Stress wreaks havoc on brains and bodies. The list of signs of how stress affects mammalian brains is long. These signs include physical changes; headaches, nausea, body aches. Emotional changes such as; depression, anxiety, agitation. And cognitive changes; confused thinking and poor memory. People can talk about how they feel and what they are experiencing. Our dogs are limited in how they can communicate how they are feeling. It’s up to us to pay attention to their body ‘language’ and use the species correct interpretation of their behavior.
When is the last time you entertained the thought that a stressed out dog might have a headache? They too can have headaches and feel generally lousy. What about a dog who is stressed and experiencing confused thinking? Can we allow them this possibility and rather than respond with frustration and anger for their ‘disobedience’ consider how we might lower their stress to help improve their behavior? When someone tells me that their fearful dog doesn’t play two thoughts come to mind. Either the human’s definition of play is different from the dog’s. Play doesn’t have to be romping and tussling with another dog, or chasing a frisbee. Play can be the willingness to engage in training, running, exploring. Or the dog is depressed and scared. We don’t play either if we’re depressed or scared.
Lower stress however you can. Speak to a vet about behavioral medications to help with this if you do not see positive changes in a fearful dog’s behavior. The longer you wait, the longer a dog suffers.
This post was written for Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society. Click here to donate!