Here, I will look at Stress (FASED-UP), what is Stress, and later (see left) what are the Causes of Stress, what are the symptoms of Stress and look at ways of reducing Stress.
On this page, we are looking at
the definition of stress
what is stress
the stress glass - long term stress
"hooked on" stress
A dictionary definition of the word "stress" - "A state of mental, emotional or physical strain or tension"
THE WORD "STRESS"
The word "stress" is referred to a great deal in this website yet this simple 6-lettered word is like the tip of an iceberg - so much is hidden underneath such a simple yet very misunderstood word. I am not altogether happy using the word "stress" as many people feel threatened and defensive at the thought of their dog being labeled as "stressed". They may regard this diagnosis as being criticism on how they have brought up their dog, or how they expect it to cope with the environment and/or lifestyle in which they live.
However, I am not making any accusations or throwing doubts on the dog owner's obvious care for the welfare of their dog, only that the word "stress" is being used in this web site to describe the fact that the dog is displaying symptoms of long-term stress which have been caused by a variety of different situations. This section of the web site is to help dog owners recognise the symptoms of stress in their dogs (including many so-called "behavioural problems"), reduce the amount of stress that the dog has to cope with, and thereby stop the unwanted behaviour without having to resort to aversion techniques.
To replace the emotive word "stress", I have invented a new word (also an anagram) - "FASEDUP" - and its derivation is as shown below. I will also use the words "FASE" and "FASED" to replace "FASEDUP", as the sense of the wording dictates.
Causes of Stress gives a more detailed explanation of this diagram.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Nature uses the physical changes explained in Stress Symptoms so that the animal or human can SURVIVE, eg -
However, in the fast moving modern world that we now live in, these same basic survival responses are also being triggered in everyday situations. Humans, and the animals who live with them, are being bombarded with so many different decisions, experiences and problems that sometimes their bodies and brains become worn out from all this stimulation and they begin to display a variety of physical, emotional and/or behavioural problems.
We must recognise that every one is different - what one human (or animal) finds stressful and unpleasant is highly exhilarating to another. Yet both these emotions trigger the same physiological changes in the body.
THE 10 MINUTE RULE
To get a proper understanding of how stress effects the long term behaviour of a dog we need to recognise the time scale of the physical "fight or flight" changes to return to the level they were at before the dog became stressed. These high levels of stress chemicals in the body effect a dog's ability to learn, concentrate and understand the human environment and routines it is expected to live in.
Each time a dog is over excited or is caused stress the adrenal and thyroid glands, testosterone and hypothalamus begin to increase their production. The output from these glands reach a peak 10-15 minutes after the incident, and takes between 3-5 days to return to the level they were at before the incident.
This is why certain dogs can become aggressive for no apparent reason when meeting another dog; they are still experiencing the rush of adrenaline etc from an incident that happened 10-15 minutes beforehand.
THE STRESS GLASS - LONG TERM STRESS
What happens if a dog is subjected to various FASEDUP situations and the levels do not have the chance to return to "normal"?
Imagine a glass of water, with the levels increasing each time the dog is FASEDUP. If the dog does not have the opportunity to allow the levels to fall the glands will be unable to return to their optimum level. Further rushes will cause the "water level in the glass" to go even higher until the dog is living on its nerves and is totally unable to relax and rest properly.
Eventually the "glass" will overflow and the dog will display some of the more extreme default stress symptoms and its quality of life will be extremely poor (as will their owners!). Theselong term levels of stress can take many months to reduce, but is proven to be possible given patience and a willingness to change and adapt the dog's environment and lifestyle (see Stress Solutions).
EVERY DOG HAS A DIFFERENT SIZED "STRESS GLASS"
It is important to recognise that individuals have different thresholds of what they can cope with - one may breeze through life without being overloaded with stress (dog A, who has a large "stress glass") while another may find even everyday situations difficult to cope with (dog B, with a smaller "stress glass" yet the same amount of stress).
This tolerance or susceptibility can be directly linked to the individual's genetic makeup and experiences when young - i.e. socialisation. This is why it is so important to "vaccinate a puppy (or rehomed dog) for LIFE" in tiny doses so that it is able to cope with all the experiences it will come across as it travels through Life.
"HOOKED" ON STRESS
Just as some humans can become addicted to stress and become "workaholics", the same can be true of domesticated animals. They can become trapped in the viscous circle of experiencing rushes of adrenaline and then getting withdrawal symptoms when these levels fall - they want to repeat the stressful event in order to get another "high" (like the jogger whose body craves exercise if he stops running on a regular basis).
Another analogy is that of humans who become alcoholics - they become so dependent on how the alcohol effects their brains that they need to keep drinking in order to remain in the same emotional state. This is similar to herding breeds who become addicted to chasing moving objects (eg. Balls, traffic, joggers etc).
If dog owners recognise and understand what is Causing the Stress and carefully manage the dog's lifestyle and environment, they can gradually change various aspects of the animal's lifestyle so that the dog can rest, relax and reduce its long-term stress levels to such a degree that these physical and/or behavioural symptoms disappear, (see Stress Solutions).
By understanding the symptoms, causes and ways of relieving stress, we can help these dogs cope and have more enjoyable and fulfilled lives with their owners. Also, when a dog's long-term stress levels are reduced its behaviour problems drop dramatically or disappear all together, without the need to resort to Aversion Techniques.
This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).
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