The highly sensitive dog

Are you the kind of person who feels others’ pain more than those around you? Are you overwhelmed when there are too many things going on at the same time? Perhaps you are more sensitive to bright lights or loud music? Do you have deep and rich inner thoughts, perhaps a great imagination? Then you might be highly sensitive. You wouldn’t be alone. About 15-20% of people are presumed to be highly sensitive. Now it seems that some dogs might be highly sensitive too. In work Asher behaviour lab collaborated on, led by Maya Braem (with support from Hanno Würbel and Luca Melotti) from the University of Bern, a questionnaire for measuring high sensitivity in dogs was designed. The publication The highly sensitive dog in Plos one shows the work that went into designing and validating the questionnaire. As with any questionnaire, the process of validation will continue over subsequent uses of the questionnaire, but this paper shows that owners do seem to be able to recognise whether their dog is highly sensitive or not. It’s important work because highly sensitive dogs might be overaroused by too much sensory input and might need different things to dogs which aren’t highly sensitive. For example, a highly sensitive dog might prefer a walk when few people or dogs are around, whereas dogs with lower sensitivity might prefer a busy park to stimulate them. Highly sensitive dogs might need different training programmes or behavioural treatment, or if rehomed might be more suited to a quite life in the country rather than a busy family city life. Of course we don’t know yet what would be better for highly sensitive dogs, but by developing this questionnaire there is now a way to find out.

Click here to read the paper: The highly sensitive dog

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