Knowing the age when the fear response emerges in different dog breeds can inform how vets manage puppies, a study has found.

The onset of fear varies depending on the breed of dog, a study has found. Photo credit: Freeimages Stephanie Berghaeuser.

The age fear emerges varies from breed to breed – for example, the onset is earlier for German Shepherds and Yorkshire terriers compared to cavalier King Charles spaniels.

The study, “Breed-dependent differences in the onset of fear-related avoidance behaviour in puppies,” was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, (Morrow et al, 2015) and co-authored by animal behaviourist Peter Neville of the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE.)

It focused on the age fear response emerges – that is, the onset of hazard avoidance, in three breeds of dog raised in their own homes by their breeders.

The findings showed breeds with earlier fear onset times should be handled more carefully as puppies in the surgery. Extra time should be taken not to alarm them in the waiting room or during examinations or treatment, said Prof Neville.

“This study gives us critical, statistically significant information to support the education of better human-canine relationships from the outset,” he said.

“Owners rely on veterinary professionals, dog behaviourists and trainers to give them the best advice for happy, healthy well-balanced dogs. Good breeding practice, educational programmes and training advice should include these latest findings in breed-specific behavioural differences.”

The study is available at

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