Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?

< A version of this article was published in the April 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

Step one – Know that you are not alone. I receive several calls per week from people that are concerned about the manner in which their dog is behaving towards them, other people, other dogs, other animals, or maybe some combination of things. Aggression, reactivity, fear, and anxiety are all on a continuum of behaviors and the primary reason I see dogs for behavior consultations. Fear is almost always the direct cause or a major factor in aggression and reactivity. Previously in this column, I have discussed the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines which reported that “Behavioral problems affect more dogs and cats than any other medical condition and are one of the most common causes of euthanasia, relinquishment, or abandonment of pets.” You are not alone.

Step two – Act Now!! Accept that behavioral issues will not go away on their own nor will your dog outgrow them. Commit to act NOW! Understand that these matters are every bit as traumatic to your dog as they are to you. You are both suffering. Delaying action is only likely to make the resolution of these issues harder and in all probability take longer.

Step three – Stop the use of force, fear and pain. Immediately stop the use of any and all aversives for the management and training of your dog. Common aversives include but are not limited to; prong, pinch, choke, or shock collars, alpha rolls, squirt bottles, and the entire dominance/alpha construct. Aversives impair our dog’s ability to learn, damage the human-dog bond and trust, and often result in an emotional outburst resulting in the very behavior problems you wish to resolve. The AAHA guidelines categorically oppose the use of aversive techniques. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) also oppose the use of aversives in training and behavior modification.

Step four – Talk to your veterinarian. If you have not already done so, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have a detailed discussion about your dog’s behavioral issues. Aggression can be caused by many medical problems. Pain, neurological disorders, tumors, thyroid disease and other hormone related problems, and even an adverse reaction to a vaccine, can cause aggression. Any medical issues related to your dog’s behavior need to be identified and resolved if you wish the behavior to change.

Step five – Seek help from a behavior professional. If your veterinarian determines that your dog’s behavioral issues are not the result of a medical problem, seek the advice of a professional animal behavior specialist, someone who understands canine behavior, ethology and behavior modification. Do not try to resolve this issue on your own or based on what someone tells you on Facebook. It is unlikely that you will be successful and you may, in fact, may make the problem worse and harder to resolve.

Behavior modification is not the same as dog training. Dog training is about teaching your dog to offer a particular action when given a cue. Behavior modification is about changing your dog’s emotional response to a stimulus. Aggression and reactivity are emotional responses typically based on fear or anger. Making your dog sit when a stranger approaches is very unlikely to make your dog less afraid or angry, but in fact, may make your dog feel more threatened. Behavior modification is about helping your dog develop a positive emotional response instead of barking, growling, lunging, or cowering.

There are three levels of professionals that specialize in assisting pets with behavioral problems.   Certified Dog Behavior Consultants (CDBC) and Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultants (ACDBC) credentialed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) are qualified to work with most behavior problems. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAAB) accredited by the Animal Behavior Society work with more advanced behavior problems. Diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB), who are credentialed by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, are veterinarians with advanced training in behavior. They are skilled in dealing with the most dangerous behavior problems using both behavior modification therapy and medications.

Step six – Be patient. While an undesirable behavior such as reactivity towards strangers can be created in a single event, it will likely take a significant amount of time and effort to change your dog’s behavior. Our brains and our dog’s brains work much the same. If we are exposed to something we perceive as dangerous or frightening, we are genetically preprogrammed to remember that for life. It is all about our instinctual motivation to survive. To successfully reprogram the brain can take weeks and even months of carefully planned desensitization and counterconditioning. It is human nature, especially in today’s culture to be impatient and to what instant results. That is not behavior modification works. Be patient.


Green Acres Kennel Shop offers a monthly Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. seminar. At the workshop, for people only,  Don will discuss behavioral issues in general terms; he will need to see you and your pet individually to offer specific behavioral programs designed for your particular dog. You will gain some general strategies that you can begin using immediately. Topics covered include; common myths about dog behavior, the common causes of aggression and reactivity, and their underlying emotions. An overview of canine body language will be addressed, so you are better able to identify when your pet is feeling stressed before they start reacting. FMI – call 945-6841 or go to – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/behavior-counseling


Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/12/12/what-is-a-pet-behavior-consultant/

Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/10/28/pet-behavior-and-wellness-pet-behavior-as-an-essential-component-to-holistic-wellness/

Introduction to Canine Communication
http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Dominance: Reality or Myth http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Canine Behavior – Myths and Facts – Part 1, Where do we get our knowledge about dogs? – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/05/04/canine-behavior-myths-and-facts-part-1-where-do-we-get-our-knowledge-about-dogs/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Canine Behavior: Myths & Facts – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/27/podcast-canine-behavior-myths-and-facts/

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/13/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-with-dr-dave-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

Handouts to Download

Dr. Sophia Yin – Body Language of Fear in Dogs – http://info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs

Dr. Sophia Yin – How To Greet A Dog and What to Avoid – https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/preventing-dog-bites-by-learning-to-greet-dogs-properly/

Dr. Sophia Yin – Canine Bite Levelshttp://info.drsophiayin.com/download-the-bite-levels-poster

Web Sites

2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttps://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/behavior_management_guidelines.aspx

The Guiding Principles of the Pet Professional Guildhttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Correction Deviceshttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Equipment-Used-for-the-Management-Training-and-Care-of-Pets

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Choke and Prong Collarshttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/chokeandprongcollarpositionstatement/

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock In Animal Traininghttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars/

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Traininghttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/DominanceTheoryPositionStatement/

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals – https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on Positive Veterinary Carehttps://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Positive-Veterinary-Care-Position-Statement-download.pdf

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (http://www.greenacreskennel.com/) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at http://www.greenacreskennel.com/woof-meow-show/the-woof-meow-show.html. Don also writes about pets at his blog: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/about-the-blog-words-woofs-and-meows/.

©01APR17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
<Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Halloween Tips for Pets and Their People

halloween-tips-for-pets-and-people-canstockphoto12289416-800x800Halloween is that time of year when many children and even some adults like to dress up in costumes that make them look different and often scary. They may even take on the stilted walk or the pseudo-terrifying vocalizations of the character they are portraying.

Now think about Halloween and all of the shenanigans it entails from your pets perspective.  Was your dog ever socialized/habituated to anything remotely like Halloween? Is it likely that they will find groups of people behaving weirdly and trying to scare one another a pleasant experience? You already know that the answer to both questions, for most pets, is a resounding “No!” Do your pets a favor this Halloween and keep them inside and safe.

You and your children also want to be cautious when out trick-or-treating as you may encounter dogs that will find you frightening which may cause them to bark and growl at you.

Tips for You and Your Pets

  • Black cats, due to the mythology about them and Halloween, should be kept inside and safe, well in advance of and after the Halloween holiday. Sadly, black cats can become victims of violence or may be abducted to be someone’s costume accessory.
  • Dressing your pet in a costume may be fun for you but may be a very stressful experience for your pet. If you dog freezes in place, or frantically tries to get out of the costume, or exhibits any calming signals (tongue flicks, yawns, ), your dog would probably prefer to remain “au naturel” (without costume).
  • Secure your pet in a part of your home where they will be behind a closed door and away from the commotion of a party or the trick-or-treaters coming to your door. Pets could easily bolt through an open door if they are frightened and are often injured if left outdoors by Halloween pranksters. The frenetic activity of a party, especially where people are dressed oddly and acting unusually is often frightening to our pets.
  • If you are having people over for Halloween, make sure everyone at the party knows that they are to respect your pets and just “let them be.” If your dog enjoys their crate, you may even want to crate them with a stuffed Kong or another favorite chew toy, far from the maddening crowd. It may even be helpful to play some soothing music or leave the radio on in the room with your pets to help mask the sounds of your party and activity at the front door.
  • If your dog is reactive to your door bell either disconnect it or be waiting at the door, so the trick-or-treaters do not need to ring the bell or knock on your door.
  • Candy is prevalent at Halloween, and anything containing chocolate or the artificial sweeter Xylitol can be very toxic to your pets, Make sure to keep all candy out of reach of your pets.
  • If you are taking your children trick-or-treating, I’d strongly encourage you to leave your dog at home as described above. They will be far happier.

Tips for Parents and Kids

  • When trick-or-treating, avoid houses if you can hear a dog barking behind the door, if you can see a dog at the door or windows or if you see a dog tied in the yard or barking from behind a fence.
  • Never approach any dog, even if you know him. He may not recognize you in your costume.
  • If a homeowner opens their door and you see a dog there, just stay still and wait for the dog owner to put their dog away. You can tell them that you do not want to interact with their dog. Do not move towards the person or the dog, wait for them to come to you and give you their treat and then wait for them to close the door before you turn away and leave.
  • If a dog runs at you while out trick-or-treating, just stand still and “Be A Tree” (hold your hands folded in front of you with your eyes looking at your feet). The dog will probably just sniff you and move on. Wait for the dog’s owner or another adult to come and get the dog before you turn away. If no adult is around, wait for the dog to go away.
  • It is best to ignore other people’s dogs on Halloween if you encounter them while out walking. The dog may be anxious about all the people and the costumes they are wearing. Even if you know the dog, he may not recognize you in your costume.

 

©20OCT16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Behavior Consulting – Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Dog

When you have a dog that is showing signs of aggressive, fearful or reactive behavior; growling, barking, and lunging at dogs, people or other animals, you have a responsibility to keep everyone safe. That includes other people, yourself, other animals and you. If your dog has a bite history, this becomes even more important, and you may want to have a discussion with your insurance provider about possible legal liability.

Ensure Safety

  • Keep your dog physically isolated from people or animals that could become the target of their aggression. This may mean keeping the dog crated, preferably in another room, or locked in another room when you have guests in your home. If you are having guests for an extended period, you may want to consider boarding the dog during this time. This is essential for safety and also to keep the behavior from getting worse.
  • When the dog is outside of your home, make sure that you can safely handle them and keep them from escaping. When the dog is outside of your home and in an unfenced area, they should be on a 6ft leash attached to a regular collar, a regular collar in combination with a front connect harness or a Gentle Leader. Flexi or retractable leashes and choke or prong collars should never be used. You may also want to consider a muzzle.
  • Consider using a muzzle if you can do so safely. Muzzles can be an effective management tool; however, 1) in my experience a determined dog can get out of any muzzle, 2) putting on the muzzle can cause the dog stress and make a reaction more likely and cause them to become defensive around you, 3) putting a muzzle on your dog and having them around others is tantamount to advertising that you have an aggressive dog and thus may change the people’s behavior which can cause a reaction by the dog, 4) if the response is fear based, the muzzle will often make the dog more fearful, and 5.) A muzzle can limit your dog’s ability to breathe properly and thus may cause additional distress. A muzzle is at best a temporary solution and does nothing to address the source of the dog’s behavior.
  • Do NOT leave your dog outside, unattended. Being tied out can be very stressful to a dog and is a frequent cause of fear aggression. When a dog is tied up, they know that they cannot flee or fight; typical reactions a dog would pursue if afraid. In addition, if he is tied out and reacts in this manner he is rehearsing the behavior you want to change, which makes further occurrences of that behavior much more likely. Even if you have a fenced yard, I recommend you stay out with the dog anytime that they are in the yard as no fence can be guaranteed to be 100% secure.
  • If your dog does not need to go with you, leave them at home. I know that we have dogs for companionship and that both they and we enjoy our travels together; however if your dog becomes reactive while in the car they threaten your safety as well as the safety of others. If they become reactive where you take them, you may make yourself unwelcome, and you are probably making your dog more likely to react in the future.

Prevent the Behavior from Getting Worse

  • Stop the use of any training and management tools (alpha rollovers, shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, citronella collars, anti-bark collars, spray bottles, or anything else) that that have the potential to cause your dog distress, discomfort or pain. It is our belief that individuals that choose tools and methods based on punishment and dominance are not intending any ill will towards their pet; in fact they are simply trying to do the best they can with the information they have. However, based on our understanding of dogs, stress and how these tools work we believe that they are only likely to make your dogs behavior worse and to put you and others at a much greater risk for injury. The articles Dominance: Reality or Myth, Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Animals and The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars explain our rationale for this position and link to additional scientific articles on these topics.
  • Avoid putting your dog in situations where there is a potential for him to display the behavior of concern. This is essential because each time he display this behavior; this behavior becomes stronger and more likely to occur again. Events like this change the chemistry and anatomy of the brain, making future reactions more likely. This level of management will be necessary until your dog has become desensitized to the things that cause his reactivity/aggression. Read the handouts Introduction to Canine Communication, Body Language of Fear in Dogs and How to Greet A Dog (And What to Avoid) so you are better able to read your dog’s body language and tell when he is becoming stressed and anxious.
  • Limit movement when your dog reacts. Movement increases arousal and increased arousal increases the probability of aggression and reactivity. If your dog is barking and running back and forth from window to window, either in your home or car, try to restrict movement either with a crate or if in the car, a seat belt. If you do not need to take the dog with you in the car, leave him at home.
  • Carefully consider safety issues and the possibility of making your dogs behavior worse if you walk them off your property.  If you cannot walk your dog safely or if you continue to expose the dog to his triggers, you are better off staying at home. If you do take the dog for walks, choose locations and times when you are least likely to encounter his triggers. When walking a dog with reactivity/aggression issues, it is imperative that you be totally aware of your environment at all times. It is not a time to be day dreaming, thinking about tomorrow’s schedule, chatting on your cell phone, conversing with a friend walking with you, or listening to music. Alternatively, you can find other ways to provide your dog with physical and mental stimulation such as playing in the yard and feeding him with a Kong. If you need ideas as to how to do this, contact us.
  • If your dog is aggressive towards people and/or dogs you need to keep your dog away from places where people and dogs congregate. A dog with aggression issues should not be taken to the pet store, a dog park, dog events or charitable walks.
  • Prepare people before allowing them to interact with your dog and do not force them or the dog to interact. Remember it is not just your dog’s behavior that will determine the result of a dog/human interaction, but also the behavior of the person. Do your best to teach people that come to your home how to interact with your dog. Providing them with a copy of How to Greet A Dog (And What to Avoid) is a great first step. Allow the dog to decide if he wants to interact with people and if he does not, act to protect his best interests. Also, be aware that if you have a breed which some people readily prejudge as having aggressive tendencies those people may behave in a manner which may trigger a reaction from your dog. Anxiety in one often creates anxiety in another.
  • Situations where I would be especially cautious are: whenever your dog is around large gatherings of people. Large groups are likely to increase your dog’s excitement/anxiety which increases the probability of an inappropriate response. Anytime your dog is around children. Most children do not understand how to behave around dogs. Children and dogs ALWAYS need adult supervision.
  • Do not punish your dog or get mad at them for growling. While a dog’s growl can be upsetting and disheartening to us, it also serves the very useful purpose of alerting us to the fact that the dog is feeling threatened or uncomfortable. It is the dog’s way of saying “If something in this situation does not change, I may feel threatened enough to bite.” It is never wise to punish a dog for growling, even by saying “No,” as dogs that are repeatedly punished for growling eventually may stop giving a warning and just bite. If your dog does growl, determine what is causing them to do so, and remove them from the situation with as little fanfare and emotion as possible. For more information read the article Canine Behavior – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?
  • Consider how your emotions may be affecting your dog. Dogs are very adept at sensing our emotions, which can often add fuel to the fire. Since our emotions are always part of the dogs environment, our anxiety and frustration are very likely to cause our dog to become more anxious. It is important to become aware of your own emotions and to work on resolving any issues you may be adding to the situation. The Bach Flower Remedies can be very helpful in assisting people in dealing with their emotions. For more information you might want to read the following: An Introduction and Guide to Flower Essences – The 38 Bach Flower Essences, Wigmore Publications, Ltd., 2001, and The Bach Flower Remedies – Step by Step, by Judy Howard, Vermillion, 2005

Reducing Your Dog’s Stress

  • Learn how stress affects your dog’s behavior. Stress is frequently a component in undesirable behavior for people and animals. Our bodies react very similarly when under stress, producing hormones and other chemicals, which make us more likely to be reactive and irritable.  Most people think of stress as being caused by adverse events or memories of adverse events. However, stress is also caused by things we like such as playing fetch.  When the things we like are taken to excess, stress is even more likely. The key thing to remember is that stress, whether from something bad or something good, causes the same physiological reaction in the body. Those reactions happen instantly but can take 24 to 36 hours to subside and can and often do effect behavior. Read the article, Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress, which provides an overview of stress in dogs. For more information we recommend reading the book Stress in Dogs – Learn How Dogs Show Stress and What You Can Do to Help, by Martina Scholz & Clarissa von Reinhardt to help you better understand what stresses your dog and how they express this stress in their behavior.
  • Minimize Unpredictability and Be Consistent. Unpredictability in our behavior is a major stressor for dogs. As a family, you need to all commit to working together and using the same training approach with your dog. Getting a different response from each of you only stresses the dog more. You all need to have consistent expectations, but they do need to be reasonable. Teaching the dog to be the dog you want him to be will take time and patience.
  • Consider using Bach Rescue Remedy with your dog. Bach Rescue Remedy is a combination remedy developed by Dr. Bach for balancing emotions in emergency situations. Read the articles Bach Flower Remedies – An Overview of the Bach Flower Remedies and Bach Rescue Remedy for more information.
  • Consider using an Adaptil/DAP diffuser in your home to reduce anxiety. Read the article entitled D.A.P Comfort Zone for more information.
  • Consider using a Thundershirt with your dog to reduce anxiety. The handout The Thundershirt provides more information.

Document Your Dogs Behavior

  • Keep A Daily Journal as described in the handout Keeping A Daily Journal. The information you observe and record will be helpful in resolving your dog’s behavior problems.

Train Your Dog

  • If your dog does not “sit” reliably, begin a reward based training program to teach the Sit and Attention behaviors. If you have any concerns about being able to do this safely, contact us first.

If your dog knows “sit” very well, begin a Say Please – Nothing In Life Is Free program as outlined in the handout of the same name. This program can be very useful in teaching your dog self-control. If you have any concerns about being able to do this, safely contact us first.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Keeping A Daily Journalhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/behavior-consulting-keeping-a-daily-journal/

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/18/canine-behavior-what-should-i-do-when-my-dog-growls/

Introduction to Canine Communication – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/

The Body Language of Fear in Dogs (Dr. Sophia Yin)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/body-language-of-fear-in-dogs-dr-sophia-yin/

How to Greet A Dog (And What to Avoid) (Dr. Sophia Yin)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/canine-body-language-how-to-greet-a-dog-and-what-to-avoid-dr-sophia-yin/

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/boarding/what-is-pet-friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

Bach Flower Remedies – An Overview of the Bach Flower Remedieshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-remedies/

Bach Rescue Remedyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

DAP/Adaptil Comfort Zone – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

The Thundershirthttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/product-the-thundershirt/

Dog Training – Teaching the ATTENTION or LOOK Behaviorhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/dog-training-teaching-the-attention-or-look-behavior/

Dog Training – Teaching the SIT Behaviorhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/dog-training-teaching-the-sit-behavior/

Dog Training – SAY PLEASE – NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREEhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/dog-training-say-please-nothing-in-life-is-free/

 

©2016, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Product – The Thundershirt™

The Thundershirt™ is a patent-pending pressure wrap that applies a gentle, constant pressure on a dog’s torso. It is used to help alleviate anxiety due to; fear of thunder or fireworks, separation or travel, crate training, problem barking (when barking is a result of anxiety or stress), hyperactivity, and other causes of anxiety. It is available from a myriad of sources, and we have been selling it at Green Acres for a few years now.

When I first heard about the Thundershirt I was skeptical, but anxiety in a pet is a heart-wrenching issue and is often difficult to treat, so I knew it was worth a try. Plus there is a money-back guarantee. If you are not happy with the Thundershirt, just return it to the manufacturer within 45 days along with your receipt.

I cannot give you a detailed scientific explanation of why the Thundershirt works. It provides a gentle, constant pressure around your dog’s torso, and pressure of this type does seem to have a calming effect on the nervous system. For example, veterinarians often use pressure to relax cattle during the administration of vaccines; pressure shirts are often used with children with behavioral issues to relieve stress and gain focus, and for ages, mothers have held infants to provide comfort. When used as directed the Thundershirt cannot harm your dog and if it helps resolve their anxiety, why not try it?

In some cases the Thundershirt may be used by itself and in other cases the dog may benefit from also using a behavior modification program, Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP), Bach Flower Remedies, and veterinarian prescribed anti-anxiety medications.

At this time we have three Green Acres staff members using the Thundershirt with their dogs; one for thunderstorm issues, one for combined thunderstorm and travel issues, and one for general anxiety. All have noticed a marked improvement since using the Thundershirt.

These are some testimonials from the Thundershirt website:

“We’ve been using Thundershirt at my clinic, and the feedback from our clients is very positive. Thundershirt is a good alternative solution to try versus medications. And it will definitely ‘Do no harm’.”

Dr. Donald Heagren, DVM
Cornwallis Road Animal Hospital
Durham, NC

“Pressure wraps are an effective, non-invasive way to help dogs to feel more at ease. I like the Thundershirt especially because of its soft material, easy-to-apply Velcro closures, and low cost. I recommend this product to my training clients for thunderstorm phobias, nail trims, and a variety of other fears such as sounds, riding in the car, and generalized fear of walking outdoors. I wish the Thundershirt had been around when my thunder-phobic German Shepherd was alive. I’m glad dogs everywhere can now reap its benefits.“

Nicole Wilde, CPDT-KA

“Ratchet is one of the dogs rescued from Iraq by Operation Baghdad Pups. Through a partnership between Operation Baghdad Pups and Thundershirt, I was sent one in the mail. I’d have to say that I was skeptical about the claims… for about 15 seconds. Ratchet had problems with barking, anxiety, and fear of unfamiliar noises. He was particularly anxious around other dogs, having been a guard dog in Iraq. Suddenly, while wearing the Thundershirt, Ratchet seemed to gain new confidence. Other dogs didn’t worry him. Thunderstorms were just things that made the grass wet. Airplanes, repairmen, and even the cat that went for walks outside our apartment were no longer worries for him. He could sit on the balcony and enjoy the day without anxiety, and that made both of us believers! Thank you, Thundershirt!”

Georgia

 

 

©2016, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Body Language – How To Greet A Dog and What to Avoid – Dr. Sophia Yin

This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how to greet dog and how not to greet a dog. If you have a dog that is shy or reactive towards people you and they should familiarize yourself with the material in this poster. You can download your own copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/preventing-dog-bites-by-learning-to-greet-dogs-properly/

How to Greet A Dog and What to Avoid

Body Language of Fear in Dogs – Dr. Sophia Yin

This poster from Dr. Sophia Yin illustrates how a dog may use it’s body to signal they are afraid. You can download your own copy of the poster from Dr. Yin’s website at http://info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs

Body Language of Fear in Dogs

Canine Behavior – Dog to Dog Interactions

Not all dogs enjoy interactions with other dogs. Whether you and your dog are at the dog park, a fundraising walk with other dogs, or just with other friend’s dogs, your dog may be afraid and may prefer to be somewhere else. Unfortunately, not everyone can readily read the signals that their dog uses to say “Help! I’m afraid, can we please go home?” These new posters created by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) will help dog lovers look out for their dogs.

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Scared

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Scared-2

Just as some dogs do not like the dog park because they get picked on, some dogs bully other dogs at the dog park. If you have a dog that is being pushy, you should intervene immediately. These images will show you what to look for and what to do.

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Pushy

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Pushy-2

Recommended Resources

Blog Posts

Dog Behavior – Introduction to Canine Communication – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Books

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006

Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You – DVD – Turid Rugaas,

The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D, Ballantine Books, 2002

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007

The Language of Dogs – Understanding Canine Body Language and Other Signals- DVD’s – Sarah Kalnajs, Blue Dog Training and Behavior, 2006

OFF-LEASH Dog Play, Robin Bennett, CPDT and Susan Briggs, CKO, C&R Publishing, 2008

YouTube

Turid Rugaas Calming Signals DVD – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7BWxC6iVs

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Like us, our dogs can and do experience stress. Just as stress can make us feel afraid or hyper or edgy or irritable, it can do the same to our dogs. It is a well-established fact that the “wrong kind” of stress or chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on our behavior, health, and overall well-being. Whether “good stress” or “bad stress”, physiologically, the manifestation of stress in dogs is similar as to that in humans, with the same negative and positive effects. Stress has the potential to make one ill, suppress the immune system, cause behaviors that damage relationships with others, and increase arousal. This increase in arousal greatly increases the probability of aggressive behavior.

As a pet behavior consultant, I have observed that most behavior problems with pets, especially the more serious such as aggression and separation anxiety, are the result of stress. Therefore, as responsible guardians for our dogs, we have an obligation to understand stress and its impact so we can do what is necessary to minimize stress in the lives of our canine friends.

Definition of Stress

Stress is the response of an organism to a demand placed upon it to change or adapt.*”

*Canine Neuropsychology, third edition, by James O’Heare, Ph.D., DogPsych, 2005, page 3

“Good” Stress versus “Bad” Stress

Certain levels of stress are normal and even necessary for survival and the increase of gray matter in the brain. Good stress is called eustress. This “positive” stress allows an organism to utilize energy in a positive manner and assists in the development of new capabilities. This type of stress, in appropriate quantities, is essential to normal growth.

When stress is negative or becomes excessive, it is called distress. Stress of this manner can damage an organism, resulting in illness and behavioral problems such as anxiety and aggression. This may become a vicious cycle, with stress contributing to even more stress until an organism collapses in exhaustion or self-destructs.

The susceptibility to distress varies with each individual organism. How an individual responds to distress is often affected by a combination of inherited genes and events within the organism’s environment.

It is important to understand that eustress and distress occur over a continuum. Eustress can range from contentment to extreme excitement and distress can range from worry to extreme fear or minor irritability to severe aggression.

Eustress and Distress

What Does Stress Feel Like?

Stress affects us both physiologically and emotionally, and the two are always interconnected. Whether experiencing eustress or distress, the physiology and the effects on the body are essentially the same. Therefore, the biggest difference between the two types of stress is a matter of our perception of how we feel.

Good Stress (eustress) Always Acute Bad Stress (distress) Acute or Chronic
Heightened Sense of Awareness Increased Reactivity/Jumpy
Alert Hyper-Vigilant
Euphoria Irritability
Learning a new task (confident) Inability to learn (doubtful)

We have all experienced both eustress and distress at some point in our lives, but fortunately not all of us have experienced extreme distress. Some medications can cause the same physiological effect as distress so if you have ever been on prednisone, or known someone who has, you may have a better idea of how severe distress feels.

Prednisone is a man-made corticosteroid that is used to suppress the immune system. It is often used to treat autoimmune disease, asthma, lupus, colitis, Bell’s palsy, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Prednisone mimics cortisol, a major stress hormone, so the side-effects of prednisone can be similar to those of an organism in extreme distress. These side effects include; insomnia, euphoria, depression, mania, mood swings, irritability and even psychotic behavior. (As an asthmatic I have been on prednisone numerous times and know how it makes me feel. While it eventually makes me physically healthier, the side effects are not pleasant for me, or those around me. I have also observed animals on prednisone, and sometimes they can react negatively and experience significant behavioral changes, which do not always resolve long after the drug is no longer being used.)

Physiological Effects of Stress

When something stressful happens; we are frightened or startled or experience physical or emotional pain, our body falls under the control of the Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System (SANS). The SANS is part of the body responsible for controlling the flight or fight response. Our body goes on auto-pilot to protect us from the perceived threat.

The SANS is closely associated with the limbic system, which is the section of the brain that deals with the expression and experience of emotions, storage of memories and expression of aggression. It is the most primitive part of the brain and is very involved with instinctual survival mechanisms. It is separate from the cerebral cortex, which is thought to be the “thinking” part of the brain and the site of conscious thought and intelligence. Note that the brain is hard-wired to ALWAYS remember negative emotional responses to help ensure our future safety.

When the limbic system (emotional auto-pilot) is activated, the cerebral cortex is suppressed. This is why one does not typically behave rationally when in a highly charged emotional state. This can also help us to understand why expecting our dogs to respond to a well-trained cue when they are in distress is usually a futile effort. Likewise, the parts of the brain responsible for learning something new are shut-down at this time. Conversely, when the cerebral cortex is highly active, the limbic system is suppressed.

The release of various neurotransmitters and stress hormones triggers a plethora of reactions within our body that shuts down all of our bodily systems not necessary for defense. Levels of adrenaline, a neurotransmitter, become elevated which in turn increase pulse rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and the dilation of bronchial tubes and pupils, preparing the body for the surge of energy necessary for a flight or fight response. Cortisol production increases which turns off the immune system and other non-essential systems. The above is a gross oversimplification. For a more in-depth understanding, please refer to the books listed in the resources section of this article.

After the stressful situation has passed, the body’s stress response is supposed to turn-off and levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones should return to normal levels. However, these changes do not “turn-off” instantly but can, in fact, take 24 to 72 hours to return to their normal (non-stress) levels. As a result, if an organism is exposed to frequent stress events (daily or multiple times per day) those levels may never return to normal, leaving the individual in a constant/chronic state of stress. Think of the dog that aggressively reacts to the mail carrier Monday through Saturday of every week. That dogs stress levels may never get a chance to return to normal. The same can happen with the dog that demands to play fetch each and every day. Sometimes when an individual is subjected to chronic stress, the mechanisms that are supposed to turn off stress no longer work and levels continue to build and can reach four times normal levels. Normal now becomes a much higher level.

 

Causes of Stress in Dogs

Brambell’s Five Freedoms

A significant cause of stress for an animal occurs when its most basic needs are not being met. One of the first and most comprehensive efforts to define an animal’s most basic welfare needs started in Great Britain in 1965 with the establishment of the Brambell Commission. This commission, created by Parliament, was charged with reviewing the treatment of farm animals and developing a minimum standard for meeting their needs. They created what is known as “The Five Freedoms,” which is an excellent starting point for evaluating the welfare of any animal, including companion dogs. The five freedoms are:

  1. Ensure your pet is free from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple — provide your dog with food and water and the need is met. However, I encourage you to give this more thought. Is the food you feed your dog wholesome and a type that would be in their natural diet? Are they allowed to consume this food in a manner that is natural for their species? We also must consider that too much food is equally bad, as evidenced by the significant number of obese dogs we see today.

  1. Ensure your pet is free from discomfort.

Again this freedom seems relatively straight forward — make sure your pet always has adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

Your dog also needs a quiet, comfortable resting place where they can be undisturbed and where they will feel safe. You need to make sure that their environment is free from things that may cause them harm.

Your dog’s breed also affects what they need to be comfortable. If they have long hair, they may be unable to properly groom themselves. If that is the case, you must groom them on a regular basis, so that their hair does not become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort.

Obesity puts a strain on the joints and may cause pain and discomfort, so it is important not to allow our dogs to become obese.

Lastly, dogs, like humans, are social animals and may depend on interactions with others, particularly of their own species, to be comfortable. However, if they do not feel safe around another dog, being compelled to live with another dog may cause discomfort. Knowing and responding properly to your dog’s social needs is critical

  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury and disease.

One of the easiest ways to meet this freedom is to make sure your dog gets an initial series of vaccinations to ensure that they are protected against diseases, followed up by annual and as-needed visits to your veterinarian. At home, a weekly body check can alert you to any changes in your pet’s physical condition.

Being free from pain is very similar to being free from discomfort so the dog’s grooming needs must also be considered. Remember, dogs are designed by nature not to show pain and thus weakness, so often they will attempt to hide their pain. Obesity and matted coats may cause pain.

  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

If you are going to allow your pet to express normal behaviors you first need to know and understand what constitutes both “normal” canine behavior and “abnormal” canine behavior. This is not easy because there is so much incorrect information about canine behavior circulating as myth and being perpetuated in out-dated books and inaccurate websites.

What we know about canine behavior today has changed greatly since the 1970’s. Many of the old “truths” are in fact not true. Statements such as; “…you need to be dominant or “alpha” over your dog, dogs are like wolves and should be treated as such, dogs are pack animals, and dogs should be trained with choke collars, shock collars, and alpha-wolf rollovers and other types of intimidation” are NOT true and in fact cause far more problems than they resolve. In fact, all of those methods and techniques are a perfect recipe for causing fear, stress, and aggression. That is one reason the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) specifically recommends that the dominance construct or any tools and methods which cause discomfort, pain or intimidation should NEVER be used.*

*2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines

The freedom to express normal behaviors is the one that is most often overlooked, as many dog guardians are either unaware of the huge repertoire of normal dog behaviors or because they do not approve of some of these normal behaviors such as “butt sniffing.” It is imperative you take the time to learn what constitutes normal behavior. The best way to do this is to enroll you and your dog in a dog training class taught by an individual who has been certified by either the Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT. They should also comply with the PPG philosophy of training that is Pain Free, Force Free and Fear Free.

Minimally, to express normal behaviors your dog needs adequate space in which to run and an enriched environment to stimulate their minds and bodies. The ability to sniff and explore the world is key to a dog’s life.

Toys enrich your pet’s environment by giving them something to play with; however your dog also needs appropriate interaction with living things as well. That can come from us as well as other dogs.

Playing with your dog is good for establishing and maintaining a lifelong bond. It is also a great outlet for mental and physical activity and can be just plain fun! However, it is essential to understand that play, especially very active play, is stressful in itself and increases your dog’s arousal level. Play should be frequently interrupted and as soon as the dog has calmly settled that behavior can be rewarded with more play. If the dog does not or cannot settle, then play stops. Overly rough play between a person and a dog, especially play where the dog exhibits mouthing and nipping behavior, is inappropriate and for the safety of others, as well as yourself, should ALWAYS be discouraged. The best way to discourage such play is to immediately stop playing when it occurs. You should also learn to recognize the signs that tell you that your dog’s level is arousal is increasing so that you can stop play before the mouthing occurs.

While our dogs hopefully enjoy our companionship most also need adequate opportunities to interrelate with others of their own kind in a positive situation. That does not mean you need to have more than one dog, but it does mean your dog may need to have some suitable doggie friends in the neighborhood or at doggie daycare. However, these friends must be of a similar temperament, age, size and play-style and the interactions must be enjoyable for all. Lastly, not all dogs enjoy the company of other dogs, just as many people do not enjoy others. In this case, it is important to understand that you cannot make a dog like another dog or a person.

  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their dog fear or distress. However, lack of knowledge, or incorrect perceptions and beliefs about canine behavior, certainly causes a great deal of fear and distress in our canine companions. As a behavior consultant, I see a great number of dogs for “aggression” that is almost always based in stress related fear.

Far too many people are still not aware of how critical a well thought out socialization plan is for a puppy when they are between 8 and 16 weeks of age. During this time, most puppies are very accepting of new environments, people, and situations — as long as they are setup to ensure it is a positive experience. Socialization does not end after the critical socialization period; rather it should continue throughout a pet’s life. A dog can be socialized after 16 weeks of age, but I recommend that you work with a certified dog behavior consultant to help you develop a remedial socialization program that will be beneficial and not cause more harm.

A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can also cause a dog to become anxious and fearful. A dog needs a moderate amount of both physical and mental exercise on a daily basis. A pet that does not get adequate exercise may become bored and frustrated, and start exhibiting behaviors that you will find undesirable. On the other hand, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Daily visits to the dog park or a doggie daycare are often counter-productive and unhealthy. Activities need to be well balanced with ample opportunities for rest. A dog normally sleeps 17 hours per day.

When we add a dog to our family we are bringing them into a very foreign environment and culture with very different rules. On top of that we are expecting them to understand a foreign language while we often make no effort to learn their language. We need to educate our dog to live in our world and educate ourselves about the dog world if we are to keep them free from fear and distress.

We also need to actively protect our dog by avoiding stressful situations until they have had adequate socialization and training. You are their guardian and as such must take responsibility for managing their interactions with the environment and other living things.

 

What Does An Animal Do When They Are Afraid?

Animals, humans included, have four typical responses when they are afraid; Flee, Fight, Freeze, and Fidget About.


What Do Animals Do When AfraidFlee
is self-explanatory and is all about the normal fight or flight response. It is important to understand that when a dog is on a leash they know that they cannot run away from what is scaring them. That is one reason a dog may be more reactive when they are on a leash; they are desperately trying to scare what they are afraid of away. This is NOT an excuse to have a reactive dog off-leash; in fact a known reactive dog should ALWAYS be on a regular six-foot leash or inside a secure fenced area when they are outside of your home. It is essential to keep a reactive dog out of situations where they react like this because every time such a reaction it occurs it becomes more likely to occur again.

To Fight or become aggressive is also part of the normal fight or flight response.  To allow your dog to react in this manner is a liability risk for you and a safety risk for yourself and others. Dogs can do in an incredible amount of very serious damage in a very short amount of time. As your dog’s guardian, it is your responsibility to prevent this type of behavior. As explained with fleeing, a dog on leash comprehends that the leash will restrain them from fighting effectively. It also can make the situation worse if two dogs are fighting and they are both on leashes that become entangled. Separating dogs in this scenario becomes even more difficult and risky. This is NOT an excuse to have a reactive dog off-leash; in fact a known reactive dog should ALWAYS be on a regular six-foot leash or inside a secure fenced area when they are outside of your home. It is essential to keep an aggressive dog out of situations and environments where they could attack another person or animal because there is ALWAYS a risk of serious injury or death. Every time such a reaction it occurs it becomes more likely to occur again. Dogs that have attacked other dogs should NEVER be taken to a dog park.

To Fidget About is essential the dog exhibiting a normal behavior in an abnormal context. It may be as simple as looking away, sniffing, or playing with a toy. It is the dog’s way of ignoring what they perceive as being threatening with the hope that the threat will ignore them and go away.

Freezing is becoming totally rigid and immobile. It is essentially the absence of any behavior that the dog feels could be provocative. This often occurs when the dog’s emotional state has moved from being afraid to being terrified. Freezing is often misunderstood by dog guardians who because they see that their dog is non-reactive they assume the dog is “fine.” While the dog is not barking, lunging or running away in this situation, it is not doing so because it is terrified. This is a tremendous emotional response that will not be forgotten easily.

The key thing you need to remember with any of the four F’s (Flee, Fight, Fidget About, or Freeze) is that you want to minimize putting your dogs in these situations once you know this behavior is a likely possibility. The brain is designed to remember scary things after the very first event. Subsequent exposures will just make reduce the probability of ever being able to move beyond this fear.

Common Causes of Stress in Dogs

  • Any change in environment (schedule, people, animals, increased noise)
  • Arguments among family members
  • Combination training (rewards and punishment)
  • Excessive play that becomes borderline “obsessive/”
  • Excessive stimulation (too much play, doggie daycare, dog sports, )
  • Frustration
  • Grief due to the loss of a companion (human or animal)
  • Humans ignorant of needs and ways of communicating
  • Inappropriate play partners, human or animal
  • Insufficient stimulation
  • Not being taught how to be alone
  • Punitive training (shock, choke and prong collars)
  • Scary events
  • Too many dogs per available space
  • Unreasonable expectations (expected to like all people and all other animals in all situations, expected to be 100% on all the time)
  • Insufficient social time/family time
  • Uncertainty

 

Identifying Stress in Canines

Dogs express themselves and communicate with body language, vocalizations, and behavior. By getting familiar with our dogs’ bodies, we can tell when they start to feel stressed. It is imperative to look at the entire body and not just isolated parts to get the best understanding of what your dog is feeling.

Ember-headturn-nose lickCalming signals, as described by Norwegian ethologist and dog behaviorist Turid Rugaas, are very subtle changes in the body of a dog that suggest building stress and are used to diffuse conflict before it happens. A calming signal is a polite request to another dog to change their behavior and, therefore, prevent any dispute from occurring. Dogs use calming signals to communicate with us as well.

Two of the calming signals people see most frequently are “licking of the nose” and “yawning.” The dog in the picture is demonstrating both “averting of the eyes” and a “nose lick,” probably because the camera is staring at her. Other signs that can be calming signals are; turn away, softening of the eyes (squinting), freezing, play bow, sitting down, lying down, sniffing, scratching and splitting up.

For more information on calming signals read the article Introduction to Canine Communication http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/.

Some key indications of stress, by body part, are noted below.

Eyes

  • Avoiding Eye Contact
  • Blinking or squinting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Furrowed Brows
  • Hardened Eyes (direct stare with pupils dilated)
  • Staring
  • Tightness around eyes
  • Whale eye/ Half-moon eye

Mouth

  • Barking
  • Biting
  • Cheek puffing
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Growling
  • Lip Curling
  • Lip/Nose licking
  • Mouth closed tightly or lips pulled back
  • Mouthing
  • Nipping
  • Panting
  • Showing teeth
  • Smiling
  • Snapping
  • Teeth chattering
  • Wrinkled muzzle
  • Whimpering
  • Yawning

Ears

  • Flattened or lowered
  • Pinned back
  • Upright and alert

Body

  • Cowering
  • Defecation
  • Dribbling or submissive urination
  • Excessive shedding
  • Freezing – little or no movement
  • High body posture, rigid forward stance
  • Groveling posture
  • Low body posture, weight shifted back
  • Penis crowning
  • Piloerection (Hackles)
  • Shake off
  • Stretching
  • Sweaty paws
  • Tail up and flagging
  • Tail Tucked
  • Tense all over
  • Tight brow
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Urogenital “check-out.”

Vocalizations

Dogs may also indicate they are stressed through vocalizations. Some of the more common stress related vocalizations are:

  • Barking – low pitch = threatening, high pitch = fear/stress
  • Growling
  • Howling
  • Screaming
  • Whining
  • Whimpering

 

Behavior

When stressed a dogs behavior will often change. Common behaviors that are often stress induced are:

  • Clinging to or hiding behind guardian
  • Cowering
  • Destructive behaviors, chewing, ripping, shredding, clawing
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Excessive sleeping, often due to exhaustion
  • Freezing or walking slowly
  • Hiding
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hyper-vigilant
  • Inability to focus
  • Inappropriate urination and defecation
  • Increased urination and defecation
  • Irritable
  • Jumping up on guardian
  • Jumpy/Easy to startle
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsessive/Compulsive behaviors – (e.g. shadow chasing)
  • Pacing
  • Poor sleeping habits, less than 17 hours sleep per day
  • Refusing food or treats
  • Restless, inability to relax
  • Running off
  • Sniffing, out of context
  • Unable to settle
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

 

The Stress Escalation Ladder

Stress and the dog’s arousal happen on a continuum. Some of the signs of stress start appearing at very low levels of arousal. As the arousal level continues to rise it may result in growling, showing of teeth, lunging and biting at the most extreme levels. It is important to remember that arousal levels increase with positive stress (eustress) just as they increase with negative stress (distress). A dog that is ramped up and highly aroused in play is also more likely to bite and lose their bite inhibition. The chart below, created by Rugaas, illustrates the signs seen at various levels of arousal. It should always be our goal to keep the dog out of the yellow and red zones.

Stress Escalation Ladder-Rugaas

Reducing Stress in Dogs

In order to reduce our dogs’ stress we first need to understand it. Once we have identified the cause, there are many approaches to eliminating the stress.

The easiest way to deal with a dog under stress is usually management — removing the dog from the situation/context where the stress occurs. While this does not solve the problem, it is a temporary fix that will make the dog feel better. If this is a context/situation the dog will need to be exposed to in the future, it is advisable to work with a qualified behavior consultant to help get the dog over this fear. Few dog guardians are successful resolving this type of issue by reading books or watching programs on TV. In our experience, they usually make the problem worse.

A qualified, professional behavior consultant will ALWAYS first recommend that you discuss your dog’s behavioral issues with your veterinarian. Pain and other medical conditions can cause behavioral problems, and they need to be addressed first.

A behavior consultant will consider a number of methods to help your dog deal with their stress. They will almost always recommend a behavior modification protocol, which is a specialized program for your dog’s situation. A dog training class is seldom recommended for a dog with stress-based issues such as anxiety and aggression, as it often puts a dog in an environment where they will be stressed. Any organism must be free from fear if they are going to be able to learn.

Teaching your dog to sit, down, stay, etc. will not change the way your dog feels. In fact, asking your dog to sit in the presence of something that causes them to react may make them more fearful. For example, let’s say that you are afraid of bees and wasps. Now imagine sitting in a room full of bees and wasps and imagine trying to learn. You will not be learning but will be focusing on keeping yourself safe from getting stung.

A behavior modification program is all about changing your dog’s emotions and the way they feel about what is making them fearful or angry. Additionally, a behavior consultant may also recommend changes in diets, and treatment with complementary therapies; Bach Flower Remedies, Herbs, Homeopathy, T-Touch, if they are so qualified. They may also suggest that you ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinary behaviorist so that the veterinary behaviorist can determine if drug therapy is necessary. A behavior consultant should always be working with your veterinarian.

Stress can make us feel miserable, and it does the same for our dogs. If you have a dog living in stress — take steps to help them as soon as possible!

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog

Understanding Behavior; Why It Mattershttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/category/dogs/canine-behavior/

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/category/dogs/canine-behavior/problem-behavior/aggression/

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being: The New AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/08/01/pet-health-and-wellness-your-pets-behavioral-health-is-as-important-as-their-physical-well-being/

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Mythhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Puppy Socialization and Habituation – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/27/dog-behavior-puppy-socialization-and-habituation/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/boarding/what-is-pet-friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

Introduction to Canine Communicationhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Can You Trust What You Read on the Internet? –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/09/03/can-you-trust-what-you-read-on-the-internet/

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/02/yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-green-acres-kennel-shops-pet-friendly-philosophy-part-1/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/05/02/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-the-ppg-part-2/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/30/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-a-veterinary-perspective-part-3/

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

Trends in Training – The Evolution of a Pet Care Professionalhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2008/04/19/professional-development-trends-in-training-the-evolution-of-a-pet-care-professional/

An Overview of the Bach Flower Remedieshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-remedies/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hankshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/01/10/podcast-pet-behavior-counseling-and-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks/

 

Books

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007

Canine Neuropsychology, 3rd edition, James O’Heare, Ph.D., DogPsych, 2005

The dog’s brain — a simple guide, Val Strong, Alpha Publishing, 1999

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?

A dog that growls is not a bad dog.

<This article was also published in the July 14, 2015 edition of The Maine Edge>

While a dog’s growl can be frightening and disheartening, it also serves the very useful purpose of alerting us or another being that the dog is feeling threatened, uncomfortable or angry. It is the dog’s way of saying “If something in this situation does not change, I may have no other choice except to bite.” Growling is a communication tool that is designed to increase the distance between the dog and that which the dog perceives as a threat.

Dog growling over a stick
Dog growling over a stick

While a growl is usually associated with “aggression”, it is important to understand that there are many causes of aggression. Pain or other medical issues can cause an aggressive response, as can fear. Fear arises for many reasons; a reminder of a previous negative experience, a perceived loss of a resource or space, expectations of punishment and associated pain, and maternal protective instincts can all cause a dog to react “aggressively”. Sexual competition, barrier frustration, low tolerance for frustration, differences in personalities between dogs, and genetics may also cause or contribute to aggressive behavior.

As a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC) I deal with a greater number of aggressive dogs than the average person. I appreciate it when a client’s dog growls thus giving me a warning and an opportunity to change my behavior so I do not get bitten. For this reason, I advise all my clients and students that it is NEVER wise to punish a dog for growling; even saying “No” or looking at the dog crossly can constitute punishment. Dogs that are repeatedly punished for growling eventually may not give warning and immediately escalate to biting.  A dog that has learned not to growl due to punishment is far more dangerous than a dog that will give a warning growl before escalating to biting. These dogs will also be much more difficult to rehabilitate.

If your dog is in a situation where they growl; as calmly as possible step back and assess the circumstances surrounding the growling. If possible, ask whatever is causing your dog to remain still and to increase the distance away from your dog. Keeping safety foremost in your mind, and with as little fanfare and emotion as possible, call your dog back to you or if they are on leash get them to follow you as you back away from the situation to a place where they will feel safe and secure. Your dog will pick-up on your emotions and if they sense you are upset, angry or afraid your dog is likely to become more reactive. Do not keep your dog in a stressful situation and try to reassure them or yell at them for growling, neither is likely to be helpful. Once you have ensured the safety of all parties, you need to try to determine what caused your dog to feel threatened and defensive in the first place. To keep you and your dog safe, you should make sure that they are on a short leash, nothing longer than 6 feet, in any similar situations in the future.

If your dog is growling frequently, or growling is very out of character for your dog, you should schedule a veterinary exam to rule out any physical causes such as pain or illness. If the growling and aggression are not due to medical reasons it is time to seek a consultation with a credentialed and experienced dog behavior consultant to work with you in resolving your dog’s behavior. The sooner you seek guidance the better. Aggression rarely improves without intervention and the more times it occurs, the more likely it is to reoccur and the longer it will take to resolve.

It is important to understand that obedience training alone is extremely unlikely to resolve an aggression issue. Training certain behaviors like “Look” and “Leave It” may be useful in managing your dog when they are reactive, but will not change the way your dog is feeling. Aggression is an emotional response, sometimes due to a feeling of having no control over a situation. Sitting and staying for you on cue does not afford the dog a sense of control and may actually increase their fear and the accompanying response. Imagine how you would feel if you were afraid of bees and someone forced you to sit in a room full of bees until you “got over it.” I think you’d agree that would only make you more reactive and afraid.

In order to resolve aggression, we need to change the dog’s emotions. This is most commonly accomplished through a program of behavior modification and may include the use of medications prescribed by your veterinarian as well as complementary remedies, such as Bach Flower remedies, selected by a qualified practitioner. Aggression will seldom go away on its own and the longer you wait, the harder it is to resolve. Dogs grow into aggression, not out of it. If you are having concerns, the time to seek help is now.

Links

To find a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant – <click here>

To find a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner <click here>

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3

This article first appeared in the July 2015 edition of the Downeast Dog News.

<You can listen to a companion podcast to this article, first broadcast on The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine on June 27, 2015, by clicking here>

When this series started back in April, the intent was to alert pet owners that not all pet care services are pet-friendly and to emphasize the importance of making sure a pet has the most positive experience possible when it is boarding, day-caring, being groomed, training or while at the veterinarian. All of these animal care services can be done with a pet friendly approach; our pets deserve that. In this column I’ll be focusing on visits to the veterinarian and how many in the veterinary community are working to make those visits fear-free.

Few people look forward to visiting the doctor or the dentist so we should not be surprised when our pets get anxious at the veterinarian. A healthcare usage study by Bayer Veterinary indicated that 37% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners said their pets hate going to the vet1. Going to the vet can be a frightening experience and fear is a powerful emotion. According to Dr. Marty Becker, “Fear is the worst thing a social species can experience and it causes permanent damage to the brain.” As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, I work with many dog owners and their dogs, often on fear related issues. It is a basic survival mechanism that allows fear to be locked into a memory in an instant and that trauma can be remembered for a lifetime. While these fears may be overcome, it can often take weeks, months, and even years of work to do so.

Unfortunately, if we as pet owners and the pet care professionals handling our animals don’t recognize the signs and detrimental effects of stress and fear in our dogs and cats we cannot help them. In her blog The Science Dog, Linda P. Case recently wrote about fear and two research studies2 that examined how well owners and pet care professionals recognized and responded to signs of stress and fear in dogs. The first study indicated that over 90% of the people that participated could tell when a dog was happy; however, only 70% of dog professionals and 60% of dog owners could identify the fearful dogs. [bold emphasis mine]. That means a significant number of pet professionals and dog owners cannot tell when their dog is stressed or afraid. Clearly there needs to be more education in this arena.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, made it her mission to educate other veterinarians, pet professionals and pet owners on how people can better understand and interact with pets so as to reduce stress for all concerned. Her seminars, DVDs, and book on low stress handling of pets have helped pet professionals make their practices “pet-friendly.” When professionals can identify fear and stress, and know how to respond accordingly, they can make efforts to minimize or eliminate it so that pets actually enjoy visiting and being handled. At the same time, the skills learned help staff become more competent in animal handling, resulting in improved safety for all parties and reduced costs. Pet professionals, pet owners and pets are all benefiting tremendously from these practices3.

Many other veterinarians are also addressing this issue.  Dr. Marty Becker is a veterinarian who is actively educating his colleagues on the importance of fear-free veterinary visits. In January, Dr. Becker presented on this topic at the North American Veterinary Community conference1, one of the largest continuing education events for veterinarians in the world. He talked about the Hippocratic Oath taken by veterinarians which emphasizes “First do no harm” and to “Cure sometimes. Treat often. Comfort always” [bold emphasis mine]. He discussed how the intense focus on medicine has caused veterinarians to sometimes neglect the parts about doing no harm. Dr. Becker continually underscores the value of making sure a patient is comfortable.

The trend toward fear-free veterinary visits is rapidly growing. A Google search of the words “fear free veterinary visits” yields about 819,000 results. The website DVM360, a website for the veterinary community, lists 19 articles on the fear-free philosophy from April 1st through June 5th alone.

With this trend, the move towards “Fear-Free” veterinary care is alive and well in Maine. Kate and I recently invited Dr. David Cloutier, from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic4, to join us on The Woof Meow Show to discuss his clinic’s approach to fear-free veterinary care. Dr. Cloutier is clearly very passionate about this topic. He explained how it’s not only the best approach for the vet, the vet’s staff, the pet owner and the pet, but is also personally very rewarding.

On our show with Dr. Cloutier we talked about dogs and cats and the fact that creating a fear-free visit for a cat is every bit as important as a fear-free exam for a dog however, because of a cats highly developed flight or fight instincts, doing so takes even more effort. Dr. Cloutier worries that if a cat owner has a bad experience taking their cat to the veterinarian that they may never go back to any veterinarian. This can result in very negative consequence for that cat’s health which is why making every visit a good one is so essential.

Some of the things that Dr. Cloutier and his team at Veazie Veterinary are doing to make a pet’s visit fear-free include staff training on behavior, stress, and canine and feline body language, having separate waiting areas for dogs and cats, being patient and allowing pets time to settle, minimizing restraint as well as the number of people in the room with the animal during an exam and treatment, using high-value treats to reward calm behavior and to desensitize a pet to any perceived threats, using pheromones like Feliway with cats to help calm them, and teaching clients what they can do at home to help prepare their pets for a visit to the vet.

It is essential for all pet care professionals to be following a pet friendly, fear-free philosophy if we are going to do well by your pets. If one of us causes a pet to have a fearful experience, due to the way the brain processes and remembers fear, that animal may now fear all of us.

Lastly, we talked with Dr. Cloutier about the role of the pet owner in reducing stress. That role starts with learning about your pet and signs of stress and discomfort.  Next it requires you to be an advocate for your pet and all of the people that participate in your pet’s care. You not only need to make sure that pet professionals that care for your pet follow a pet friendly philosophy, but you also want to make sure that family members and friends that care for your pet also follow your philosophy. Your pet cannot speak for themselves so please ask questions and speak on their behalf. They’ll be glad you did.

Next month’s article will be focused on specific things you can do at home to help prepare your pet for a visit to your veterinarian, a boarding kennel, the groomer, or a training class.

References

1 Creating Fear Free® Veterinary Visits Puts Pets Back Into Practices -DrMartyBecker.com, Presentation at NAVC – http://www.drmartybecker.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Creating-Fear-Free-Veteirnary-Visits-NAVC-15-FINAL.pdf

2 Fear Itself, The Science Dog, June 9, 2015, by Linda P. Case – https://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/fear-itself/

3 http://drsophiayin.com/

4 http://www.veazievet.com/

 

Other Links of Interest

Signs of anxiety and fear in dogs from Dr. Marty Becker – http://dvm360.com/sites/default/files/images/pdfs-for-alfresco-articles/Signs_of_anxiety_fear.pdf

Links to the first two part of this series can be found below.

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2 – <Click Here>

 

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>