Stress. It’s All Down to Stress

Stress. Is it cause or is it symptom?

It’s like merry-go-round. Chicken and egg.

Barking for attention = stress = barking for attention

Barking at the neighbour’s dog = stress = barking at the neighbour’s dog

Shredding the mail = stress = shredding the mail

Wild excitement before meals = stress = wild excitement before meals

Barking in late evening when people gathering outside the pub next door = stress = barking in late evening

Attacking the lady while she loads the dishwasher = stress = attacking the lady while she loads the dishwasher

Attacking the lady while she’s preparing his meal = stress = attacking the lady while she’s preparing his meal

Guarding behaviour = stress = guarding behaviour

Growling when approached with lead = stress = growling when approached with lead

Barking non-stop for attention = stress = barking non-stop for attention

Stealing things for attention = stress = stealing things for attention

Wrecking things = stress = wrecking things

Humping her bed = stress = humping her bed

Fear of bangs = stress = fear of bangs

Stomach issues = stress = stomach issues

Pulling on lead, discomfort to her neck = stress = pulling on lead

Obsessive chasing balls and sticks = stress = obsessing

Lunging at dogs = stress = lunging at dogs

Wrecking toy to relieve her stressNoodle barked and barked. She barked because she knew there was food in my bag. The barking got her into a real state.. The increased stress made her – BARK!

Because people eventually for their own sanity give in to barking if she carries on for long enough, she’s in effect been taught to do it.

The couple have had Noodle for eight years, since she was a puppy, and have given her everything a well-loved dog could wish for. There will be a genetic component to her problems.

The common thread running through everything is stress and over-arousal. If we can reduce the eight-year-old Jack Russell’s general stress levels, the resulting behaviours should largely take care of themselves.

In over three hours that I was there Noodle didn’t settle once.

Apart from short sessions spent upstairs to give us and herself a break, she barked for most of the time unless I was focusing my full attention on her, teaching her an incompatible behaviour to barking whilst reinforcing quietness. This is something that will need to be worked on over weeks.

The only real relief for both her and for us was while she determinedly employed herself at dismembering a toy I produced. I could see by the way she was frantically going at it just how much she needed to vent all the pent-up stress inside her.

In order to get Noodles’ stress levels down, anything that stirs her up too much must be reduced in every way possible. Control and management will play a big part in saving Noodle from herself and putting an end to rehearsal of certain behaviours.

We looked at ways they can regularly initiate healthy stimulation to keep her mind busy with stuff that, instead of being arousing, will calm her down and help her to feel fulfilled so that she’s less likely to resort to stealing things, destroying things and guarding things.

We also looked at ways to help her to calm herself down. Chewing, foraging and hunting are all great ways to achieve this.

Her tendency to guarding behaviour will be worked at. She will play fun games that require exchanging objects for something else.

With a dog like this it’s less about dealing with the behaviours themselves beyond putting in management like blocking views out of windows, installing an outside mailbox and using a baby gate, and more about changing the dog’s inner emotions that drive the behaviours.

We discussed how they can make her feel better about the sounds she hears outside – people chatting outside the pub and the dog opposite – by associating them with food. They had only thought about trying to stop her noise, not trying to address the emotions which were causing the noise.

“Surely if you feed her when she’s barking are you not teaching her to bark?”, the man said.

Yes and no.

Next day - in gainful employment!

Next day – in gainful employment!

‘Yes’ if you are feeding to reinforce a behaviour like begging for food and ‘no’ if you are feeding to change an emotion, like the fear which is causing her to bark at sounds.

Feed a behaviour and you make it more likely – that way you can successfully teach a dog to bark. This has in effect happened with the ‘I want something’ barking.

Pair food with an emotion like fear (starting at the mildy uneasy stage where she will still eat) and you reduce the fear and that way reduce the barking too. This way we are dealing with the behaviour at source.  See this ‘Can you reinforce your dog’s fear‘.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Noodle and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

How Can Molly Protect Herself From the Unwated Attentions of a Toddler?

Molly, a five-year old Goldendoodle – cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle, is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dog, and seems to have fitted in remarkably well with being effectively sidelined by the arrival of baby Thomas a year ago. Recently, however, wi Goldendoodle Molly is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dogth his increased mobility, Thomas has been falling on her, lying on her and banging her with toys.

The problem came to a head yesterday. She had started to growl when she had had enough. I’m sure there were other signs that another dog would have recognised immediately that were ignored before she resorted to growling. When she did growl, as had happened one or two times previously, Thomas was immediately whisked away and Molly was told NO. What had she learnt from growling? That it was the only way to get rid of the ‘problem’ (so growling achieved its aim). Yesterday the ‘problem’ – Thomas – came straight back to her and Molly had no choice but to take it one step further; she opened her mouth and slightly caught the baby’s head.

Watching them today, I was surprised at just how much she will tolerate, though she is obviously uneasy. When I first arrived the baby was in bed, and Molly lay relaxing on the floor. As soon as Thomas was brought down she started to show signs of stress which her owner hadn’t noticed before. Sometimes they need pointing out to people.Goldendoodle Molly is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dog

The sitting room is only small, with a gate in the doorway. I watched Molly carefully as she started to pace about, she then licked me which she hadn’t done previously. Then she found herself a bone to chew (chewing releases calming pheromones). She was working so hard at calming herself. Thomas went to touch the bone, but Molly didn’t flinch. What a good girl. She was doing all she possibly could and this was only about fifteen minutes so far of Thomas being in the room. She probably had been enduring this for a long time, doing all she could to both tell him to give her space whilst calming herself, before being driven to snapping. She was probably pushed beyond endurance.

Molly needs to be given sanctuary out of reach of Thomas, the other side of the gate where she still can see them, immediately she shows signs of unease or when Thomas goes to lie on her or to bang her. It’s essential Molly has a means of escape. This isn’t banishment. It has to be done kindly and she can be given something nice to do – like a bone to chew. Children with animals must learn to treat them with respect – as I’m sure Thomas will as he gets a little older. The young lady needs to act appropriately now. The wrong responses in this sort of situation can only make things go downhill, and where does that leave the poor dog?.