Vol. 2 No. 2 (2016)

Effects of physical activity on dog behavior

Marcella Zilocchi
Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie Università di Pisa
Angelo Gazzano
Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie Università di Pisa

Published 2016-08-01


  • physical activity,
  • dog,
  • behavioral problems


In order to investigate the effects of physical activity on dog behavior, a questionnaire divided into 4 sections was used. Based on the 234 questionnaires collected, it was possible to create two groups: active dogs group (AD) made up of 94 subjects who performed a sport and a group of 140 sedentary dogs (SD). Compared to the SD group, dogs in the AD group showed significantly more behaviors like: “Chasing vehicles and persons” and “Staring an object” but fewer behaviors like: “Turning on itself” and “Mounting”. These behaviors are sometimes indicators of a state of stress that can be caused by frustration. Physical activity, especially if carried out through sports, requires that the animal develops a remarkable ability to cope with frustration and to maintain the self-control. This could be the reason why these behaviors are less expressed by dogs belonging to the AD group. This effect is even greater in dogs that practice agility compared to other subjects of the sample, probably also because of the use of positive reinforcement during training for this sport. Dogs that practice agility show, with a statistically significant frequency, a lower tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs. A possible explanation may lie in the better intra-specific socialization to which these animals are subjected, having frequent contact with other dogs during sporting events.

A difference between the AD and SD group also exists for the other two behaviors: “Chasing vehicles/bicycles/persons” and “Staring an object” which are expressed more in the AD group. We cannot exclude that these results may be caused by the high number of Border Collies that are present in the sample. In conclusion, these preliminary data seem to suggest a possible influence of physical activity on dog behavior, with positive effect about some undesirable behaviors that are less expressed. Special attention should be paid to those behaviors that the selection often magnified for utilitarian purposes, because the dog was used for particular tasks.