What Does Stress Look Like?

Posted on Jun 28, 2013 in Aggression, Barking, Leash Frustration, Puppy, Reactive, Rescue Dog, Separation Anxiety, Training | 0 comments

This dog is worried.

This dog is worried.

When I think of unwanted behavior, I think of stress as the two are often related.

My goal here is to help you identify your dogs stress signals so you can get them help before this stress causes unwanted behavior. Science clearly states that stress leads to health problems, negatively affect relationships with others and can also make us grumpy, irritable, less tolerant and even aggressive.

Is it true if we humans are stressed our dogs can sense it?  Yes, when we feel worried, anxious or angry, our dogs will certainly be effected in some way.  Different dogs will react differently to mental and physical pressures in their environment.

Go Away!

Go Away!

How many of us often turn to physical exercise to relieve stress or tension felt from our environment.  Is your dog able to go for a daily jog to relieve the stress he carries around or is he confined to run the fence line and bark in frustration becoming more and more aroused.  Does he destructively chew your furniture, pace wildly and mouth your arms and hands when you enter?  You may perceive this mouthy greeting as excitement, but it is stress.

An unfamiliar dog has approached to the right, this mix is looking away to avoid conflict.

An unfamiliar dog has approached to the
right, this mix is looking away to avoid conflict.

Signs of Stress come in many different forms:

    • Does your dog ever bark rapidly, scan the environment for a threat, pace back and forth, tremble, chew in a ripping or destructive manner, pant when not tired, flatten his ears back, lower his head when approached (guilty appearance), cower or urinate when you or anyone else approaches, hide between your feet, growl, lick his lips when not eating,  yawn when not tired, turn his nose away from his favorite treat when in an unfamiliar environment.  Urinate or defecate when arriving at a new home, or training center.  
    • Young adolescent pups may playfully mount dogs or humans or do this as a sign of stress as is biting the leash and excessive mouthing of human hands. Exaggerated self grooming which can cause hair loss, sudden outbreak of dander can also be stress related. 
  • Does your dog often begin to sniff the ground when meeting new dogs, stop to scratch just as a greeting is about to occur, avoids the new dog completely?  We know stress can effect health, stress that continues over a period of time can cause a dogs immune system to become fragile due to increased cortisol in the system.  Have you ever considered that a dogs unpleasant body odor or bad breath can be the result of high stress. 
    White dog is fearful and sniffs to avoid greeting

    White dog is fearful and sniffs to avoid greeting

Environmental triggers are everywhere,  who is present, how many stimuli, if they are approaching slowly or quickly, how your dog feels at that moment, what smells are near, what he sees and hears are all triggers that can cause your dog stress and they are constantly effecting your dogs behavior.

Where is this dogs weight shifted?

Where is this dogs
weight shifted?

Knowing the signs of stress in your dog is essential to keep him safe, happy and healthy.

For more information consider reading Stress in Dogs by Marina Scholz and Clarissa Von Reinhardt, well worth the time to read.

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Posted on Dec 15, 2011 in Barking, Crate Training, Posts, Separation Anxiety | 0 comments

I frequently get asked about barking problems or why do dogs bark?  Our dogs bark for a variety of reasons:

  • Dogs will bark if they feel threatened. 
  • They may bark when they play and get excited.
  • Some dogs will bark for attention from us or another dog. 
  • Some will bark if they are in pain and they’ll even bark when they’re lonely, bored or stressed. 
  • Certain breeds or breed types are also genetically inclined to bark more than others.
Desensitizing these shelties to moving stimuli

How you’ll prevent or resolve your issue with barking will partially depend on what is triggering your dog to bark. For example if your dog is barking or vocalizing because he’s in pain, treating the source of his pain would be the obvious solution. If your dog is barking through the front window as dogs pass by your house, blocking off access to that window is a simple way to help prevent his barking.

Keep in mind that the more your dog practices barking the better he’ll get at it. So identifying what is triggering your dog to bark and if possible, removing the trigger or changing the emotions that cause your dog to bark are best.  For Example, if your dog barks each day he hears the mail truck, take your dog out side and reward you dog with a yummy treat for looking at the truck, after a few days of this classical conditioning, take your dog out and reward him for looking at you or any other behavior they offer before they bark.  Eventually, your dog will learn to simply look at the mail truck and watch it go by with no worries at all.

In my opinion, antibark collars which use shock are inhumane and are inappropriate for all kinds of barking problems (and often make the problem worse). Many dogs that have been shocked for barking at a mail man or garbage truck have ended up trying to bite this stimuli which causes them pain each time it is near.  With the right kind of behavior modification and a strong desire to stop the problem, most pet parents can successfully resolve barking issues using classical conditioning methods.

The Alert Barker does so to alert you to someone or something outside, the answer is quite simple. Remove the source of what triggers his barking. For instance if your dog barks at people as they walk past your home, prevent his access to the window using furniture, closing blinds, blocking off the area with a baby gate.  Remember, if your dog barks and the person or dog moves away, this is very rewarding for the dog and will certainly be repeated.

The Lonely Barker is often more simple to modify, try changing your dog’s environment a bit. Remember that your dog probably wants to be with people. Dogs who are left outside for long periods of time are often the worst offenders of barking. Your dog needs to play with you and feel like he is a part of the family. Dogs typically don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. Make sure you set aside time for regular walks, playtime – even some training sessions. You’ll want to be sure that you give him the social contact that he needs to keep his body and mind occupied. Barking when left alone may also indicate separation anxiety. If you think that anxiety is the source of your dog’s barking, contact a certified dog trainer.

Attention Barking  may be a dog that barked and you tossed him a toy, you have just taught your dog, “When I bark you play!” Even if you look at him or verbally scold your dog when he barks, you will still be teaching him that his barking is a successful way to get your attention. What can you do?  You need to ignore his demands. His barking may initially increase and so don’t give in or he will learn that persistence pays off. However, if he barks and you really ignore him or even better if you ignore him and walk away until he is quiet, he will eventually learn that barking doesn’t work and it will decrease. 

Our dogs are not trying to dominate us, they simply do a behavior and if something follows that they like then they will repeat the behavior.  Dogs are smarter than we think, so be carful and watch what you are rewarding!
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Posted on Oct 26, 2011 in Crate Training, Fun, Positive Association, Puppy, Separation Anxiety | 0 comments

Many of you have asked me about interactive toys to help keep your dog busy when left alone.

Below are some of the toys I use to create positive associations for many dogs in many different ways.  For example, when I leave I often say “Kong Time” and leave each dog with a stuffed toy. The sound of a delivery truck is often another “kong time” as I want my dogs to be excited not fearful when this sound occurs.

If I am training a foster dog to use a crate, I only feed them using these toys, and, again, happily say “crate,” and toss a yummy toy or two in the crate so the dog associates it with something good!

These are simply a few ideas to help enrich your dogs life.

Premier Tumble Ball, assorted Kongs, Everlasting Toys, Squirrel Dude, Planet Dog, Rip and Tug.

To get started be sure to make the toy easy for your dog to receive a reward, otherwise they will lose interest.  The balls are great for beginners using dry kibble mixed with a few treats.
For the experienced dog, pack the Kong with a variety of goodies!  For example, begin with a bit of peanut Butter, next add some raw meat or pieces of hotdog or cheese, followed by some kibble, dry treats, and repeat the process!  It is like a party every time as your dog works hard to get to his favorite goodie!  Be sure to use a cue like “kong time”, your dog will begin to salivate rather than pant when you are leaving!

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Conference Day 2 – Reactivity in Dogs

Posted on Oct 13, 2011 in Aggression, Fun, Separation Anxiety, Training | 0 comments

Impulse control, hyperactivity, reactivity and arousal are all topics discussed in today’s symposium on “Living on the edge.” If you have attended any of my reactive dog classes you would have heard me use these terms and how they effect your dogs emotional state.

Today’s topics included many practical methods of incorporating daily routines and opportunities to help your dog practice desirable behaviors. We know that good training is always started at home! Daily practice at home with feeding, training, and play can improve a dogs impulse control and arousal habits. New behaviors and techniques for keeping your dogs arousal under threshold will be incorporated into our up coming classes.

Today’s conference ended with an informational panel discussion including dog behavior specialists: Suzanne Clothier, Ian Dunbar, Trish King, Dr. Petra Mertens, Dr. Pamela Reid, and Pia Silvani. What a great source of caine knowledge here to discuss arousal and how it effects reactivity.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions on K9.

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Separation Anxiety or Distress….which is it?

Posted on Jul 20, 2011 in Separation Anxiety, Training | 0 comments

Because not all dogs that are left alone experience anxiety, animal behaviorists are beginning to use other terms including separation behaviors.

Separation Distress
Distress is simply an animal’s inability to adapt to stress (or the  conditions that are causing stress). In humans or animals, the result  of distress is often demonstrated by poor coping skills that include inappropriate  
urinating or defecating (toilet-trained children who are experiencing  distress might wet the bed or wet their pants), making noise (dogs bark and whine while distressed children might cry), and destruction  or aggression.

In many situations, separation distress is a more accurate term than  
separation anxiety.  Some owners have even called their pups behavior Separation Fun. They can learn that when their owner is gone, they can counter surf, sleep on their owners bed, lounge on the couch, dig in the trash, relieve their bladder without anyone yelling at them.

Separation Behaviors
Some owners return home to discover toilet paper has been dragged from the bathroom all through the house and underwear is now strewn about the living room. A tornado went through the house? No, the dog was at it again. 

The idea that some dogs get bored and start a party when their owners are gone is controversial. What we do know is that something happens, as   toilet paper is all around the house, shoes are chewed, and perhaps the dog urinated on the bed. These occurrences can all be accurately referred to as separation behaviors.

So before you implement a major training program, perhaps you should determine if your dog is truly anxious or simply bored.  What we do know is that
punishment often creates more bad behaviors.

Helping dogs cope while being left alone is a process, but one that will save your furniture and earn you freedom for the life of your dog!

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