Clients come to me when their dogs’ behaviour has become a problem, ranging from pulling on the leash to severe dog bites. Stress impacts behaviour significantly, and often we don’t realize we are responsible for it.
These are some common stressors we may be adding to our dogs’ lives:
- Changes In Routine
Sudden change and impactful change can be scary for our dogs which can lead to stress and anxiety. We can’t avoid changes in life; they do happen. However, there are many instances in which we know ahead of time that life is about to take a turn. Moving, having a baby or preparing to go back to work full time; these are all instances in which we can prepare our dog ahead of time to adapt to gradual change before the more significant event happens. We can take our dog to the new neighbourhood for walks ahead of time to familiarize them with their new environment and possibly visit the home. Baby prep has many components ranging from acclimating and making positive associations to the new baby room, strollers and bouncy devices, sounds of crying (Youtube) and different sleeping arrangements if that will be changing. Using treats and positive reinforcement is critical. If you’re heading back to work and have been spending a lot of time with your dog, you can start executing several small departures a day and gradually build up how long you are gone leading up to your first day back at work.
- Vet Visits and Grooming
Going to the vet or groomer is a huge stressor for many dogs. And it doesn’t have to be. Often the stress of the visit leads owners to avoid taking their pets to the veterinarian. We can make vet visits better. Grooming for many dogs is an unpleasant experience. It’s essential to ask your groomer specifically how your dog acts and inquire if they have to use much restraint or a muzzle. If they do, this is a sign you need to work on making positive associations to grooming and visits. Reducing stress in these situations will result in a dog that has improved health and well being. You can enlist the help of a Fear Free Certified Trainer via https://fearfreehappyhomes.com
Children receive the most bites from dogs, often as a result of stressful interactions. Children often need a lot of coaching to understand that dog behaviour and body language is not the same as humans. They may accidentally stress animals by picking them up too frequently, invading space and confining them with hugs and sometimes even stepping on them. Constant supervision and coaching can help children to understand when our dogs need space. Dogs that live with children who understand when to give them space will have reduced stress levels. An excellent resource for parents is www.familypaws.org
I also offer a free body language course.
The more you can prevent stress in your dog’s life, the longer they will live and the happier they will be!