CAUSES OF BEING "STRESSED"
FEARS and ANXIETIES
These lists may help you identify what is causing your dog to show the symptoms of being FASEDUP or stressed. They are not definitive lists - just suggestions - as each dog is unique and has its own levels of what it can tolerate and what it cannot. This is NOT a criticism of how you look after your dog, but merely a list of possible causes that the handler should think about and manage to help the dog to lower its long-term stress levels.
As the Memory section of this website explains, dogs can become fearful or anxious for a variety of different reasons. Some are the result of under socialisation as a puppy (or too much stimulation, which is just as harmful). Others happen because what one dog perceives as a threat is ignored by another, while some fears and anxieties happen due to unforeseen accidents or circumstances which can happen to any animal or human as they go though life. Here are examples of some triggers that can make dogs fearful or anxious -
- Sudden, loud and unexpected noises. A dog's
senses are all the more acute and heightened when
a dog is FASEDUP and stressed and makes them more reactive to sudden noises.
However, once the dog's long-term stress levels are reduced the dog is more
able to cope with these sudden noises and can recover quickly from the experience.
Some examples of sudden noises are -
- aircraft flying low overhead
- a vehicle backfiring
- an air balloon flying overhead and its burners switched on
- bird scarers
- kites fluttering overhead
- flocks of birds suddenly taking off
- thunder or lightning
- strong winds rattling windows, doors, overhead branches etc
- a child's balloon bursting
- Christmas crackers
- children suddenly shouting, screaming, banging on fences, going past on roller skates or skate boards
- people shouting or being aggressive without warning
- public address systems (particularly those that are loud and very close to vehicles with dogs inside - the sound echoing inside the vehicle and the sound vibrations produced from the tannoys can be very unpleasant for a dog that is inside).
- Open spaces - eg. Nowhere for the dog to
hide, relieve itself, "read the newspaper" and relax away from prying eyes, particularly
if there are other dogs or humans nearby.
- On a lead - Unable to perform calming signals with other
dogs or people because of the restrictions of being on a lead (especially
when wearing a collar or an "anti-pulling device" on its head). Also unable
to escape situations due to being restricted by a
lead. Both these situations can result in the dog coping by resorting
to aggressive/fearful behaviour such as lunging, barking, or cowering
in abject submission.
- Unable to escape from situations it finds
frightening or stressful such as enclosed spaces. For instance
- an indoor training venue with only limited space to wait or queue and not enough room to do "polite" calming signals to other dogs
- unable to go through a door because the "threat" is blocking its path
- being cornered under furniture, or (even worse) in its own rest area such as its car cage or bed - either by humans, by another dog from its pack, or a strange dog.
- being exercised in a badly designed hydrotherapy pool
- Traveling from its breeder (ie. Leaving its
mother & litter mates) or the rescue centre. This vehicle can become a
very frightening place as this is where it has a "bad" experience.
- Paws not on the ground (eg Puppies being held and passed
around). It is extremely stressful for dogs not to have all four paws on the
ground as they have no chance to escape a situation and must resort to aggression
to resolve the situation.
- Forced into encounters with other dogs and
people before it is ready to do so. Watch your dog's calming signals and wait
for it to relax and become more confident. Walking on a lead often prevents
dogs from using calming signals or escaping so the dog becomes fearful and
aggressive to compensate. It feels there is "no hope".
- Too little socialisation too late or Too much socialisation too soon. There are a number of good web sites and books that give ideas on how to introduce a puppy or rehomed dog to a new environment. However, be very careful not to over stimulate or over power the dog with too many experiences, or for too long a period of time. Trust your instincts and watch your dog's reactions and manage the situation so that it does not build up unpleasant environmental photos.