WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

CAUSES OF STRESS

On this page are sections on the following

  • DECISIONS
  • changes in routines
  • emotions of humans/other dogs in household
  • dogs need to rest
  • being overwhelmed
  • confusion/misunderstanding
  • too high expectations from humans
  • taking charge
  • made to be leader
  • made to be underdog
  • do not compare dogs with others
  • FEARS & ANXIETIES
  • sudden, loud and unexpected noises
  • being put in threatening situations
  • unable to escape from situations
  • open spaces
  • on a lead
  • paws not on the ground
  • forced into encounters
  • too little socialisation too late OR too much over-excitement too young
  • STIMULATION & EXCITEMENT
  • over-enriched environment
  • other dogs in household
  • family member moving around
  • visitors coming and going
  • young children
  • passersby, traffic, bicycles
  • running water
  • domestic appliances that move
  • shadows, reflections
  • wildlife
  • hearing/seeling other dogs working/playing
  • balls and other throw toys
  • too many over-stimulating walks
  • sterile environment
  • lack of stimulation
  • lack of company
  • lack of movement
  • lack of smells
  • lack of sounds
  • lack of texture
  • lack of taste
  • UNCOMFORTABLE & PAIN
  • high temperatures
  • becoming cold
  • becoming damp
  • draughts
  • jerk on collar
  • illness or injuries
  • impact injury
  • manhandled
  • handshy
  • introduding into dog's space
  • over-exercise / not enough exercise
  • too much/too little training
  • hormones
  • overweight
  • starved or not given enough nutritional food
  • thirst

 

NEW for 2015 -

  • LACK OF CHOICE OR CONTROL - "SLAVES"

 

This list may help you to identify what is causing your dog to show the symptoms of being F.A.S.E.D.U.P or stressed. It is not a definitive list - just suggestions - as each dog is unique and its own tolerance levels. 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 in order to help the dog to lower its long-term stress levels.

 

DECISIONS

HUMAN LIFESTYLES AND ROUTINES
It is not only the environment that can cause a dog to become FASEDUP or stressed. Our lifestyle and how humans act and behave around our dogs can also have a profound effect on them. This can result in the dogs becoming unsettled and reactive, or compel them into making decisions for themselves as there seems to be no "order" or structure in the dog's life that it can take comfort from.

 

For instance - Changes in routine - eg.

  • Children around more at weekends and school holidays
  • Adults at home due to illness, or because they are on holiday
  • Dog's usual carer absent so walked and fed by a different person
  • Introduction of a new human, dog, or other animal to the "pack". If a dog is being introduced, be it a puppy, adolescent, mature, or older dog - each has a different effect on the structure and hierarchy of the dog "pack". It can become a very stressful time while the dogs work out their places and roles within the new "pack" order
  • Family members leaving home (eg. Divorce, or children leaving home for university etc.)
  • Moving house
  • Death of either a dog or human "pack" member
  • New neighbours moving in next door (particularly if they have a dog or children)
  • Workmen (such as builders) working in the dog's territory
  • Changing the motor vehicle that the dog is used to traveling in
  • Too much traveling
  • Moving furniture (particularly where the dog likes to rest and relax behind or underneath)
  • Moving the dog's bed to a less secure and private location
  • Changing where or when it is usually fed
  • Sudden and dramatic changes in its diet
  • The dog almost seems to be saying "I can't cope with any more surprises or changes! Get me out of here!"

 

As with all the examples on this web page, we are not suggesting that all dogs will become FASEDUP by everything we list here - some dogs thrive on changes and enjoy the new horizons that they provide. However, some dogs find changes (particularly those where the dog took comfort and found stability in their old routine) to their routine very unsettling and can have a knock on effect to their long-term stress levels. Take note of any sudden changes in behaviour and look back to see if there have been any changes to the dog's routine that may have triggered the dog to be FASEDUP. Ideally a dog should become accustomed to slight changes in its routine and lifestyle so that it becomes less effected if more changes have to happen in a crisis (eg. Its handler being kept in hospital).

 

Emotions of humans or other dogs in the household.

Dogs are extremely good at picking up on human emotions both by watching their body language, listening to the tone of their voices, and the pheromones that they can smell in the air around the human. They use their senses to detect both positive and negative emotions (eg. Excitement, jubilation, recent sexual behaviour, anger and arguments, nervousness, frustration, sadness, depression, and particularly stress) and these emotions seem to be very "contagious" across species.

 

Examples of this can range from -

  • Dogs becoming FASEDUP when they detect their handler's nervousness at shows and become nervous themselves
  • Other dogs in their pack displaying "loud" calming signals to either the humans or dogs around them, or suffering from long-term stress symptoms which makes them restless and uneasy in their company.
  • FASEDUP dogs training in one part of a training area and effecting the rest of the dogs trying to work in the same venue (eg. High pitched screams or barking from an over FASED dog can effect the performance and concentration of the other dogs working in the venue).
  • Stressed or workaholic handlers often end up with stressed and over stimulated pets (and family members!)

 

Dogs need to rest

Dogs need sufficient rest time in the day to lower their long-term stress levels, and sufficient rest time within a weekly period to prevent a "back log" of long-term stress building up. This can be achieved by managing the dog's living environment so that it will not be disturbed or distracted at certain times of the day and night, allowing it to really relax and sleep deeply. An ideal solution for reducing these long-term stress levels is to provide the dog with a comfortable sleeping area (such as an indoor kennel), which the dog can snuggle into and not see or hear what is going on around it.

 

Being overwhelmed.

Another way of reducing long-term stress is to avoid giving too much eye contact, touching, or speaking to your dog all the time - see also "On & Off Switches". All these are very high value Life Rewards for dogs as they are signaling to the dog that they have our attention - even yelling or shouting at a dog is seen by the dog as a reward. This is why so many dogs repeat "bad behaviours" (eg. Stealing prized possessions from their owners, barking, pestering the handler to play at inappropriate moments such as when watching your favorite TV show, jumping up at visitors) - the humans look at the dog and speak to it or push it away and so reward the dog's behaviour. This is also the case when a dog is over excited or FASEDUP. The dog is being given the signal that it is "right" for it to be FASEDUP and that if it repeats the Environmental Photo it will be rewarded with the handler's attention once again. You often find that dogs who get so much attention only sleep deeply when their owners are out, as this is the only time the dog is sure that it will not be spoken to, looked at or asked to do something for the owner.

 

Confusion and misunderstandings

These can be caused by the inconsistency of commands or expectations given by various members of the family. Often dogs are confused and do not understand what they are being asked to do but are desperate to please their owner. They become worried about doing anything in case they do the wrong thing and displease their handler. To overcome this problem see Your Dog's Dictionary and On/Off Switch for more information about how to be consistent with your commands and signals and communicate better with your dog.

 

Too high expectations from humans

Your dog is not a robot, it is an animal with animal instincts! Too much control and demands on a dog can make it FASEDUP and stressed. It needs time "to be a dog" and be "off duty" without having to try to anticipate your every command or very high standards. No animal (or human) is expected to be in "work mode" twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Sadly some dog owners are what could be called "control freaks" - they want to have some power over another animal or human because they have so little control over the rest of their lives (such as work, home life, or unfulfilled or unobtainable ambitions).

 

Taking charge.

Because of all the changes around it, or through indecision on the handler's part, many dogs feel that their only option is to take charge of situations as their handler seems unable to resolve the conflict or situation that they find themselves in. This "Taking Charge" to resolve situations can manifest itself in certain ways - eg.
- Dogs pull on their leads to escape
- "Nagging" other dogs by chasing after them and grabbing the dog's coat around its neck, making them feel stressed and frustrated as well
- Lunging at strangers or other dogs to make them move further away
- The dog thinking - "What shall I do next?"; "How can I please you?"; "Why are you anxious/nervous/angry?"; "If you can't solve the situation I will!"

 

Made to be leader.

The handler intervenes between two or more dogs that are living together in the same household and insists that one dog is fed first, walked first, played with first etc when in fact it is the other dog that is the natural leader of the group.

 

Made to be underdog.

Conversely, humans can intervene in pack hierarchy and make the natural leader a lower ranking individual to other dogs in the household. This not only frustrates the dog in question, it also makes the other dogs wary and uncomfortable about taking privileges that the natural leader should be having.

 

Do not compare dogs with others

Finally, do not compare your dog with any others. Each dog is unique with its own abilities and weaknesses. Sadly some owners regard their dog as a "failure" or "useless" because it does not compare favorably with a friend's or neighbor's dog. Dogs can pick up this negative attitude that their handlers have with them and will become FASEDUP in either of two ways. Either the dog will become anxious and worried, trying to anticipate the handler's requirements all the time, or it will loose confidence in itself and become withdrawn - it feels it is not even worth trying to do anything for the handler as it sees itself as a "failure" (see Lodgers).

 

FEARS and ANXIETIES

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
- gunfire
- 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
- fireworks
- 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).

 

Being taken to threatening situations

where it may have had "bad" environmental photos of , for instance -
- the vets
- training or show venues where it was FASEDUP in the past
- humans (including vets, groomers, strangers wanting to stroke the dog) that ignore a dog's calming signals and invade its personal body space before it is relaxed in their company
- being walked too close to open water when it had been pushed or fallen into deep water in the past
- locations where it was attacked or frightened in the past (including hearing sudden noises as mentioned above).

 

Unable to escape from situations

It may be in a frightening or stressful situation 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

 

Open spaces

For instance - 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.

 

Paws not on the ground

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

This can be 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.

 

STIMULATION and EXCITEMENT

OVER ENRICHED ENVIRONMENT

This can be both at home and when out on walks etc. Many dogs find movement and visual stimulus (St), Sounds (Snd), Smells (Sml) and even Tastes (Tst) and Touching (Tch) very exciting and find it almost impossible to rest and relax their brains while these distractions are around. These can trigger patterns of behaviour that the dog is unable to resist due to the strong Environmental Photos it has built up with these stimuli. Here are some common examples of too much stimulation -

 

Other dogs in the household

These may initiate behaviours and games when the dog is tired and would have rested if it had been by itself. (St) (Snd) (Sml)

 

Family members moving around

In the house, or garden, or doing chores such as mowing the lawn, watering the garden. (St) (Snd)

 

Visitors coming and going.

These visitors may be nown or unknown; expected or unexpected (St) (Snd) (Sml) (Tst) (Tch)

 

Children

These could be either neighboring ones or family members who move and act very differently to the adults that the dog is used to being around. Some dogs perceive small children as prey rather than grown-up humans as they move erratically and make sudden unexpected noises, particularly when playing football or running away from the dog screaming. (St) (Snd) (Sml)

 

Passers by, traffic and bicycles

Whether seen from the house or garden, the car, campsite, - in fact anywhere that the dog feels territorial or protective about (including the presence of the handler). This is particularly apparent when dogs that have been bred to be very sight sensitive to movement (such as sight hounds, herding breeds, earth dogs etc) are traveling in a vehicle. These perceive each approaching vehicle (from any direction) as potential threat as it comes closer to its "territory". The dog begins to pant - and possibly drool, pace and bark - as it becomes stressed and over reactive.(St) (Snd) (Sml)

 

Running water

Streams; rivers; waves; water from a hose or watering can (once again, these visual stimulus are very attractive to sight and herding breeds). (St) (Snd)

 

Domestic appliances that move

Lawn mowers; vacuum cleaners; washing machines or dryers. (St) (Snd) (Sml)

 

Shadows or reflections

Wind chimes or mobiles; overhanging trees or bushes; flashing lights from reflections off lights, TV or computer screens. (St)

 

Wildlife

such as birds, squirrels or rabbits - eg. Seen through the windows; while the dog is in the garden; when out on walks. (St) (Snd) (Sml)

 

Hearing or seeing other dogs "working" or playing

While waiting for its turn at a dog club, show; while out walking on or off lead. (St) (Snd) (Sml)

 

Balls & other "throw" toys

Very addictive for both dog and owner! The dog keeps its long term adrenaline levels high by chasing these throw toys when they are thrown regularly on a walk, while the owner sees throwing the toy as an easy option to exercise the dog. All that this type of exercise is doing is charging up the dog's body with adrenaline but the brain has very little exercise at all.

 

Going on TOO MANY over-stimulating walks

where the dog can hunt, scent and generally "overdose" on using its senses. These types of walks should not be taken too often and should be interspersed with less mentally and physically exhausting exercises or walks to keep a healthy balance. (St) (Snd) (Sml) (Tst) (Tch)

 

STERILE ENVIRONMENT

(both at home and while out on walks etc) Just as too much stimulation can lead to a dog becoming FASEDUP over a period of time, too little stimulation can cause similar symptoms and behavioural problems. If a dog becomes bored and mentally under stimulated it will become frustrated and anxious and can cause medical problems as well.

 

LACK OF STIMULATION -

Company - eg. Human, another dog or animal. Sadly too many dogs become stressed from loneliness, insufficient contact with other dogs in off lead situations so that they can communicate with each other using body language, and lack of mental or physical stimulation. This is particularly so of dogs bred to be Companion Dogs and thrive in the company of humans, or those dogs that were bred to work in a pack - eg. Scent hounds like the Beagle. An extreme example of this sensory depravation is a dog that is tied up and left alone for hours on end, day after day. The boredom and lack of companionship will drive the dog to extreme behavioural problems and shorten its life-span by illness caused by this long term stress.

 

Movement or things to look at

Some dogs become FASEDUP from having nothing interesting to look at in their living quarters eg. Dogs in kennels become more relaxed and calm looking at the movement of nearby trees, flowers or shrubs gently blowing in the wind.

 

Smells.

Our human houses and gardens are so sterile or smothered in strong manmade scents (eg. Perfumes, smoking, cooking, petrol, diesel) that our pet dogs are starved of interesting organic scents that their amazing sense of smell was designed to use on a regular basis in its environment. This is why so many dogs get over excited by being allowed off lead in the countryside, fields or even the local park - their working instincts are crying out for environmental stimulation!
By playing Mind Games or introducing interesting scents and tastes into the dog's garden (eg herbs or scented plants, manure, hay, straw, compost, seaweed, or flotsam from the beach) or house (eg. Unwashed clothing, large Kongs lightly smeared inside with different meat or fish pastes, peanut butter, cheese spread etc) the dog can satisfy these urges and stimulate its mind so that it feels like it has "worked".

 

Sounds.

Although dogs do need peace and quiet to rest, sometimes the silence can be too oppressive for them and make them fearful and anxious when they hear even the slightest sound. This can be overcome by having the radio or TV on in the background, or the sound of a ticking clock, or human voices from a hidden tape recorder.

 

Textures.

Dogs can get very stressed living with only one type of surface to live on all the time, particularly in kennels. I was extremely privileged to see amazing and innovative kennels in Finland (Kennel Juppsguard run by Anne and Eero Juppi) that was breed, boarding, and rescue kennels and whose dogs were relaxed and not the least bit stressed by their environment. Each dog had access to various runs throughout the day with either sand, soil, gravel or grass to walk on; logs, trees, platforms or stones to climb on; plants, shrubs and even water features to explore; the kennels were made mostly of wood and had screens to stop dogs seeing people or other dogs walking by, if the dogs could not cope with these visual distraction; the dogs had free access between their indoor kennel and the runs with different levels to rest and relax on, snuggling down in towels and blankets; and, what I found most satisfying to see was that the kennels had been designed in such a way that dogs could hide in the corners away from the prying eyes of any humans who happened to walk past their kennel's door - in other words the dogs had privacy.

 

Tastes.

Although a dog's sense of taste is far less acute than its sense of smell, sadly dogs are often deprived of interesting tastes or textures to explore in their mouths (particularly retrieving breeds such as the Labrador bred to have a strong instinct to carry things gently in their mouths). This is why so many dog take to stealing unwashed "smelly and tasty" clothing, snatching illicit food, eating manure, drinking from puddles etc. I know of one Labrador that is obsessed with eating other dogs excrement while out on walks - it enjoys tasting the different foods that the other dogs have digested. Sadly, processed dog food does little to alleviate the dogs need to find stimulating tastes in its environment as it is repetitive and bland, and dogs often turn to chewing household items and furniture in order to "get their fix". Once again, Kongs, Mind Games and perhaps looking at introducing the dog to eating RAW foods as part of, or instead of, its usual food (see Dr Ian Billinghurst book "Give Your Dog A Bone" and his website for more details).

 

UNCOMFORTABLE or in PAIN

Weather and temperature can make a dog FASEDUP. For instance

 

High temperatures

with no opportunity to find shade, cooling winds or water, can result in the dog over heating and hyperventilating. Heavy coated breeds are particularly prone to this as they have been bred to cope with cold climates and have very thick insulating coats. Black or dark coated dogs also overheat quicker as their coats absorb more of the sun's energy, while the lighted coloured dogs reflect more of the rays off their coats (they can still become overheated but maybe more tolerant to exposure to sunshine. See Cars for information on how to keep dogs cool and comfortable.

 

Becoming cold

Some dogs really suffer from low temperatures, especially those with thin coats (eg. Sight hounds like Greyhounds and Whippets) or those with little on no undercoat (eg. Some of the terriers or companion dogs like the Chihuahua or the Chinese Crested Dog). These dogs can easily become FASEDUP by the cold (or wet) and should not be asked to exercise or work in these conditions. Warm and waterproof dog coats that cover their back and as much of their underbelly as possible can be of benefit to these types of dogs.

 

Dogs becoming damp

either from the rain, walking through puddles of water or swimming. While some dogs are bred with water resistant coats that naturally repel water from their skins (eg. Portuguese Water Dog) many other breeds do not have this attribute. Some of the thick, dense coated breeds can repel rain water from their coats but cannot cope with immersion in water and it can take a very long time for their undercoats to dry. Make sure that you have plenty of towels to dry off your dog's coat and encourage it to run around and shake off as much of the water from its top and undercoat as it can. I "taught" my dogs to shake their bodies on command by clicker training them each time they were shaking themselves dry after a swim. I added a visual signal once the dog's had learnt what I wanted them to do.

 

Draughts

Once again, dogs susceptible to cold and damp are often uncomfortable with drafty conditions - particularly older dogs. However, no dog will willingly sit in a draft (unless it wants to cool itself down) and care should be taken of where you place a dog's bed, cage or rest area. Placing curtains around, or a light sheet over, the rest area can make the dog feel cosy and snug in its "den".

 

Jerked on its collar and lead

Or on a slip lead or choke chain, these cause pain and choking sensations to the dog's neck, making it pull harder to escape the situation. Dogs do not understand that their pulling causes this choking sensation. See Why Dogs Pull on a Lead, and Turid Rugaas' excellent book "What do I do when my dog Pulls?" (available from our web shop) for further information about this subject.

 

Illness or injuries

Dogs are unable to tell humans when they are in pain and need rest to recuperate. Sometimes dogs can be their own worst enemies (particularly when they are high on long term adrenaline) and they move around despite the pain they are experiencing and make it far harder for their body to recover properly in the long term.

 

Impact injuries

such as being hit or kicked not only by cruel or ignorant humans, but by other FASEDUP dogs running madly around in an effort to lower their adrenaline levels and accidentally running into another dog and causing bruising, muscular and skeletal problems. Many dogs suffer in silence for many months from these impact injuries and are only diagnosed when they are examined by a Canine Bowen Practitioner (see Complimentary Health Therapies). It is surprising how many dogs are carrying old aches and pains from incidents that may have happened months before.

 

Manhandled

Dogs find being held by the scruff of their neck particularly stressful as it is a very aggressive behaviour when any animal (either dog, human or "enemy") touches or grabs them there. If their calming signals are ignored the dog may resort to using aggression to prevent it being touched in this sensitive area in future. This can lead to unwanted behaviours.

 

"Hand Shy"

The dog is nervous and uncomfortable about hands coming too close to it. Many dogs become "hand shy" (or "foot shy") and it is easy to imagine that they have been hit in the past to elicit this behaviour. However, this is not always the case. Some of these dogs flinch in this way because they have been startled and have panicked when people have tried to touch or manhandle them in the past (often as a puppy).

In these circumstances we recommend that the dog wears a comfortable well-fitting harness and builds up happy and pleasurable associations of being touched on the harness by playing Nibbles. The harness enables humans to CONSISTENTLY touch the dog in one place in return for a high value motivator. The result of this is that the dog gradually builds up confidence in being touched as it is not being touched around its head, neck or other sensitive areas, and you often find that these dogs will enjoy playing the "touch my harness" game so much they will run enthusiastically up to strangers (and even vets!) so that the humans will touch their harness and either give them lots of attention, a treat, or an exciting toy to play with.

 

Intruding into the dog's body space

Dogs feel uncomfortable when either other dogs or humans invade their personal body space by either suddenly patting, petting or picking them up - particularly if the dog is not "in the mood". Dogs will often display calming signals such as lip licking, turning their head away, or yawning, when humans hold them too closely or carry them in their arms. This often happens when young puppies are passed from one person to another as they admire the sweet young animal - causing it to become uncomfortable and wary of being picked up or held as it grows older. Breeders of Companion Dog breeds have been specifically breeding dogs for generations to overcome these natural tendencies so that the dogs become dependent and crave the body contact of their human pack. This is because the role of the Companion Dog is to be a substitute "baby" for the human to love and cuddle (hence the large dark eyes and "cute" facial expressions of dogs such as the Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Papillon, Bichon Frise, Pekingese etc).

 

Over exercise / Not enough exercise

As explained in Stimulation section of this webpage, too little or too much exercise can effect the dog's mental abilities. However, the exercise itself can also have an adverse effect on the dog's health, particularly when its body is still growing and developing (up to 12 months of age for most dogs). Puppies in particular need very short sessions of physical exercise - a walk of 10 to 20 minutes of usually low to medium mental stimulation is more than sufficient for youngsters up to the age of about 6 months, gradually building up to an hour by the time it is 12 - 18 months old for most breeds. It breaks my heart to see tiny puppies and young adolescents being asked to go for long walks which not only over-tire the dog's muscles and bone structure, these walks result in long term stress levels and the early onset of degenerative diseases such as arthritis due to the constant pounding of the dog's bone structure as it is growing. Be patient! Let your young dog grow up first AND THEN build up its stamina and fitness to go on those long country walks that you so want to take your dog on. After all we wouldn't dream of making our young children walk or run a marathon would we? We nurture them and wait for them to grow up before asking them to push their bodies to their limits.

 

Too much / Too little training

The same is true when training a dog. When it is young it has almost no ability to concentrate - I use the analogy "To a puppy a second seems like a minute, a minute seems like an hour, an hour seems like a day, a day seems like a week etc". Therefore any training that involves concentration (eg "Wait", "Stay", or remaining in one position for more than a few seconds - such as "Walking to Heel") is very difficult and almost painful for the young dogs to do. Instead they should gradually be taught to do a wide range of behaviors and tricks (see Mind Games for ideas) that will extend the dog's mental abilities and which can be done for longer periods of time when the dog is older and it is able to concentrate better at doing that exercise.

 

Hormones

Whether brought on by being FASEDUP (see Symptoms) or sexual hormones, all have a profound effect on a dog's behaviour and levels of long term stress. Owners of bitches that have not been neutered will notice a change in their dog's character and behaviour both before, during and after its season as the dog's hormones levels fluctuate and can seriously effect the bitch's performance when training or general obedience - after all their minds and noses are concentrating on finding an ideal mate! Entire male dogs, however, have to cope with their natural instincts and urges from the age of about 6 months onwards for the rest of its life - ever at the mercy of a distant enticing scent of an entire bitch's season's cycle (not only when it is in full season). These male dogs also have the added stress of having to mark and "patrol" their territories to make sure that other males do not compete for the same resources (such as neighbouring entire bitches) that they want to own. Many dog behavourists are strongly of the opinion that it is cruel to inflict the torture of male or female dogs being entire. The poor animals never have any rest or peace of mind as their bodies are clamoring to reproduce and are at the mercy of the hormones that are coursing through their bodies. It is far kinder to neuter dogs and allow them to go through life without these sudden fluctuations in their lifestyle and routine, so that they can relax and lower their long term stress levels accordingly.

 

Overweight

Another sad result of humans keeping dogs as pets is that some owners are literally "killing their dogs with kindness" - that is giving them too much food as a way of demonstrating to their dog that they care and love it. As Food as a Motivator explains, dogs love food as treats because it stimulates their sense of smell and taste - not because they are actually hungry. These poor overweight dogs have to live with the excess fat hindering their movement and quality of life, preventing them from exploring their environment and running and jumping for the sheer pleasure of being alive, fit and well. Instead, these poor animals are doomed to a life of waddling around their houses and gardens and being asked to do various sports or training exercises that their bodies just cannot cope with.
PLEASE - when you next get the urge to give your dog a treat, stop and think whether it has really earned it, whether it is too big a portion (5mm square is more than sufficient if given in a Treat Box to satisfy the dog's sense of smell, taste and touch), and whether there is some other Life Reward you could use instead.


"How can I tell if my dog is over weight?" - Move your hands down the dog's rib cage towards its tail. Ideally you should just be able to feel the indentations of its ribs against your fingers. If you can't feel the ribs at all your dog is definitely overweight.

 

Starved or not given enough nutritional food

to satisfy the dog's body requirements resulting in low blood sugar levels which can damage the dog's metabolism and cause stress. This is the other extreme from a dog being overweight. Dogs can be suffering from lack of nutrients in their daily food if the diet is not suitable for its digestion. There are plenty of dog food products around assuring us that they are the ideal recipe to keep your dog in the peak of fitness, however, what they don't tell you is that each dog had different dietary requirements (just like humans or the rest of the animal kingdom) and what suits one dog may even cause allergies and disease in another dog. I have seen profound changes in dogs' quality of life, behaviour and levels of long term stress when their diet is changed (gradually) to a more natural diet which can be monitored to make sure that the dog is not given too much protein (one of the biggest causes of hyperactivity and stress in some groups of dogs), cereals, or man-made additives. Remember, Nature designed animals to eat UNCOOKED food. Humans have evolved to make and use fire. Processed dog food, whether in a can or in a packet, is COOKED so that it will keep "fresh", with the help of various additives.

 

Thirst.

Lack of fresh drinking water can cause a dog to become FASEDUP, particularly those dogs being fed processed dog food which have had the water content "cooked" out of the ingredients. Dogs can also become thirsty from dehydration from exercise, heat, or from disliking the water they have been given to drink (some dogs will only drink rain water, or water from their local area).

 

LACK OF CHOICE OR CONTROL

I want to look at the defintion of the word "SLAVE" and put it in context with pet dogs, free ranging dogs, human prisoners & slaves.

What choices and control do they have in their lives?

 

Oxford definition of the word SLAVE -

  1. A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation
  2. A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something
  3. A device, or part of one, directly controlled by another

Bearing these definitions in mind, let us consider what choices pet dogs have compared to the free ranging dogs (who of course are stressed in very different ways as they have no free access to food, clean water or safety, and have to cope with a huge range of health issues) and humans kept in non-autonomous situations.

 

   

 

DO THEY HAVE A CHOICE?

Your pet dog
(with some examples to consider & answer)
Human
in prison
Human
slave
When he can rest & relax
We accidentally walk the dog even when he is tired or in pain

Depends on
his safety
 
 
Where he wants to rest & relax
We decide where the dog bed is placed

Depends on
his safety
 
 
When he wants to wake
We accidentally wake the dog when he is tired, or we sleep/rest when he wants to go out

Depends on
his safety
 
 
What he wants to eat
We decide

Scavenging

Menu choices?
 
When he wants to eat
We decide

Food scarce
 
 
How much he wants to eat
We decide
 
 
 
When & where to relieve himself We decide, unless there is a dog flap or door open to garden
 
 
 
When he wants to exercise
We decide
 
 
 
Where he wants to exercise
We decide
 
 
 
The type of physical exercise
We decide.
We can accidentally throw a ball, or do cycling, running etc when he is too tired to carry on
 

Gym, sport?
 
Time and length of exercise
We decide
 
 
 
The type of mental exercise
Play

Dogs want to use
their noses - do we let them?
 

Reading, writing, TV
 
Communicating with his own species

Scent is a very valuable way to communicate
 

Other prisoners
 
Escape from percieved threat
We put them on a lead for their safety but this leaves them with no escape route available
 
 
 
Type of work
We decide what dog sport or dog training we give them, and where & when it is done

Trying to stay alive
 
 
Renumeration or appreciation (see point 1 above)
We decide what and when to give it
Trying to stay alive & also reproduce
Parole for good behaviour
 
 

Your pet dog
Human
in prison
Human
slave

 

Maslow's Heirachy of Needs shows what are the building blocks for reducing stress and keeping humans and animals healthy in mind and body. If we empower our pet dogs with more choice about their basic needs (particularly that of their perception of safety) then they are able to lower their long term stress levels and reduce behavioural and physical sypmtoms.

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

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