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Are we over stressing our dogs?

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I have recently been lurking on a couple of "reactive dog" BB's, (not sure I have a reactive dog, but that is another thread) I have, though, been reading some thought provoking material.

 

"Turid teaches us how to recognize what we are doing in our homes and relationships with dogs that cause stress. Many things will surprise you. For example, the misconception that dogs need tons of exercise. Dogs in the wild, as well as animals in the wild, do NOT exercise for fun! They hunt together cooperatively for a very short amount of time early in the morning. This may last less than 25 minutes. They may not hunt again for 2 or 3 days. The rest of the day, they eat and do nearly NOTHING. They rest, eat, rest, change positions and may go out for a very short amount of time to sniff and explore at a slow and relaxed pace, before they soon return for more laying around doing nothing.

 

This idea that we have to take our dogs on fast paced long walks every day is not scientifically based. It's not the natural behavior of dogs. Mental stimulation, however is great. Play more hide and seek games with them. Bring home old cardboard boxes and hide toys or treats in them. Let them play with and shred the boxes. Take them to new places to explore and sniff, not run and chase. We tend to overdo everything. Over exercise, attending too many training classes, short leashes that don't allow your dog to naturally sniff and explore, these are all things that CREATE stress. Far too much emphasis is placed on control with your dog. A well balanced dog who feels secure, safe, and has low stress doesn't need all this control. They just enjoy being with you and are naturally calm and relaxed. "

 

Now from what I gather this trainer does not support dog sport in general, but I find much of what she has to say interesting, especially the whole control thing which I bolded.

 

What think you?

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I dunno...

 

When I was a kid and we all let our dogs run loose all over the neighborhood, the dogs would lie around a good bit, but they would also be out roaming the neighborhood a good bit - and my dog went everywhere we went, even if we were on our bikes. In that freedom, there wasn't as much straight-line walking, true... but there was a lot more opportunity to explore the world at will, when the impulse struck. If some other dog came by, the dogs could go visit and frolic when they chose to.

 

So, yeah, I guess the "natural" thing would be for our dogs to have freedom to make short trips and wander around in our neighborhoods - if there weren't busy streets and dog officers and all. Given that they can't wander at will, I think providing them with an hour or two of off-leash walking in the woods is a good compromise. And if that's not an option, I think a good jog to shake loose the tightly-wound energy of the day is OK, too.

 

The sheer joy on my dog's face when I pick up his leash tells me that his walks are a good part of his day - not a chore or a stressor he feels he must endure.

 

Mary

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One stress that wild dogs have, that domestic dogs do not, is that wild dogs must catch their food if they want to survive. They need to rest and be prepared to exert every ounce of energy to catch their next meal.

Since our dogs are fed daily, and don't feel the stress of survival, I think regular exercise to burn off the excess energy is a good thing.

Glenn

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I think if we all lived on huge pieces of land like I believe Turid does then we could all have less emphasis on control and similar ideas, but we don't so it's a necessary evil. That being said, my dogs don't get that much exercise (a 1.5 mile walk once or twice a week, agility classes once/wk, an hour long hike once per week, and the rest of the time it's just whatever activity they want to do inside) and yet for all intents and purposes appear to be quite content. All three are herding mixes and yet I don't have any of the neuroses you hear about from lack of exercise and are happy to go go go when needed.

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About a year or so ago, I happened upon a group that follows that kind of approach with their dogs and, like you, I found it to be extremely interesting.

 

While I decided that I don't quite agree altogether with their approach, I did adopt some pieces of it and found them to be very good.

 

I've found that among folks in dog sports the conventional wisdom when it comes to dogs who get stressed is to expose them to those stressors more and more to desensitize them. These people seemed to hold the opposite point of view and would say that the best thing to do is to reduce, if not eliminate, exposure to those stressors.

 

I decided to try this with Dean since exposing him to the environment that stressed him was certainly not working. So, for example, I still took him to Agility class, but I limited his exposure by keeping him in the car with music playing when it was not his turn to run. I had someone catch the teeter, so it wouldn't bang, etc.

 

To my surprise, it actually helped him. Over time, his stress levels in that situation decreased and he began to gain confidence.

 

So, I definitely find pieces of their approach to be very helpful. That doesn't mean I'm against desensitization - it absolutely has its place and I use it a lot. I guess I learned that sometimes limiting exposure really is a better way to go with some dogs in some situations, so I consider it as a tool now.

 

And, I have to say that I think somewhat as they do when it comes to the control thing. Obviously that doesn't mean I don't think that dogs need training and structure, but that too much emphasis on training and structure can create stress. Again, I fell into this myself at one point, and I really learned from it. When I let go of some of that control and started letting the dogs just be dogs most of the time, that stress melted away and the quality of our training skyrocketed. Again, that doesn't mean I let them run roughshod and do whatever they please however they want. Maybe it's more precise to say that I provide them with safe contexts in which they can do whatever they please (normal dog things like exploring, sniffing, watching the world go by on a summer day, playing together, running, chasing, etc.) and within that framework, I'm not concerned about control so they can just be dogs. Obviously, anything that poses a danger to the dogs, myself, or anyone else is an area where control is needed, so that's not what I'm talking about.

 

Anyway, you wanted thoughts and those are mine. :rolleyes: I've found a bit of study of their approach useful and helpful, even though I don't go in for it wholesale.

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Wolves hunting require a tremendous energy output in terms of calories.

 

Also it is true, if they fail at hunting, or resistance to disease or parasites- they die

50%- 75% the first year of life.

 

They also are exposed to territorial behaviour from other packs.

 

Young wolves leave the pack the first or second year of life. Traveling great distances.

 

A packs territory in the arctic can cover up to 1000 square miles.

 

This is because a meal is harder to find further north.

 

A pack further south will travel less distances but still hundreds of square miles.

 

They patrol and mark their territories.

 

 

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Painted dogs- cape hunting dogs- Are similar

 

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Coyotes and foxes cover much less territory because their feeding behaviour is different. Their prey is smaller and doesn't migrate.

 

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Domestic feral dogs- I do not know their behaviour. My guess is they linger by human habitation.

 

 

 

 

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I am not sure if this is a comparison between dogs and wolves- But they are very different.

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This idea that we have to take our dogs on fast paced long walks every day is not scientifically based. It's not the natural behavior of dogs.

We don't do "fast paced long walks"; our morning walk has ample opportunity for sniffing and marking. They need to check out their territory and that isn't done with a strict heel and fast pace. Once they're home, it's breakfast -- no hunting required and after breakfast, they are well content to laze and nap. Alert enough to sound alarm if someone come to the door, but otherwise very relaxed until it's time to go to the park in the evening. This is how stressed Rhys bach gets during the day:

p1040138.jpg

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When I let go of some of that control and started letting the dogs just be dogs most of the time, that stress melted away and the quality of our training skyrocketed. Again, that doesn't mean I let them run roughshod and do whatever they please however they want. Maybe it's more precise to say that I provide them with safe contexts in which they can do whatever they please (normal dog things like exploring, sniffing, watching the world go by on a summer day, playing together, running, chasing, etc.) and within that framework, I'm not concerned about control so they can just be dogs. Obviously, anything that poses a danger to the dogs, myself, or anyone else is an area where control is needed, so that's not what I'm talking about.

I agree. (Can you hear the thunder rumbling now, and the electricity in the air before the lightning strike? :D:rolleyes: )

 

I am lucky that I do have a safe place for the dogs to go out and hang around and just be dogs. But I have to admit that the multiple walks we take on the back of the property (unfenced) are the highlight of their day (short of actually working). I require manners and expect certain expectations to be met (including that they all try to get along), but in general, I have a pretty laissez-faire attitude toward the dogs. Even in training for stockwork, I don't use a lot of command-and-control, but instead try to shape things by making it easy for the dog to choose to do the right thing vs. the wrong thing. I teach tricks for fun, but mostly the dogs are just allowed to be.

 

Honestly, I look at what Flyer summarized as being consistent with what we often tell new dog owners here: tons of exercise isn't necessary and could be counterproductive. Mental stimulation is always good. As others have pointed out, our dogs don't need to conserve their energy for the next hunt, and the quality of the food that's available to them means that they likely have energy to burn. Being allowed to burn at least some of that energy in play or non-directed activities (i.e., when the dog is not being told what to do) is essential, IMO.

 

Of course for me, it's part of my personality not to be the type to drill. I can't stand it. Even in a training situation I try to set up practical work (I know this isn't possible with some types of training) so that neither I nor the dog gets bored. I think that's part of the reason that I have never gravitated to some activities--I just don't have the mental make-up to want to go over and over and over a thing. I don't like it and so I've always felt that it's just as likely that whatever animal I'm working with (dog or horse, for the most part) probably feels the same way, especially since I at least could be expected to understand the need for drilling, whereas an animal cannot (drilling = stress). Or maybe I'm just getting old....

 

J.

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I agree. (Can you hear the thunder rumbling now, and the electricity in the air before the lightning strike? :D:rolleyes: )

 

Is that a pig that just flew by my window? :D :D :D

 

Of course for me, it's part of my personality not to be the type to drill. I can't stand it. Even in a training situation I try to set up practical work (I know this isn't possible with some types of training) so that neither I nor the dog gets bored. I think that's part of the reason that I have never gravitated to some activities--I just don't have the mental make-up to want to go over and over and over a thing. I don't like it and so I've always felt that it's just as likely that whatever animal I'm working with (dog or horse, for the most part) probably feels the same way, especially since I at least could be expected to understand the need for drilling, whereas an animal cannot (drilling = stress). Or maybe I'm just getting old....

 

I'm actually with you on that, too. Even in doing some of those other activities. :D

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What think you?

 

I think Turid has a lot to share about dog body language but find her stance on how to properly live with a dog to be one person's opinion. Years ago, she was a guest author on a Yahoo group and blamed everything that could possibly go wrong with your dog (health, temperament, behavior) on too much "rushing." Training was bad. Playing with your dog was bad. Fetch was really bad. Agility was horrible. By bad, really bad and horrible, I mean anything you did more than one or two times or with any "rushing" (there was a bit of a language barrier). I don't believe she ever addressed working stock, but I can't see how that would be good in the World According to Turid. Basically, if you didn't live a life where you and your dog only ever ambled slowly around or did anything differently, then you were risking your dog's physical well-being and emotional health.

 

I didn't buy her insistence on a bovine approach to living with dogs then and still don't. Doesn't mean people can't or don't contribute to dog's behavioral and health problems. But I don't think we can ignore breeding, chemicals everywhere in the environment, processed foods, etc. when it comes to something like your dog getting sick and blame the owner for the fact they played fetch or took the dog running or god forbid, participated in a sport of some sort. I found that offensive.

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And, I have to say that I think somewhat as they do when it comes to the control thing. Obviously that doesn't mean I don't think that dogs need training and structure, but that too much emphasis on training and structure can create stress. Again, I fell into this myself at one point, and I really learned from it. When I let go of some of that control and started letting the dogs just be dogs most of the time, that stress melted away and the quality of our training skyrocketed. Again, that doesn't mean I let them run roughshod and do whatever they please however they want. Maybe it's more precise to say that I provide them with safe contexts in which they can do whatever they please (normal dog things like exploring, sniffing, watching the world go by on a summer day, playing together, running, chasing, etc.) and within that framework, I'm not concerned about control so they can just be dogs. Obviously, anything that poses a danger to the dogs, myself, or anyone else is an area where control is needed, so that's not what I'm talking about.

 

I agree. Too much training, or too much focus on training can really create a stressed out dog. When we do walks, they don't have to be at my side but i'm not getting dragged around the block either. I think the best way (for myself and my dogs anyway) is to take a little bit from every point of view. They must sit and stay before we walk out the front door and i'm the one who goes out first but that's about where the "leadership" and "control" end. My dogs walk ahead of me on walks and they sniff and mark what they want. As long as they aren't pulling, i'm fine with it. I don't think that makes me a bad owner or anything like that at all.

 

I let the dogs up on the bed or the couch as long as they aren't begging and i invite them up. I'll slip them some stuff off my plate every once and a while. And i sometimes enjoyed being bounced on when i come home from work or classes. For most people, dogs are more than just animals to be trained. They're valued members of the family who have their own personalities and quirks.

 

My dogs get about 2 hours of exercise at the dog park when i'm not at work. They LOVE it. They get to run around and be free. But during the day before we leave... they're asleep for the most part. We walk in the morning, get some breakfast and that's about it for them until 3 or 4.

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Flyer, is this your own summarization or did you pull it from somewhere? If so, could you post the link? I'd like to read the source. I really believe that Turid has a lot of good to say about dogs and the canine/human relationship. I highly agree that some people do stress their dogs out big time. I am also willing to bet that a lot of it happens in sport arenas. But a lot of that stress probably comes from lack of knowledge on the owners part. For example, a lady and her dog were just in the same obedience class as me. This dog (a cockapoo or something) was afraid of other dogs. Not hugely, but she was still a little unsure and generally nervous. When the dog became nervous she started barking frantically. The owner did nothing to alleviate the stress. She did not remove the dog from the situation, she did not try to desensitize the dog, but she would hold it's mouth shut and say 'no'. IMO this particular owner was making her dogs stress much worse and the owners only fault really was lack of knowledge.

 

I have a reactive dog and I've worked really hard with her. She's come a long way, but I still do not bring her into situations, unless they are highly controlled, that I know will stress her out. I don't believe I made my dog this way, I believe she came this way and I was smart enough to realize she needed help to be comfortable and relaxed. She does not need to take long walks and a ton of exercise. She is totally happy to laze around the house all day and play games with me when I come home. We do go for walks, but she is more confident when all 4 of us are together, so that's when we walk her. So, I don't really believe what was said about how 'we' are the only reasons our dogs are the way they are. Some dogs are just wired different, or have some bad gene pop up that makes them fearful or whatever. You can't argue the science in that one.

 

I do kind of disagree with the wolf pack comparison somewhat as well. From my experience with feral dogs, they are scavengers. They rarely form packs (some males do) and for the most part, they do not hunt. They will stay close enough to humans to find good garbage so they don't have to. They are fairly active as in, they roam a lot, they will move so they are far enough from people to stay within their comfort zone and they do spend a lot of time foraging for food. They are definitely less active when the weather is extreme. Very cold in the winter or very hot in the summer, but otherwise constantly on the move and on the lookout. Again, that's just what I've seen in the feral dogs I've been exposed to.

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Flyer, is this your own summarization or did you pull it from somewhere? If so, could you post the link? I'd like to read the source. I really believe that Turid has a lot of good to say about dogs and the canine/human relationship. I highly agree that some people do stress their dogs out big time. I am also willing to bet that a lot of it happens in sport arenas. But a lot of that stress probably comes from lack of knowledge on the owners part. For example, a lady and her dog were just in the same obedience class as me. This dog (a cockapoo or something) was afraid of other dogs. Not hugely, but she was still a little unsure and generally nervous. When the dog became nervous she started barking frantically. The owner did nothing to alleviate the stress. She did not remove the dog from the situation, she did not try to desensitize the dog, but she would hold it's mouth shut and say 'no'. IMO this particular owner was making her dogs stress much worse and the owners only fault really was lack of knowledge.

 

I have a reactive dog and I've worked really hard with her. She's come a long way, but I still do not bring her into situations, unless they are highly controlled, that I know will stress her out. I don't believe I made my dog this way, I believe she came this way and I was smart enough to realize she needed help to be comfortable and relaxed. She does not need to take long walks and a ton of exercise. She is totally happy to laze around the house all day and play games with me when I come home. We do go for walks, but she is more confident when all 4 of us are together, so that's when we walk her. So, I don't really believe what was said about how 'we' are the only reasons our dogs are the way they are. Some dogs are just wired different, or have some bad gene pop up that makes them fearful or whatever. You can't argue the science in that one.

 

I do kind of disagree with the wolf pack comparison somewhat as well. From my experience with feral dogs, they are scavengers. They rarely form packs (some males do) and for the most part, they do not hunt. They will stay close enough to humans to find good garbage so they don't have to. They are fairly active as in, they roam a lot, they will move so they are far enough from people to stay within their comfort zone and they do spend a lot of time foraging for food. They are definitely less active when the weather is extreme. Very cold in the winter or very hot in the summer, but otherwise constantly on the move and on the lookout. Again, that's just what I've seen in the feral dogs I've been exposed to.

 

Sorry I forgot to link:

 

http://www.oprah.com/community/thread/129295

 

http://www.turid-rugaas.no/UKFront.htm

 

I have only skimmed the responses so far. Will get back to this later this a.m.

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I think this last portion from the original post helps put this all in context a little bit better. Helps explain where the author is coming from.

 

"Stress is ruining our dogs and we don't even know it. It can be the source of chasing things, peeing in the house, pulling on leash, obsessions, misdiagnosed aggression, inability to enjoy the company of other dogs, and the list goes on. When dogs are forced to deal with stress on a continual basis, it causes chronic stress and affects their immune system. Behavioral problems are then accompanied by physical problems such as ear infections and allergies. These are especially common for dogs in American homes where we put little value on rest and . We rush, we race from one place to another, we are overcommittted. This constant fast paced lifestyle contributes to our own stress. It affects our physical and emotional health. It's time to see that our lifestyles are creating dangerous stress levels in our dogs, thus destroying their physical and emotional health too. We should all slow down and put more emphasis on rest and mental stimulation, and less on racing and chasing the next thing."

 

This is just a different spin on a lot of things that are repeated over and over here. Leash frustration is due to stress, a lot of fear issues are amplified by stress and a lot of behaviour issues are worsened by stress. If you are worried about something or are nervous, your dog will sense it and it can rub off on them. Stress can, in turn, create health issues just the same as it does in humans. But not all of these issues are caused by stress and stress alone and they forget to take genetics into the equation. And then, to me, it comes back down to lack of knowledge on the owners part to properly deal with the issues at hand.

My two cents.

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But not all of these issues are caused by stress and stress alone and they forget to take genetics into the equation. And then, to me, it comes back down to lack of knowledge on the owners part to properly deal with the issues at hand.

My two cents.

 

One of the benefits that I really found from doing a bit of study on this point of view was becoming more attuned to the signs of stress in dogs. This is something that I was almost completely unaware of before. I ended up getting a book called "Stress in Dogs" by Martina Scholz. I found many of her perspectives and suggestions to be rather extreme, but the chapter on recognizing signs of stress was excellent - a real eye opener. That part of the book was worth the purchase, even though I didn't find the rest of the book useful.

 

I definitely agree with you, Ms.DaisyDuke, that genetics and the total picture of what is going on in the dog's life need to be taken into account. At the same time, I've found that most people are genuinely surprised when it is suggested that they consider stress as part of a dog's problem, and to consider reducing stress and/or helping the dog learn to better cope with stress as a part of the solution.

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At the same time, I've found that most people are genuinely surprised when it is suggested that they consider stress as part of a dog's problem, and to consider reducing stress and/or helping the dog learn to better cope with stress as a part of the solution.

 

Ya, that's pretty much what happened to me! I was very surprised when I started dealing with my dogs issues. I really had no clue how to deal with her and her fears/anxieties or that stress could even be a factor. Once I figured out what her triggers were and well, what triggers were and how to properly teach her how to cope with them life was much easier.

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So many good thoughts here.

 

I too found this trainer's position extreme and actually outright disagree with the no dog sports perspective, but like many others have said there is much to be gained from understanding the stressors that do affect our dogs and how to help them with that. I too have been finding that a balance of backing off from the stressful situation as in working under threshold and slowly moving toward the cause of anxiety when I see my pup is ready has been helping.

 

That said I have also found that when I give Colt a verbal correction which I do now, he hardly ever sulks anymore and gets his act together, as in stops barking and greets politely. He does not look tense any longer. Reading all the reactive dog posts I think I have not given him enough credit. He does not seem to be as "reactive" as most of the dogs I read about. Hence my putting up the other thread "define Reactive dog".

 

As far as dog sport goes, sport is stressful for humans too, both physically and mentally depending on how competitive one is, but I believe the benefits of fitness, endorphins and confidence boosted through accomplishment over weighs any of the negative for humans. However dogs and horses are brought into these things by people and so as RootBeer points out I think it behooves us as handlers to be aware of our dogs stress limits and handle accordingly.

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In my desire to better understand my dogs and their needs I have been reading lots. In Temple Grandin's book "Animals Make us Human" I have found the most balanced view of dog ownership I have encountered so far.

 

She basically says that in order for dogs to be mentally fit they need social contact, games and play with their owner, and long walks that arouse their seeking system.

 

Her theory is dogs need play because they remain juvenile all their lives unlike wolves. They need seeking because they are descended from nomadic wolves that get a lot of mental stimulation making lots of decisions and of course the social aspect is important as they are pack animals.

 

I walk my dogs off leash every morning for an hr. or more on wooded trails. This takes care of seeking. We do fifteen minutes or so a day of obedience/trick training in the late aft. for mental stimulation and then play ball at the river in the evenings for play.

 

A side note but still within topic: TG put Cesar Milan into perspective for me. Her view of him and his training methods is also the most balanced I have read. I am not an advocate of his training, though I see his talent and skill. She explains that he grew up with large packs of dogs. She believes that once you have three dogs you have a pack, which changes the way dogs relate and so changes what they require from their owner. TG states that most pet dogs grow up a single dog or with another and that that constitutes a family dynamic. Mom, Dad and sibs. No alpha, simply leadership and parental guidance. The sibs will seldom jockey for position, but bring a third dog into the group and now you will have an alpha/omega hierarchy and this is where Milan's attitude can be appropriate. The dogs need an alpha leader from their human. TG references Patricia MacConnell throughout her dog chapter. One gets the sense that she recommends this approach but that she sees some benefit in Milan as well. Of course this is how I read her.

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That's a great review of Grandin's book Flyer. I haven't yet read it and I was rather disappointed in her comments related to dogs in Animals in Translation, but it sounds as if I might enjoy this book.

 

J.

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That's a great review of Grandin's book Flyer. I haven't yet read it and I was rather disappointed in her comments related to dogs in Animals in Translation, but it sounds as if I might enjoy this book.

 

J.

 

Were her comments very different than these?

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Is that a pig that just flew by my window? :rolleyes::D :D

I'm actually with you on that, too. Even in doing some of those other activities. :D

 

:D :D :D

 

I am so happy to have provided a place for you two to agree. I learn so much from each of you, even though you are often at odds.

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I read it ages ago and it was only a small section that related to dogs, but I don't remember those comments being all that similar to what you've described.

 

J.

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I read it ages ago and it was only a small section that related to dogs, but I don't remember those comments being all that similar to what you've described.

 

J.

 

Interesting. We all grow I suppose and perhaps she discovered PM since then.

 

Hey Julie, do you think that because one lives on a farm one might have lower stressed dogs in general than suburban and urban folk? It seems to me this would be so and if it is then I wonder if that might be why the behaviorist model has become so prevalent as it is necessary for us to help our dogs deal with this more often? Not sure myself, just wondering out loud.

 

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

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This is long - but it's a complex thought, so...

 

I wonder how much stress fallout our dogs are catching from us, their owners. I have an anxiety disorder and I have seen the effects of my anxiety on my animals over the years. Ironically, the more I tried to cover up my feelings of anxiety by smiling, speaking in a chirpy voice as if nothing was wrong, the more my pets mirrored my underlying anxiety. Through working with a therapist in an equine-assisted therapy setting I learned why this was so.

 

The example usually given is one of lions and their prey animals, like antelope or zebras. A full-fed lioness can come sauntering by a herd of zebra and the zebra, while keeping an eye on her will continue to graze, and let her walk by very close without much fuss or bother. But that same lioness when hungry can saunter by with a put-on air of unconcern, sizing up the relative weakness of the individual zebra - and the zebra pick up the deception. They are nervous and shuffle their feet, roll their eyes or just put up their tails and flee.

 

The thing that's most interesting about this, is that when the very first zebra spies the pretending-not-to-be hungry lioness, he doesn't need to make a big fuss to transmit his finding to the rest of the herd. Instead, it's like an electric current will instantly make it's way through the herd, causing them to look around for the threat. Then they will begin to snort, stamp and stare at the lioness on full alert and ready to flee at the first sign of an attack.

 

The reason why equine assisted therapy works is that whether you are aware of it or not, if you are repressing feelings of anger, anxiety, fear or other "negative" states, the therapy horse can read these feelings in you. Being unhaltered and free to move about, the horse will tend to maintain some distance between you and itself. The amazing thing is, if you search your feelings and realize that that "negative" state is simmering just below your surface feelings - if you accept the fact that they exist - the horse will become more receptive to your overtures of friendliness. The mere fact that you accept that you are in fact having these disturbing feelings will be reassuring to the horse - you are no longer approaching it with a potentially dangerous (to it) projection of deceptive intent. (your divided, underlying state of mind and your surface friendliness and wish to come close.)

 

We have probably all had the experience of seeing a stray dog - say, one with a visible collar and tag. We smile, we act friendly, we put on our best non-threatening mannerisms only to see the dog tuck tail and scamper away in alarm. Following this dog we see it walk right up to another person, tail wagging timorously, but with a will-you-be-my-friend look in its eyes. That person - unaware of the dog's "stray-ness" and unconcerned for his safety can often touch him, take hold of his collar and the dog will be perfectly calm. Calm, because he senses no underlying (and scary) feelings of fear (for his safety).

 

It seems natural and considerate to hide our "negative" feelings from our pets - after all, we don't want to burden them with our big bummer - but this deception often has the opposite effect of the one we hoped for. Our dogs pick up our disguised angst and retreat in confusion from it. Now when I have a full-blown panic attack I don't attempt to hide it. I tell the dog I'm scared and probably seem weird to her. The net effect is that after coming over to give me a sympathetic slurp in the face or two, she goes on about her business, and doesn't "catch" my anxious state from me.

 

We are trained from birth to conceal negative feelings and to some extent to hide our fears. No wonder or dogs are confused and stressed by us! They must find us very complicated and confusing.

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This is long - but it's a complex thought, so...

 

I wonder how much stress fallout our dogs are catching from us, their owners. I have an anxiety disorder and I have seen the effects of my anxiety on my animals over the years. Ironically, the more I tried to cover up my feelings of anxiety by smiling, speaking in a chirpy voice as if nothing was wrong, the more my pets mirrored my underlying anxiety. Through working with a therapist in an equine-assisted therapy setting I learned why this was so.

 

<snip>

 

We are trained from birth to conceal negative feelings and to some extent to hide our fears. No wonder or dogs are confused and stressed by us! They must find us very complicated and confusing.

 

I agree completely and it was horses that taught me this as well. You always hear don't let the horse know you are afraid. You must be the boss. Even known to be anxious horses were relaxed with me very quickly, though I had often had anxiety born of not always feeling safe in certain situations. I was never afraid of the horses, but learning to jump, taking a horse out to the trails for the first time, mounting a youngster its first time, etc. Horses just accepted this. I have ridden many peoples' "problem" horses without encountering problems.

 

Must say that I, too, am very uncomfortable around incongruent folk.

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