You know the feeling of stress, which can come on due to everything from misplacing your keys to workplace relationships. When you feel stress you can make changes to alleviate your feelings by meditating, working through a conflict, or speaking to another person, but did you know that dogs often suffer stress in similar ways? Of course, like people, dog personalities can range from neurotic to always relaxed, but unlike people, dogs can have a harder time using ways to alleviate stress. Although, stress is pretty common in dog training, regardless of the training method that is utilized. Just like people, anytime you are learning something new, there will be some stress.
Signs of stress
You can help your furry friend relax by recognizing the signs of stress in dogs. Unlike people, your dog can’t tell you when he or she is confused or just plain maxed out, so look for yawning, scratching, rolling, lip licking, eye avoidance, downing, and sniffing as possible clues that Fido isn’t feeling up to snuff. Sometimes dog owners miss the clearest signs of stress or confuse them with disobedience, often leading to discipline that only stresses your dog out more. If a normally obedient dog stops following directions, starts wandering or generally pulling his or her attention away from you, rather than trying discipline, think about what you are asking for, how you are asking for it, and if it’s time for a break and playtime.
Troubles with Training
In general, training can be stressful for your dog (remember those dreaded words in school: pop quiz). To go back to the school scenario, do you think your teacher wasn’t stressed when he or she had to constantly correct students? Training can be stressful for handler and dog alike, so sometimes your stress can be felt by your dog, exacerbating everyone involved. A dog can be stressed in any form of training (treat, ecollar, prong, etc).
Make it fun!
Make training and activities fun will help your dog’s stress and yours! Especially when a dog seems to be showing signs of stress during a training session, it is essential to turn what seems disciplinarian into a party! Check your pup’s eye contact – is he looking away from you or to you? Don’t start getting into difficult exercises until you can literally see the trust in your dog’s eyes by the fact that he is returning your gaze. Remember eye contact goes two ways, so be sure you are not showing displeasure in your stare.
The key things to remember to make yourself and your dog happy during training sessions are the same things that can help you de-stress in your life. Don’t forget to smile and joke with your dog – he may not understand the words but he will get your light-hearted intent. As you would with a small child, provide lots of encouragement in outgoing ways – clap, cheer, and generally show your dog that you are having fun, and he’s sure to want to join in.
Your dog may not be able to tell you when he or she feel stressed, but by keeping an eye on his or her patterns and any changes to behavior, you will be able to modify your activities to ensure a happy pet. Be sure to maintain authority, as you do want your dog to learn something, but this can be accomplished through fun as much as through physical discipline. Help yourself and your dog relax by learning to recognize signs of stress in your furry friend.
Take A Break!
Remember, many times that if you are getting upset and stressed, it will have a direct impact on your dog getting upset and stressed. If you find yourself getting frustrated during training, TAKE A BREAK! If you find the dog getting frustrated and stress, GIVE THEM A BREAK!
What many people (and trainers) do not realize is that when you are stressed or frustrated, it impacts the dog. When the dog is stressed or frustrated, it impacts you (trainer/handler) and training/results will only decline from there. So, if you notice that either party is getting stressed or frustrated, take a break!
Off Leash K9 Training