up on even the subtlest stress signals, we can take steps to help our dogs feel calmer, happier, and more secure.

Take The Next Step

If you're concerned about your dog's stress levels or want to deepen your understanding of canine behaviour, don't hesitate to book a behaviour consultation with me.

I also offer informative talks and seminars on this topic. I am happy to collaborate with councils, schools, vet clinics, animal-related businesses, or any organisations that want to learn more about animal behaviour. Get in touch.

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