A new study, undertaken in the UK on behavioural reasons for deaths in dogs under three years of age, has found that a staggering 33.7% of deaths was linked to undesirable behaviour problems. It highlights the importance of puppy socialisation and dog training in preventing early euthanasia.
The study, conducted by the VetCompass Programme at the Royal Veterinary College, found behaviours responsible for early deaths included aggression, over-excitability and barking.
Some of these inappropriate behaviours may be due to poor training and lack of proper socialisation. However underlying medical disorders may also be responsible for a number of behavioural issues. An example of this includes problems with toilet training due to bladder infections and gastro-intestinal conditions.
This new research showed aggression as being the most common behaviour issue that led to death. Recall problems may be responsible for road traffic accidents fatalities, the next most common cause of early death. The study also revealed that male and smaller dogs were more likely to die than female or larger breeds.
Worryingly, over three quarters of dogs in the study had been euthanased. This raises concerns for dogs who are put to sleep because of their temperament.
Researchers hope that the findings will raise awareness of some of the common undesirable behaviours, encouraging owners to think about improved training. They also highlighted the importance of breeders and owners providing appropriate puppy socialisation to prevent problems from developing.
Dr. Dan O’Neill, the supervisor of the study and senior lecturer at the RVC, commented that “Greater awareness of the scale of this issue can be the first step towards reducing the problems and making the lives of thousands of our young dogs happier”.
As a behaviourist I am well aware that training and appropriate socialisation are essential for the development of a happy and well-rounded dog. This research highlights the sad fact that many young dogs lose their life because of undesirable behaviours. Consequently I advise when getting a puppy:
- Breeders should have begun the socialisation process as early as possible (the socialisation period starts at around 3 weeks of age and lasts until around 12 weeks of age).
- Proper socialisation should continue once puppy is brought home
- It’s really important to see the mother to assess her behaviour. This gives an in-sight in to the temperament of her off-spring.
- New owners should start positive reinforcement training as early as possible
- Choose a trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods if you need support and guidance
- Training should continue throughout the dog’s life to ensure on-going good behaviours.