Questionnaires potentially have a broad applicability in measuring stress levels in dogs, as owners know their dogs' behavior and personality better than anyone else. The aim of this research was to evaluate how owners perceive stress in their dogs through understanding of displayed behaviors. The survey was carried out using 1,190 questionnaires completed by dog owners. More than half of respondents were able to correctly identify stress as a short- or long-term alteration of the psychophysical equilibrium that can develop into illness. This ability was higher with higher educational levels. The behavioral indicators of stress most frequently identified by owners were trembling and whining, followed by aggressiveness, excessive barking, and panting. More subtle behaviors such as looking elsewhere, turning head, yawning, and nose licking were more rarely reported, suggesting that few owners are able to correctly interpret and intervene in early stages of stress. The vast majority of respondents indicated that dogs were stressed seldom or only in specific situations. Men generally considered their dogs as experiencing low stress more often than did women, whereas women considered their dogs as being moderately stressed more often than did men. An owner's ability to recognize behavioral signs of stress is important, as it enables the owner to help the animal to avoid welfare problems, such as stressful situations, and favors a rapid recovery of psychophysical homeostasis by interrupting the progression to overstress and distress. The results show that some owners can help in protecting the welfare of their dogs, but that many owners would benefit from educational efforts to improve their ability to interpret their dogs' behavior.
|Publication Title||Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research|
|Author Address||Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Pisa, viale delle Piagge 2, 56124 Pisa, Italy.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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