Is my dog stressed?

Stress is a physiological response to external stimuli that prepares the animal for an impending situation. Anxiety is triggered by external stimuli that can be recognized without prior experience. So how do you set the framework for your dog so that it comes into balance and avoids unnecessary amounts of stress and anxiety?


Dog Stress – How?

The body goes into alarm mode when the animal experiences stress, which is actually a healthy reaction associated with the survival instinct. When the dog detects danger, the stress hormone cortisol is triggered, putting the dog in gear for either fight or flight. If there’s prey, the stress level increases to help the dog better chase and catch the prey. Similarly, the prey is stressed at the sight of the dog, to better prepare for escape.

It can only become pathological, that is, a condition, if the animal is exposed to an amount of cortisol, or stress factors, too often or for too long. This leads to excessive anxiety, aggression, or helplessness. Dogs will always experience stress when learning, as it is a confrontation with new factors and surroundings. So how do we find the right balance for our dog when it comes to learning? At we therefore strive to keep the dog’s stress level as low as possible so that learning is not made more difficult. It is essential for the dog’s learning abilities that as dog owners, we help create calmness as a foundation for learning.

Read our article: How to create calmness in your dog.

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Anxiety – How?

Anxiety is the motivation factor that triggers flight or defense. It is the state of stress where an individual’s perception of a given situation triggers a series of physiological and anatomical processes in order to cope with the situation as best as possible. Despite being considered a motivation – along with aggression – it is one of the main mechanisms that involves the entire dog’s physical and psychological resources.

Like stress, anxiety can lead to pathological behavior when the dog is exposed too often or for too long to anxiety-provoking influences. Anxiety varies in degree and can always be read from the dog’s facial expressions and body language. In addition, it is ALWAYS associated with submissiveness – unless you have taught the dog an alternative when experiencing anxiety. With our online dog training, we focus on relieving the submissiveness of certainty, learning, self-confidence, which replaces submissiveness with dominance and anxiety disappears.

Subscribe to our online universe and learn more about: The basic 6 core exercises

The dog is aware of these stimuli or is genetically programmed to recognize them. For example, wolf pups flee to their dens when they hear specific acoustic signals from adult members of their pack. Anxiety can also be triggered by learned signals and specific locations – if a dog has experienced repeated discomfort in a certain place, for example, the place can trigger anxiety reactions.

Puppy owners should be particularly careful with their own reactions and how they handle a puppy in given situations. For example, before, during, and after a veterinarian consultation, the dog’s sleeping area, train stations, etc. The puppy owner’s reactions quickly associate the puppy with the location and therefore it is best to avoid discomfort. Even certain individuals can be enough to cause anxiety just by the sight of them.

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Reading a dog’s body language and understanding its language

The combination of anxiety, aggression, dominance, and submissiveness are the strongest factors that contribute to a dog’s behavior and thus to its language. Through these behavioral patterns, dogs can communicate with each other very accurately how they are feeling and what their intentions are. This allows dogs living in a pack to avoid serious confrontations that could result in life-threatening injuries. Similarly, humans can avoid unnecessary confrontations with dogs if they understand the dog’s body language.

In conflict situations between dogs and humans, anxiety typically leads to pacifying behavior, where the frightened dog tries to communicate to the threatening one through active submission that it accepts the other’s demands. If the anxiety and submissiveness increase in the given situation, the frightened and submissive dog will respond by passive submission. If this does not have the intended effect of pacifying the other dog and resolving the situation, the dog will flee.

If flight is impossible, active defense will occur through behavior that clearly shows the conflict between submissiveness and aggression. Anxiety is read as aggression when passive/active submission and flight are ineffective, while submissiveness can still be read in the dog’s behavior.

Learn more about dog behavior here: Tips and tricks

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