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Anxious Dogs Could Benefit From Sports, Study Says

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Veterinarians have discovered that social exercise can reduce dogs’ anxiety levels. They discovered that participating in sports increased the chances of recovery for dogs with generalized anxiety disorder.

Flyball, a form of relay event involving teams of dogs, agility courses, and Canine Freestyle, in which pets dance to choreographed routines with their owners, are examples of dog sports.

“Dog-sporting activities were highly effective for treating generally anxious dogs, with just over three times the odds of improvement,” said the researchers from Tufts University in Massachusetts and the Centre for Canine Behaviour Studies in Connecticut.

The researchers evaluated 1,308 dogs with at least one sort of fearful or anxious behavior for the study, which was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour.

Two hundred and seventy-three of these dogs had a generalized anxiety disorder, a condition in which the dog experiences continual or near-constant anxiety or fear regardless of the context, affecting its quality of life.

Professor Nicholas Dodman, a vet and one of the authors of the study, said dogs “particularly benefit from activities that feed into their inherent inclinations.”

A sheepdog, for example, benefited greatly from sheep-herding classes.

“The dog was a nervous wreck,” said Professor Dodman. “I suggested to the owner to take him to sheep-herding classes. After several trials herding real sheep he settled right down. His anxious behaviour was gone.”

The study concluded: “The reason for the beneficial effect of engaging in sporting activities may be because of the physiological benefits of mobilization but also the psychological aspects of social integration, accomplishment and enjoyment.”

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