Friday, August 23, 2013

Stress in Dogs 102

Dogs have stress for a variety of reasons, just like we humans.  What is stressful for one dog, will be fine for another.  Its all highly individual, although there are some things that are going to be universally stressful.

Stress is unavoidable.  There are two types, eustress and distress.  Eustress is moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being positive for the individual.  It is not defined by the source of stress, but rather by the individual's perception of it.  Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping is distress.  The body responds in the same way to both distress or eustress, so both are equally taxing to the body and cumulative in effect. 

You will note some things on this list of causes that you might think are a good thing, especially from the dog's point of view, but that can actually become a significant source of stress for the dog.

Causes of Stress
  • Disorders Affecting the Dog's Functions – such as lack of mobility or cardiovascular or kidney problems.
  • Disorders Affecting the Dog's Senses – deafness, blindness, limited sense of touch, where the dog must constantly compensate for deficiencies.
  • Disorders Connected to Temporary or Chronic Pain – injuries, blood loss, infection, trauma, shock, arthritis, hip dysplasia, etc.
  • Hypersexuality – due to pent up sexual drive, especially when around bitches in season.
  • Female Dogs in Season – from warding off overbearing males.
  • Lack of Sleep – insufficient places to withdraw or when need for rest is not respected.  Dogs need 17 hours of rest daily.
  • State of Exhaustion – from lack of sleep, over-exertion during walks, dog sports or games.
  • Sudden Changes – such as moving or new addition to the family.
  • Grief – due to loss of their person, other animals they lived with or playmates.
  • Threat – real or imaginary, the body goes into a state of alarm.
  • Expectations Anxiety – when dog doesn't understand what is expected or cannot assess the situation.
  • Failure – dog is unsuccessful, fails at task, and is repeatedly frustrated.
  • Harsh Training Methods – can frighten and/or hurt the dog, from severe or uncomfortable training equipment, as can harshly spoken commands and stiff body postures.
  • Agility, Dog Dancing, Obedience Training – despite positive reputation, the pace and high performance pressure can stress the dog.
  • Schutzhund / Protection Work – physical strain and psychological pressure.
  • Service Dog Work – higher incidence of kidney, cardiovascular and digestive problems, common to individuals (all species) with chronic stress issues.
  • Puppy Play Groups – when inappropriately managed/supervised can cause short term stress as well as long term behavior concerns.
  • Play is Too Rough and Wild – either with other dogs or people, leads to raised arousal and in particular when the dog is not able/allowed to withdraw.
  • Violence, Anger, Irritation, and Aggression Around the Dog – arguments, stress and angry voices within his family and/or daily environment.
  • Children – unsupervised and engaging in inappropriate play, as well as wild, loud play and use of noisy toys.
  • Too Much Coming And Going at Home – a home with a constantly revolving door and ongoing selection of strangers and "friends".
  • Too Much Noise – interferes with dog's need for rest.
Gimme here:  I know many of my dog friends are afraid of loud noises, but I am not.  I'm not even afraid of a helicopter flying low a hundred feet over my head.  But that doesn't mean I'd want to listen to that racket all the time -- it would interfere with my beauty sleep.  I'm just saying...
  • Too Much Emotional Excitement – positive or negative, too many unknown situations, even when not dangerous, exploring new things and processing stimuli can be exhausting.
  • Hunting Games and Races – too much of games that simulate the prey sequence of detect prey, tracking/stalking, attack, and kill, results in release of adrenaline.  Stick and ball games result in repeated adrenaline release.
  • Un-doglike Behavior – unpredictable and unexpected behavior by others, possibly due to misunderstanding by human of dog behavior.  For instance belief the dog was "being dominant". 
  • Discomfort – hunger, thirst, cold, warmth, noise, lack of possibilities to relieve themselves.
  • Bad Weather – thunder and lightening, storms, heavy rain, hail and natural disasters.
  • Boarding Kennels – unusual surroundings, strange smells, separation of owner, and change to familiar routine.
  • Veterinary Visit – dog already feels bad, smells of fear from other animals, unpleasant past experiences, owner anxiety, staff intruding into dog's personal space, and possibly painful treatment.
  • Grooming Salon – different noises, staff intruding into dog's personal space, not enjoying grooming procedures, time spent on the table and left by owner.
  • Exhibitions / Fairs – generally chaotic environment, over-stimulation, and lengthy travel.
  • Car Journeys – many dogs find car travel stressful.
  • Reduced Possibility of Movement – time spent confined by kennel or on a chain, or only walking on leash.
  • Loneliness / Boredom – from being left alone too much.
  • Separation Anxiety – whether in strange environments or at home, many dogs find being left an anxious experience.  The test of being left with a stranger for mere minutes in the CGC test is a commonly failed exercise.
  • High Population Concentration – too many dogs in too small a space without enough opportunity to withdraw and where individual space is not respected.
  • Bad Canine Mix in One Household – dogs that are not compatible, even if just having to repeatedly get out of another dog's way.
  • Dog Suffocated By The Owner's Emotional Needs – from being treated as little humans and then ignored, a virtual hot/cold emotional shower.
  • Too Frequent or Too Little Physical Contact – little dogs get handled too much (lifted up, kissed and stroked), while others get almost no stroking or affirming touch.
  • Too Many or Almost No Rules in Daily Life – dogs that are constantly ordered around get stressed, as do dogs missing security or routine in their daily life.
  • Bad Dog-Human Suitability – poor pairings where the dog cannot fulfill human requirements and where dog's needs are not met.

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