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December 20, 2016 02:59 PM

According to a new study out of Northern Illinois University, dogs have something else to bark about.

The study, authored by NIU alumnus Camille King and NIU professor Thomas Smith, found that young dogs are susceptible to stress-induced gray hair, just like we are.

King and Smith — along with animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt and renowned author/researcher Temple Grandin — visited dog parks, dog shows, veterinary clinics and other venues, examining 400 dogs and collecting dog behavior questionnaires from their owners, a press release says. The dogs were also independently rated on the extent of their muzzle grayness.

What the research team found was this: chill canines age more gracefully. Or, more scientifically speaking, dogs between the ages of 1 and 4 that exhibited higher owner-reported signs of anxiety had muzzles with more gray in them than their more laid-back dog peers. They also found that increased muzzle grayness was related to impulsivity in dogs.

“Based on my years of experience observing and working with dogs, I’ve long had a suspicion that dogs with higher levels of anxiety and impulsiveness also show increased muzzle grayness,” says King, who has an animal behavior practice in Colorado.

What’s more, female dogs showed higher levels of grayness than male dogs and physical characteristics like size, spay/neuter status and the presence of medical problems “did not significantly predict the extent of muzzle grayness,” the release says.

Grandin, a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, seemed optimistic about how their findings could help dogs. “This is an original, unique study that has implications for dog welfare,” she says.

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