Do Stressed Dogs Live Shorter Lives?

Now that I have an aging senior dog, all of his behaviors seem to be magnified. With every change, I ask myself, is this the end? It’s also hard to identify whether ailments are related to behavior or physical challenges.  While I wouldn’t describe Sanchez as a fearful dog, he’s also never been an easy going dog. My last dog, Byron, was a very laid-back Golden who lived to almost 14 years of age. Sanchez has always been a more worrisome dog, and even more so since he was attacked at age seven. I’ve often wondered if he wouldn’t live as long because of his demeanor.

Recent research by Nancy Dreschel published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science stated: “There is evidence to suggest that the stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can have negative effects on health and lifespan in the domestic dog.”

In Dreschel’s research study, owners of 721 deceased dogs completed a 99 question survey. They answered questions about the demographics, training, behavioral characteristics, health history, age at and cause of death in their pets. While there are a countless variety of fear issues for dogs—sound, environments, men in hats, etc—fear of strangers seemed to have the highest correlation to a shortened lifespan. Also, research results showed that how well-behaved a person described their dog was positively linked to longevity.

Fortunately, Sanchez is very well-mannered, due to an extensive amount of positive reinforcement training. And he isn’t afraid of 2-legged strangers, but since he was attacked, he has shown fearful behavior around unknown dogs, until he determines that they are safe. Finally, I think I can start relaxing about his life expectancy and just remember that every day is a gift.

What to do if you have a dog afraid of strangers?

Canine behavioral specialist Nicole Wilde suggests the following tips for helping fearful dogs:

1. Take it slowly. Let your dog learn at his own pace. Expose him to the stimuli from a distance and then gradually bring it closer as he’s showing signs of relaxation.

2. Use classical conditioning by pairing the scary thing with something your dog really likes.

3. Read and understand your dog’s body language. It will help you avoid pushing him over the threshold.

4. Habituation can help some fearful dogs.

5. Educate strangers to use body language that will help your dog relax.

Have you observed any connection between the lifespan of your dogs and their attitude towards strangers? Thanks for sharing your stories in a comment below.

Related:
Are Large Dogs Better Behaved Than Small Ones?
5 Irresistible Benefits of Adopting A Mutt

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65 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago

noted

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago

noted

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Julia R.
Julia R3 years ago

Very good advice for teaching or training dogs to feel more relaxed around strangers and helping them get over some of these fears. There is probably a correlation between lifespan and fears or anxieties which the dog may have but I would think that it would be a member or members in the dog's household that would have more of an effect on anxiety and fear levels and reducing the dog's lifespan since the dog would be around them much more than an occasional stranger. I think it is important that all members in the family really bond with that pet and also socializing a dog outside of his home with others is very important to a dog's personality and in helping him get over fears but as this article suggests do it gradually!

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney3 years ago

Very informative. Thank you for caring and sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney3 years ago

Great article. Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney3 years ago

Interesting article. thank you for caring and sharing.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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Julia Oleynik
Julia Oleynik3 years ago

It says again that animals are not far from human in consciousness:) Thank You for sharing.

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Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago

Thanks

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