Podcast – Dog Training and Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, an interview with Linda Case, Part 2

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

< Shareable Short Link to this page >

In this second of a two-part series, Kate and Don interview dog trainer and author Linda Case about her book Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog. In the last episode, we focused on foundational material covered in the book. This week we get into the nitty-gritty of dog training and talk about:

  • The benefits of working with a professional dog training instructor.
  • Qualities to look for in a dog training instructor and what to avoid.
  • Why it is so important to teach students how a dog learns and the most important things we can teach them on this topic.
  • What is clicker training and why it is so useful when training a dog?
  • The power of using food as a reward when training a dog.
  • How we help students address undesirable behaviors, they experience with their dogs.
  • The four most valuable behaviors we teach our students to train their dogs.

If you want to learn about your dog and how to live together happily, you will want to listen to this show and read Linda’s book.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://streamdb7web.securenetsystems.net/ce/index.cfm?stationCallSign=WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ and the Apple iTunes store.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

#WoofMeowShow #LindaCase #ScienceDog #DogTraining

Contact Info

Linda P. Case, MS
AutumnGold Consulting and Dog Training Center
Mahomet, IL

(217) 586-4864

Autumngoldconsulting.com

https://www.facebook.com/pg/LindaCaseAutumnGold/posts/

https://thesciencedog.wordpress.com/

Recommended Resources

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

Book Review – Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Casehttp://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart

What Is Dog Training?http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining

How to Choose a Dog Trainerhttp://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer

Understanding Dog Behavior, How Dogs Learn, and the Most Humane (Best) Ways to Train Them, P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center, Camden, Maine – 10NOV18http://bit.ly/PAWS-Camden-10NOV18

What Is Clicker Training? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsClickerTraining

Reward Based Training versus Aversives –  http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

Teaching the ATTENTION or LOOK Behavior http://bit.ly/GAKS-Attention

Teaching Your Puppy to Come When Called – Starting Pointshttp://bit.ly/Come-Recall

How Do I Get My Dog to Walk Politely Instead of Pulling on the Leash?http://bit.ly/WalkingPolitely

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

Dog Training and Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, an interview with Linda Case, Part 1http://bit.ly/WfMw-LCase-11MAY19

Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MS – http://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

How to Choose A Dog Trainer (2017) http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Podcast – The Benefits of Training Your Dog and 2019 Classes at Green Acreshttp://bit.ly/WfMw-Training2019

©18MAY19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Shared Article – The emotional toll of a reactive dog by Jay Gurden-Dogs Today

< a short link to this post – http://bit.ly/SharedGurenEmotional >

I recently came across this article on Facebook and had to share it. I too have lived with a reactive and severely aggressive dog and can testify that it is not easy and there is a huge emotional toll. I have no regrets because with lots of help and guidance we cured my dog ( FMITikken – Vaccines, Aggression, OCD, & Homeopathyhttp://bit.ly/TikkensAggxStory ) and she lived several more year without any behavioral problems. However, in many ways, my situation made living with a reactive dog easier than it would be for most people. Caring for Tikken during her behavioral issues was a multi-year project, and I have no regrets about doing it. However, Paula and I were able to do it because; we did not have any children to worry about, we both worked at a business attached to our home, so one of us was always there 24//7, and the architecture of our home is such that it was easy to compartmentalize areas where Tikken was allowed unsupervised. That being said, it was emotionally draining. If we had not been fortunate enough to have all of those advantages, Tikken’s life may have had a very different ending. I think it is essential for all pet care professional to realize and understand that not all pet parents will be able to manage and care for a reactive dog and accept that fact, along with the fact that the number of people looking to adopt such a dog is very small.

I cannot thank Jay Gurden enough for writing this article because I believe it is one that should be read by anyone with a reactive dog. < click to read >

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog

( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

Tikken – Vaccines, Aggression, OCD, & Homeopathyhttp://bit.ly/TikkensAggxStory

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

Remedial Socialization – The Watch the World Game

The original idea for this protocol was developed by Laura Van Dyne CPDT-KA, The Canine Consultant LLC, Carbondale, CO.

OBJECTIVE: To help a neo-phobic dog habituate to novel people in novel environments

 

Dog/handler teams are appropriate for this exercise when:

  • The dog is well bonded with and trusting of the handler.
  • The handler is very sure that this exercise will work. If there is any doubt, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) that is experienced in working with fearful and reactive dogs before proceeding.

 

The handler will need:

  • To read the recommended resources at the end of this document.
  • A hungry dog with a properly fitting harness or collar, one that they cannot remove or slip off. Shock, choke, or prong collars should NEVER be used.
  • A standard, 6-foot leash.
  • High value treats such as freeze-dried liver, meat, or cheese.
  • A vehicle with a door that can be opened so the dog and person can sit inside the vehicle together (hatchback or van with sliding side door) facing outward with the door open.
  • A parking lot with an appropriate level of activity, little or no action at first that is sufficiently large that you can position your car several yards away from any activity.

 

When to Start:

  • During a quiet time.
    • Sunday morning, unless it’s a church parking lot.
  • Park at a distant point with the door for sitting facing the parking lot.
  • Sit inside with the dog either tethered or securely in hand.
  • Give treats to the dog as long as the dog is not reactive.
  • The goal is for the dog to see something in the distance and anticipate a yummy treat

Training Sessions:

  • Are short and very fun – quit before the dog is sated, typically within five minutes.
  • Happen frequently and repeated in the same location until successful (don’t go to parking lot #2 until your dog is non-reactive and content in parking lot #1).
  • Are at the beginning level of difficulty until the dog sees something new and promptly looks toward its handler for the yummy treat.
  • Are only gradually increased in difficulty as the dog is successful.

 

The goal is to be able to:

  • Sit in front of a busy grocery store with different types of people, grocery carts, cars, etc. passing by. Ideally, some of the people are speaking other languages and are of different nationalities

Remember Thus far – the team is still cocooned within the safety of the vehicle

 

Graduate out of the car:

  • Only when assured of success.
  • Perhaps in the original parking lot (#1), at the distant (station #1) location.
  • Step out of the car and simply stand there holding the leash securely in hand, if the dog is comfortable it should step out and stay with you to get more treats (Stay at this level for as many repetitions as necessary).
  • Graduate to walking around the car.
  • With success move closer to the action in future sessions.

 

Graduate to an outside location:

  • Find an appropriate bench or take something to sit on (Suggestion-have the dog sitting next to its person; it’s a more secure place than being removed to the ground).
  • Choose a place that is so easy; your dog is practically guaranteed to be non-fearful and non-reactive – maybe it’s just a quiet place – no people, vehicles, etc. at first
  • Gradually increase the difficulty – Over Practice Success!

 

What could go wrong?

  • Someone passing by could want to, ‘Pet the dog’ or come to visit with the person. The cuter and smaller dogs will be more attractive to passersby.
  • Sometimes, for safety and success the handler may have to be assertive to the point of rude to keep people away**
  • Bring a helper to run interference if necessary.
  • If the handler cannot read the stress level of the dog accurately, the dog could get worse!
  • “Life Happens” – at any time, if things go awry, leave.

**Comment:

Many people in the general public think they are a dog person, “Dogs love me!” and they move in, forward facing, staring at the dog, with their hands reaching for the dog’s face (actually doing all the wrong things!). A handler comment like, “Please don’t approach, my dog is fearful.” seems to stimulate the worst in passersby so the handler may have to interrupt and, perhaps, cross the border of polite behavior to prevent problems.

 

Recommended Resources

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

 

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://bit.ly/BhxManagement

Remedial Socialization – Objects – Bring the Junkyard Homehttp://bit.ly/RemedialSocializationObjects

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting

What Should I Do When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?http://bit.ly/StealGuardGrowlSnap

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://bit.ly/DogGrowls

©11SEP18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Part 5 – The Freedom from Fear and Distress

< A version of this article was published in the May 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News >

< Click to download or print a PDF file containing all 5 columns in this series >

This column is the last of a five-part series in which I have discussed Brambell’s Five Freedoms and how they provide a valuable reference point for assessing a dog’s quality of life. So far we have examined the first four of Brambell’s Five Freedoms;

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst,
  2. Freedom from Discomfort,
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, and the
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior.

This month I will address the fifth freedom, Freedom from Fear and Distress. I will be readdressing some of the same topics from part 2 of this series, Freedom from Discomfort, as fear and distress are an extension of discomfort, especially when considering our dog’s emotional state.

I genuinely believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect information about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in dogs.

Experiencing fear and distress is normal for any living thing throughout its life. However, since one fearful event can be traumatic enough to create a permanent and debilitating disability, it is essential we understand fear and distress and that we do everything possible to minimize its effect on our dog.

Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress

  • Can you readily tell when your dog is fearful or stressed?  Dogs typically do one of four things when afraid. 1) They flee and run away as fast as they can from whatever it is that has scared them. 2) They fight by barking, growling, lunging at, and attacking whatever has threatened them. 3) They freeze in place, not moving a muscle, and not making eye contact with what they fear. 4) They fidget about, displaying normal behaviors (sniffing, scratching, etc.) in an abnormal context while ignoring the threat. These four are the most extreme reactions, but well before your dog exhibits any of those behaviors they will give you subtle signs of their emotional distress. It is essential that you know and understand these signs so that you can intervene early.  Unfortunately, when many dog parents see their dog freezing or fidgeting about they say “Oh, he’s fine” not understanding that the dog is in fact distressed. ( FMIhttp://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear ).
  • Have you and your family committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? By definition, an aversive is anything that causes your pet fear or distress, so if you use these tools or methods, you are NOT ensuring your dog is free from fear or distress. Commonly used aversives include but are not limited to shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish the dog as part of training or management. Dogs subjected to aversives are likely to develop behavioral problems and have a much higher probability of becoming aggressive. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes that the use of aversives is a significant reason for behavioral problems in pets and that they should NEVER be used. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive )
  • Was your puppy well socialized? Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. Inadequate socialization or inappropriate socialization is a frequent reason for a dog to be fearful in certain situations. Remedial socialization is possible, but you should work with a reward-based, fear-free trainer so that you do not make things worse. (FMIhttp://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy   ) ( FMI – http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer )
  • Do you actively look out for your dog’s best interests so that you can protect them from people that do NOT understand canine body language? Most people do not realize that not all dogs want to interact with people nor do those people comprehend the subtle signs that a dog gives that says “please leave me alone.” Most dogs do not want to bite, but only do so when they feel they have no other option.  As our dog’s caregiver, we have a responsibility to look out for our dog’s welfare which means intervening when others do not respect our dogs right not to interact. Additionally, we need to understand that sometimes the best thing we can do for our dog is to leave them at home. Not all dogs enjoy walking in the animal shelters annual fundraiser.
  • Do you understand the necessity of providing both physical and mental stimulation for your dog while not letting either go to extremes?  A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. However, too much stimulation and exercise can also be even more detrimental, creating a state of chronic stress. Playing fetch or going to the dog park every day can become addictive, causing chemical changes in the brain which can contribute to distress and other behavior problems.
  • Do you understand that while the dog is a social species, they may not like every dog they encounter, even ones that you may want to add to your family? While the domestic dog is considered to be a social animal, some are more social than others. Dogs do not automatically like on another. If we force a dog to live with another pet that they are afraid of, we are causing fear and distress.

To read previous articles in this series visits the Downeast Dog News website at https://downeastdognews.villagesoup.com/ or visit Don’s blog at https://www.words-woofs-meows.com

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Part 1, Freedom from Hunger and Thirsthttp://bit.ly/Brambell-Hunger-Thirst

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Part 2, Freedom from Discomforthttp://bit.ly/Brambell-Discomfort

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Part 3, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Diseasehttp://bit.ly/Brambell-Pain-Injury-Disease

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Part 4, The Freedom to Express Normal Behaviorhttp://bit.ly/Bramble-NormalBehavior

Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Part 5, The Freedom from Fear and Distresshttp://bit.ly/Brambell-Fear-Distress

Recommended Resources

References

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms: http://www.defra.gov.uk/fawc/about/five-freedoms

Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121010012428/http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf

Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms, D. Hanson, APDT Chronicle of the Dog, Fall 2014http://www.greenacreskennel.com/images/stories/pdf/Articles/assessing%20pets%20welfare%20using%20brambells%20five%20freedoms-apdt_cotd_fall2014.pdf

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

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

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Puppy Socialization and Habituationhttp://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

How to Choose A Dog Trainerhttp://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer

What is Dog Training?http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining

Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member?, If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledgehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/10/01/is-your-dog-your-best-friend-or-a-family-member/

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars http://bit.ly/ShockCollars

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

Signs of Anxiety and Fear from Dr. Marty Beckerhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/01/17/signs-of-anxiety-and-fear-from-dr-marty-becker/

Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alonehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/14/dog-training-preventing-separation-anxiety-teaching-your-dog-to-cope-with-being-alone/

Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxietyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/30/dog-behavior-crate-habituation-to-reduce-anxiety/

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Beinghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/08/01/pet-health-and-wellness-your-pets-behavioral-health-is-as-important-as-their-physical-well-being/

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

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/07/02/podcast-encore-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-dr-dave-cloutier-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

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

Separation Anxiety with Dr. David Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/05/01/podcast-separation-anxiety-with-dr-david-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockPodcast

The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudgehttp://bit.ly/PodCastShockFree-NikiTudge-2017

________________________________________________________________________
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. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©7MAY18, 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>

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>