Your dog has big emotions and you feel alone. You aren't alone!
Lots of people bring a puppy into their family and everything is wonderful, you conquer each puppy's expected behaviour and you're doing great, they are happy, go lucky, walks are effortless and everything is going smoothly.
One day they suddenly begin retreating, freeze or lunge, growl and snarl at another dog. They suddenly don't want to play with the dog that they have previously played with.
Your world is shrinking, people are looking at you or saying unkind things, you want to run home. Your dog is perfect at home, why are they behaving like this?
Why can't people see how wonderful and loving they are at home? You now go for walks in the dark and as early and late as you possibly can.
They are reacting to passer bys through the window, they follow you everywhere and seem to be developing separation anxiety.
What is going on?
Dogs can develop fearful behaviours during adolescence due to a combination of factors, including hormonal changes, socialisation experiences, and environmental influences. Of course they can also display aggressive behaviours too, we are looking at the behaviours as emotions and what drives the emotions to develop the behaviours, moving away from the term "reactive" as reactive is simply too broad and doesn't look to a dog as an individual.
During adolescence, which usually occurs between 5 months to 2 years of age, dogs experience an increase in hormones like testosterone and oestrogen which can cause them to become more anxious and fearful.
In addition, if a dog was not adequately socialised during their early developmental stages, they may become fearful or aggressive towards people and other dogs. This can lead to behaviours like barking, lunging, or growling. Conversely they can also become frustrated and hyperactive if they were over socialised.
Environmental factors such as encountering stressors like loud noises, strangers, or unfamiliar environments can also contribute to fearful behaviour during adolescence.
It's very easy for hormones to be blamed and when people typically think of hormones they think teenagers as in humans.
But what does this broad term "hormones" actually mean because it doesn't just cover testosterone and oestrogen, it actually covers the brain, the development and growth of the brain.
The brain doesn't just grow in size, neural pathways are constantly being developed which passes on information to different areas of the brain for good and bad experiences, training and emotions. Neural networks and nodes are developing, the brain is alive and ever expanding with electricity, the brain doesn't even take a break during sleep, in deep sleep the brain is compartmentalising and storing memories! Brain chemicals are increasing and decreasing. The brain is effectively a 24/7 call centre.
Dogs are still not fully understood as to the age that the brain is fully mature and grown, for small breeds this could be a year and for large dogs around 3 years. Researchers have now found however that this is far beyond breed or size and depends upon skull structure and morphology and have also found that even with breed selection placement of the brain areas such as the amygdala and other brain regions could be significantly different in placement and size. Hecht, E.E. et al. 2019 (1)
They used a tool called a skull index to understand the MRI images and the cross sections of the brain, the neural pathways, size and development according to breed group and then broke this down further to categorise behaviour and whether there were significant changes within the brain to correlate behaviour and if not why not?
They also broke the brain down and categorised the brain into six networks to understand bonding, secure attachments, learning, executive functioning, aggression, fear etc.
While they concluded that studying the dogs brain is going to be a huge ongoing task, they did identify that behavioural variation is highly heritable. MacLean.E.L. et al, 2019 (2)
So even if you do everything right and work hard at meeting all biological needs and ensuring a secure attachment and avoiding any risk of experiencing trauma, there can be heritability of behaviours from their breeding and selection by humans.
Dry your tears, it isn't always the guardian to blame and we really need to move away from this mindset. This mindset has been set out on TV and by social media and misinformed professionals. If researchers can also say "we simply conclude that we don't yet know enough about the dog brain" and study MRI's for a living, how can we all know everything?
Placing more emphasis on secure attachment, fear periods and development of the puppy and canine brain can be much more helpful in supporting you as a guardian. Helping you to become aware in layman terms to fully understand your dog and the why, because as humans we default and need to know the why of the behaviour.
Addressing the why of the behaviour takes us on a new journey, we open a conversation with our dog, we look at the dog as an individual and not a breed or a series of genetics. We say "Hello, nice to meet you, you are as individual as me and it's time we started talking about how we can help you and addressing your emotions."
Join me on this new series of blogs of understanding your dog's big emotions. We are going to steer away from reactivity as a word, it's too big, it's too broad and it's not helpful. We are going to look at emotions and help you to understand your dog and have a formal introduction to the beautiful individual that they are.
Your dog has the brain of a 2-5 year old child. Coren. S. 2009 (3) 2-5 year old children have big emotions, become shy, become selective of who they speak to, they begin to form their personalities, they begin to express their likes and dislikes and they have a big range of emotions when they cannot verbalise how they feel. This is your dog, a 2-5 year old misunderstood child equivalent who cannot articulate their emotions for us to understand.
Let's begin understanding and learning about our individual dog and what their emotion is trying to tell us.
Hecht, E.E. et al. (2019) Significant neuroanatomical variation among domestic dog breeds, Journal of Neuroscience. Society for Neuroscience. Available at: https://www.jneurosci.org/content/39/39/7748 (Accessed: April 26, 2023).
MacLean EL, Snyder-Mackler N, vonHoldt BM, Serpell JA (2019) Highly heritable and functionally relevant breed differences in dog behaviour. Available from: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/509315v1.
Chicago American Psychological Association. "Dogs' Intelligence On Par With Two-year-old Humans, Canine Researcher Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2009www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/509315v1.. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm>.
On Sunday 23rd April 2023 at 3pm an emergency alert will sound on all phones.
This isn't great for dogs, especially not anxious, nervous or sound sensitive dogs. Especially in dense areas with semi detached homes, flats and housing estates.
So what can we do:
Stay indoors so that there are no unpredictable sounds or experiences in the outdoor environment as we all know we cannot control circumstances outside of the home.
Turn your phone off or ask someone to take it outside away from the home.
Play white noise and classical, reggae or soft rock music.
Begin desensitisation now to the sound, here is a tutorial on us working on this with the sound.
Remember even if you begin the desensitisation process now there is no guarantee your dog will be resilient to this on Sunday. So take measures to protect them.
Work on desensitisation and counter conditioning slowly, gently and listen to your dog's communications such as their body language before it can develop into vocalisations or worse. Desensitisation wants to keep dogs under threshold to be successful and to not negatively impact them.
This will set us up for success for the future as we don't know when the alarms will sound and due to that uncertainty and unpredictability we need to begin now to ensure their safety and welfare.
Off lead dogs and UK law
It's really difficult to see dogs being attacked by off lead dogs and the dogs who attacked being sent to kennels awaiting court dates.
Two of my own dog's were recently attacked by my own home, my dogs both on leads and the two other dogs both off-lead and their owner not present and on their phone. This was distressing for them and us as their guardians. Not only was this scary but also meant that they needed time to rest and recover, putting off further walks and training sessions to allow for rest and recovery after this incident.
They were lucky that they had no puncture wounds, but there was a risk that they could have become frightened of other dogs and undo all of the hard work that I've done with Zombie, my youngest. Unfortunately not all dogs are as lucky as mine were and suffer with life changing consequences physically and mentally.
Many people across social media do not seem to understand UK Dog Law and that each council has their own by - law concerning this, so let's take a quick look.
1. The Control of Dogs Order 1992: This legislation makes it a criminal offence if a dog is "dangerously out of control" in a public place, which includes any place where the public has access, such as a park or a beach.
2. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: This act addresses specific breeds of dogs that are deemed as potentially dangerous and outlines restrictions on the ownership and handling of those breeds.
3. The Animal Welfare Act 2006: This legislation makes it an offence to cause unnecessary harm or suffering to any animal, including dogs. It also requires pet owners to provide adequate care and attention to their pets.
4. The Highway Code: This code states that dogs should be kept on a lead near roads and should not be allowed to run free in a public place unless they are under close control.
5. Local council by-laws: Many councils have their own by-laws regarding dogs in public places, including rules around dogs being off-lead and the use of designated dog exercise areas. (1)
It is important to note that dog owners are responsible for their dogs behaviour and that their actions could potentially lead to prosecution under UK law. As a responsible dog owner, it is important to understand and abide by these laws and guidelines to ensure the safety of both your dog and the public.
In the event of a dog on dog attack, what can actually be done as so many people report that their dogs have been injured, one husky at the moment with £14,000 in vet fees and still fighting for her life and no support locally from the services that should provide this. So I pulled out the Dog Law Handbook to refresh my memory again and get the facts right and also went to the UK government website as well as directing this guardian to Cooper and Co Dog Law.
Town Police Clauses Act 1847
Under this Act it is an offence for any person in any street to:
let an unmuzzled ferocious dog be at large so that it obstructs or annoys the residents or passengers in the street, or puts them in danger.
To set on, or urge, any dog to attack, worry or put in fear any person or animal.
A dog is not considered to be ‘at large’ while held on its lead and the word ‘street’ is given an extended meaning to include any road, square, court, alley, thoroughfare or public passage. (2)
The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in the UK can be used to address dog on dog attacks in certain public spaces. Local authorities have the power to implement PSPOs in specific public areas where there has been a problem with dog attacks or where they consider there is a potential for such incidents.
Under the PSPO, local councils can impose restrictions or requirements on dog walkers, including requiring dogs to be kept on a lead, muzzled, or excluded from certain areas altogether. They may also require dog owners to use a certain area for dog exercise, rather than allowing them to walk their dogs off-lead in a public area.
Breaching a PSPO can result in a fine or prosecution, and local law enforcement may take action against the owner of the dog that attacked another dog.
Dog owners should be aware of the PSPOs in their local area and comply with any restrictions or requirements that are in place to help prevent dog on dog attacks. They should also take steps to train their dogs to reduce the risk of aggressive behaviour towards other dogs. (3)
The term ferocious has not yet been described by the courts. (4)
An example of dog on dog attacks being discussed in Parliament in 2017 with MP's highlighting that the laws that do cover dog on dog attacks are widely unknown by Councils and Police forces and called for more education. As well as local statistics for each county being held but not shared. (5)
Here's an example below, I could pull statistics from local sources for counties but not as a country with an overall figure.
Many newspapers report that it's only a prosecutable offence if a dog were to attack an assistance dog but as the laws and the debate in Parliament highlight this is not the case.
The Liverpool Echo highlights cases within Liverpool where there have been successful prosecutions in the last five years. Although at the moment if a person is not bitten and only a dog is injured during an attack, the offence is civil, magistrates can still impose penalties as they see fit and due to the laws above which aren't widely known about police forces can pursue prosecution where they see fit as found within Liverpool.
So in conclusion to this, please keep dogs on a lead, especially in public areas, especially if your dog doesn't recall and especially if likely to be distracted by a phone or your dog goes ahead of you. For your dogs safety too as many dogs who are great at recall and proximity can be attacked like mine when the other dog(s) are not on a lead.
Packing a long line in a rucksack is a great way to allow your dog lots of space for sniffafaris and playing and enjoying their walk, this gives you space to practise recall as well as being able to spot another dog walker coming towards you and transferring your dog onto a shorter lead. If you really want your dog off the lead on walks, please book a secure dog field where you have the entire space to yourself for the booking time. There's no shame in using a long line, it's a safety barrier to keep your dog safe, there is no shame in using a muzzle, muzzles are another safety barrier to prevent bites and keep both parties safe. Muzzles are so accepted today and you can get amazing colours and styles because they are so widely accepted and used!
We all have a duty of care to one another to protect each others dogs and to always be mindful of fellow dog walkers, so we all go home safe and incident free!
Sandys- Winsch, G. (2011) “Ferocious dogs ,” in P. Clayden (ed.) The Dog Law Handbook . Second edition . Chippenham, Wiltshire : Sweet & Maxwell, p. 33.
Changing attitudes blog
People are finding it hard seeing holistic dog training and behaviour modification posts and are expressing this in their comments. It's OK to worry or feel like there is an ever growing shift in the dog training industry because there is.
When I began on my own ten years ago I was met with a lot of amonisty from both other local dog trainers and guardians because I wouldn't do obedience and that's OK because I wanted dogs to have a happy and stable relationship with their guardians.
People simply didn't understand, now holistic training and belief systems are becoming extremely popular very fast internationally and it's OK to feel worried.
But it isn't personal to you as an individual, instead of negative comments, asking questions or reading and learning is much more productive.
David Mech in 2008 who knows all too well what it's like changing attitudes and belief systems said "It takes around 20 years for people to change their belief systems." Below I'm going to explore why.
Humans find it hard to change attitudes and beliefs because of a phenomenon known as the confirmation bias. This bias is the tendency to seek out, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs and attitudes. As a result, people often ignore new evidence that contradicts their beliefs and instead focus on information that confirms what they already believe. (1)
In addition, attitudes and beliefs are often deeply ingrained and tied to a person's identity and values. Changing these beliefs can be difficult because it may require a person to reassess their sense of self and potentially risk feeling uncertain or uncomfortable.
There are a number of reasons why humans may struggle to transition from aversive dog training methods to more holistic, positive methods.
Firstly, aversive methods have been traditionally used for many years and may be seen as the "normal" way of training dogs. People may be unaware of the negative impacts of aversive training on dogs' mental health and may not have the education or resources to learn about more positive methods.
Secondly, aversive methods may be more effective in the short term, as they can produce immediate results in behaviour modification. However, these methods often come at a cost to the dog's well-being and long-term behaviour. (2)
Additionally, some people may have had bad experiences with positive reinforcement methods in the past, perhaps due to poor implementation or lack of knowledge on how to properly use the technique. This can make them hesitant to try it again.
There may be societal beliefs that reinforce the use of aversive methods as the "only way" to train a dog, particularly in certain industries such as law enforcement or military dog training internationally.
It's important to note that there is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of positive reinforcement training methods for dogs. These methods have been shown to lead to healthier, happier dogs that are more confident and well-behaved. Resources such as books, videos, and trainers that focus on positive reinforcement training should be encouraged to help humans transition to more holistic methods. (3)
In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards positive reinforcement-based training techniques, as opposed to aversive methods that use physical punishment or intimidation to shape behaviour. Holistic dog training focuses on building a positive relationship between the dog and its guardian, utilising a range of non-aversive methods such as reward-based training, clicker training, and other forms of positive reinforcement.
Some benefits of holistic dog training include:
-Improved communication between guardian and dog
-Stronger bond and deeper, more meaningful relationship
-Improved behaviour and communication without resorting to physical punishment
-Less stress and anxiety for both the dog and the guardian
- A better understanding of dogs needs, communications, health and welfare
- A much better understanding of dogs emotions and how to help dogs through their emotions and not suppressing them
- Understanding dogs are a different species expressing their behaviours naturally the same as any other animal and so much more.
In order to implement a holistic approach to dog training, it is important to understand the principles of positive reinforcement and to use positive reinforcement-based techniques consistently. This includes using treats and praise to reward behaviour, and redirecting unwanted behaviour rather than punishing it.
It may also be helpful to seek out a professional dog trainer or behaviourist who specialises in positive, holistic techniques to guide you through the training process and provide support and guidance along the way.
I hope this information was helpful in exploring the shift towards holistic dog training! Let us know if you have any other questions or concerns. It can be daunting that there are so many changes occurring, but it's a good thing, dogs will be happier on a mass scale and so will guardians!
Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175–220. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-26184.108.40.206
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press.
Vieira de Castro, A.C. et al. (2020) Does training method matter? evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on Companion Dog Welfare, PloS one. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7743949/ (Accessed: April 15, 2023).
Self love, you and your dog
Did you know humans have emotional buckets too? It's easy to become so focused on dogs sometimes it isn't always realised we get a lot of our material from human psychology. The concept was originally designed by Brabban and Turkington (2002).
Our buckets fill all of the time and sometimes more than others and that's totally OK. Sometimes recognising that you have an emotional bucket can begin to help you with initiating self care and a healing journey for yourself.
You can download your very own emotional bucket here https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/the-stress-bucket/
Lots of people struggle with a secure emotional connection with their dog or puppy, especially in the first days and weeks and during adolescence or when adopting a dog.
Feelings of frustration and annoyance towards the puppy or dog are big indicators of this, from barking, separation anxiety vocalisations, nervous behaviours, mouthing, not wanting to be friends with every dog they meet, showing nervous behaviours indoors and outdoors or not being able to cope with visitors, toileting, the list goes on and on.
This isn't a criticism post, this is for people who want to feel connected to their dog or puppy and just don't feel it, this is the first step in acknowledging help is needed, gently explaining a lack of connection to people who aren't ready to hear it is much harder and not what this post is about.
People can feel disconnected for lots of reasons, grief for a past dog, the puppy blues (which I'm obsessed with raising awareness with), anxiety, depression, life frustrations, work problems, problems at home or with family, not feeling good enough or feeling lost.
Alternatively there can be far too high expectations or not realising that many behaviours that the guardian doesn't like stems from a lack of a secure emotional connection even when all of the five freedoms are met under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (UK law).
So how can you reduce these feelings and work on a secure emotional connection? First of all you need to heal yourself and show yourself some self love.
You may not feel that you deserve it, but you do. Set time aside for yourself, remember if your puppy or dog seems to be connected to someone else in the home, the dog walker or trainer/behaviourist don't worry or focus on this. Focus on you and your healing and self care, then the emotional connection will come. You maybe healing from a personal trauma and need to work through the process of healing to securely connect.
Going through a trauma is exhausting and you may feel deflated, alone, unmotivated, tired and emotional and that's OK! Trauma exhausts the body mentally and physically and guess what dogs and puppies also need sleep for their cognitive functioning and for their mental and physical wellness, so if you find your sleeping a lot, don't worry, even if your puppy or dog isn't right by your side on the sofa or bed and they are sleeping on the floor it isn't a problem.
You don't always have to be doing things with your puppy or dog to begin securing an emotional connection with them, there isn't enough emphasis placed on the value of sleep for puppies and dogs.
If you need to exercise and start becoming active little bursts of playing tug or fun scent games can be a huge pleasure for both you and your dog or puppy. Scentwork Foundations https://youtu.be/D_0Fn_VtRXE
Tug foundations https://youtu.be/jzawF6AA5FA
Going for a walk for your mental health and your dog or puppy, make it about sniffafaris, your getting fresh air, their getting mental stimulation and your doing another interactive activity https://youtu.be/OFf7kaFKp7w
You formally have permission to remove all of the pressure, pressure of training, pressure of walks focused on walking to heel (because that doesn't meet yours or your dogs needs at all) , pressure of what others are thinking. When we do begin to process our emotions a lot of it can come down to what others think, especially with our dogs.
Who cares what others think, it's about you and your dog or puppy, focus on your own well being, needs and mental health and that of your dog or puppy.
Enjoy them for their personality and who they are, enjoy you for your personality and who you are. Ditch formal training and play games like pattern games, https://youtu.be/PrKaYbx9daM.
Focus on some home made enrichment, you're making something which gives you a sense of achievement and you've made your dog or puppy something too, win, win! https://youtu.be/g9tY6cVwd5w
Destruction boxes https://youtu.be/lwoNhx-2m1g
Or spring is here, build an enrichment garden! https://youtu.be/JwUfqJXTCO8
Sensory enrichment with plants https://youtube.com/shorts/-VxBoY10jCU?feature=share
Dig pit https://youtu.be/Yvt8C1UHc98
Remember that you need to focus on self love and enhancing your relationship with your dog or puppy begins with you taking care of you and don't bother with what others think, your relationship with your dog or puppy is yours, not theirs and your journey will not look the same as anyone else's. But if you follow the above and take one day at a time, your relationship will be so much more beautiful than theirs!
Brabban, A. & Turkington, D. (2002) The Search for Meaning: detecting congruence between life events, underlying schema and psychotic symptoms. In A.P. Morrison (Ed) A Casebook of Cognitive Therapy for Psychosis (chap 5, p59-75).
Depending on device tap image to see full infographic and image description.
Your dog doesn't need obedience, what they actually need is…
Having a loving and secure relationship with your dog goes beyond just obedience. It establishes a bond of mutual trust and understanding between you and your dog, which ultimately leads to a much healthier and fulfilling relationship.
A secure attachment with your dog means that your dog feels safe and comfortable when they're around you, and they trust you to take care of them. This trust and security leads to a healthier relationship with your dog, as and a secure basis for them meaning they're less likely to exhibit destructive or unwanted behaviours out of fear or anxiety. (1)
On the other hand, an emphasis on obedience without a foundation of love and security can lead to a strained relationship between you and your dog. This approach often involves the use of force or harsh training techniques, which can result in your pet feeling scared, anxious, or even resentful towards you. This can also result in relinquishment to rescue and shelters. (2)
Traditional obedience training techniques are based on the premise of establishing dominance over the dog in order to control its behaviour. This approach often involves using physical punishment or aversive methods, such as shock collars, choke chains or prong collars, to correct undesirable behaviour.
Or in other kinds of obedience that aren't traditional, a general belief system can be that the dogs behaviour needs fixing or the dog is failing at the behaviours being asked, causing further frustration and damage to the relationship.
Research has shown that using physical punishment to train dogs can have significant negative effects on their physical and emotional well-being. Studies have found that dogs subjected to aversive training methods often exhibit increased fear and anxiety, as well as heightened aggression towards both humans and other dogs.
Furthermore, the use of punishment-based techniques can disrupt the bond between the dog and guardian, leading to a breakdown in communication and trust. Instead of fostering a positive relationship between guardian and dog, traditional obedience training can create fear and stress for the dog, making them less likely to want to participate. (3)
In contrast, positive reinforcement training techniques, which involve rewards and praise for desirable behaviour combined with fostering a secure attachment based relationship, are more effective and humane ways to train dogs. These methods are centred around building a strong bond of trust and communication between guardian and dog, resulting in a happier, healthier dog.
It is important to consider the potential negative effects of traditional obedience training on dogs and prioritise the use of positive reinforcement techniques. By doing so, we can ensure that our dogs are happy, healthy, and emotionally secure members of our families.
In summary, a loving and secure relationship with your dog is more important than obedience because it establishes a foundation of trust and mutual respect, leading to healthier behaviours and a more enjoyable companionship.
Of course absolutely engage in training skills, especially through games but focus on consent and activities your dog can enjoy through game based learning. Try continuously reinforcing your dog instead of differential reinforcement, set them up for success by keeping them under threshold and ask for alternative behaviours to reinforce rather than corrections or witholding rewards.
Vieira de Castro, A.C. et al. (2021) “Improving dog training methods: Efficacy and efficiency of reward and mixed training methods,” PLOS ONE, 16(2). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247321
Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J. and Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004) “Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and Welfare,” Animal Welfare, 13(1), pp. 63–69. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0962728600026683
Bennett, P.C. and Rohlf, V.I. (2007) “Owner-companion dog interactions: Relationships between demographic variables, potentially problematic behaviours, training engagement and shared activities,” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 102(1-2), pp. 65–84. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2006.03.009.
Toileting puppies, Rescues, seniors and poorly dogs
It can be really hard to begin a toilet traininhg regime, especially if your a first time puppy or dog owner, have rescued a dog, have a senior dog or have an unwell dog.
Puppy pads cause so much chaos and stress and can be damaging when chewed.
The Do No Harm Dog Training and Behaviour Handbook has fantastic protocols for toilet training and is available in paperback or ebook form from Amazon https://amzn.to/3PhC74z which is bursting with information for lots of training protocols.
I recently did a blog on Doggy Enrichment Lands based upon the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behaviour Handbook and Linda recommends the use of sod instead of pads. Including a link for our US based friends. For the UK we now have City Doggo! This means you can get sod and a tray as often as you like on a subscription basis, a one off, a wooden box for permanent use as well as care instructions. I found them for my small animal family as they use three types of grass for small animals to eat and enjoy as we're past the puppy stage.
But we may need their patches in the future, so if you can't always get to the door quick enough be it for your puppy, rescue, senior or dog recovering from surgery or an illness look at City Doggo and see if this is something that you and your family would benefit from!
Trauma in Dogs
Trauma in dogs refers to a set of psychological and behavioural responses that a dog may exhibit after experiencing a severely distressing or disturbing event, situation, or circumstance. These events could include physical or emotional abuse, a traumatic injury, neglect, abandonment, or other forms of violent or destructive behaviour.
Some common signs of trauma in dogs include anxiety, fear, aggression, avoidance, hyper-arousal, and hypervigilance. A dog who has experienced trauma may also exhibit physical symptoms, such as weight loss, hair loss, and general malaise.
It's important to note that every dog experiences trauma differently and may exhibit a unique combination of symptoms. If you suspect that your dog has experienced trauma, it's important to seek help from a veterinarian or a qualified behaviourist, who can provide guidance on how to manage your dog's symptoms and work towards a positive outcome.
Trauma can manifest itself in many different ways and dogs as individuals will not necessarily show the same behaviours.
1. Aggressive behaviour towards people, animals, or objects: Dogs with trauma may become reactive and aggressive in situations that trigger their trauma response. This may include growling, barking, and biting. 
2. Avoidance behavior: Dogs may avoid situations or places that remind them of their traumatic experience. They may try to escape, hide, or cower away from these triggers. 
3. Hypervigilance: Dogs with trauma may become hyper-vigilant, constantly on alert for any signs of danger. They may startle easily or be easily spooked by noises or sudden movements. 
4. Separation anxiety: Traumatized dogs may experience separation anxiety when separated from their owner or caregiver. This can manifest as excessive barking, destructive behavior, and other anxious behaviors. 
5. Physical symptoms: Some dogs may develop physical symptoms of trauma, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, hair loss, and general malaise. 
It's very easy to quickly identify problem behaviours in dogs and behaviours deemed as unacceptable by guardians and labelling them as reactive. Which is very generic and a label that can be very unhelpful.
When a human endures a trauma other humans are quick to show empathy and support, when a dog endures a trauma it may not be recognised as a trauma and the focus is on the dog needing to be fixed.
When we evaluate the parenting style the dog guardian uses we can then begin to break down and evaluate what may be happening and why the dog feels insecure and is exhibiting the behaviours. This will be another post in itself.
The dog behaviour industry is shifting for the better and professionals and guardians alike are beginning to get on board with this approach and understanding, but we still need to do more to identify trauma in dogs to focus on secure attachments and healing our dogs as opposed to "fixing them", healing our dogs means we can identify the cause and heal the pain and the fear, "fixing" a dog means asking the dog to mask that fear and anxiety to make the humans life easier and the dog will inevitably become more unwell in not being able to heal which can eventually manifest physically whilst struggling with internal unwellness.
Let's not try to fix dogs and let's heal them instead!
1. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (n.d.). Dog Behavior: Aggression. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/.../common-dog.../aggression-dogs
2. PetMD. (2018, June 18). PTSD in Dogs: How to Help Your Dog Overcome Trauma. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/.../behavioral/c_dg_PTSD_in_dogs
3. American Kennel Club (AKC). (n.d.). Dog PTSD: Recognizing and Treating Canine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-ptsd/
4. VetStreet. (2015, April 24). Separation Anxiety in Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.vetstreet.com/care/separation-anxiety-in-dogs
5. Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). (n.d.). Canine Trauma: Recognizing and Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Dogs. Retrieved from https://apdt.com/.../canine-trauma-recognizing-and.../
What if the training session doesn't go to plan?
So what. It's not the end of the world.
Lots of people aren't share training videos for fear of being embarrassed or shamed. Lots of people are scared of sharing videos due to the vitriol that they may receive for a whole list of reasons.
But what about when the dog is simply wanting to share how much fun it is that they are having. What if they don't want to participate anymore and want to play instead? Is this something to be ashamed of? Absolutely not.
I was playing Mousey Mousey with Zombie and normally he's great at this game and we've done this many times and he loves the game. Yesterday he decided he wanted to play and couldn't keep it bottled up any longer. Yes he pounced on me several times but he didn't hurt me. Zombie is in the state of mind that he's a puppy and he is young and he has strong emotions and cannot always contain himself.
He didn't do anything wrong, it would be nice if he didn't mow me down but he simply could not express this emotion in a calm way at this point in time.
Hyperarousal is a part of having a dog and Zombie has had so many issues with anxiety and not being able to express himself so when he does it's a good feeling because this indicates how far he has come.
Don't be embarrassed, share the video, you will find your tribe! https://youtu.be/WVDJiYboI7c
If you want to find a tribe who won't judge you and will boost your confidence a long. Come and join us in the Miyagis Dog Training Community group
Doggy Enrichment Lands is a term coined by Linda Michaels MA the best selling author of the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behaviour Handbook available in paperback or ebook form from Amazon https://amzn.to/3PhC74z which is bursting with information and guidance for your dog.
Doggy Enrichment Lands are a safe space for your dog and can help with anxiety, separation anxiety, settling, visitors, encouraging deep sleep, managing toileting for puppies, limited exercise and senior dogs.
You can use a playpen or an entire room. We ditch the crates and fill this area dedicated to our dog with enrichment items, toys, a bed, and a toileting area if needed and this is the dog's safe space!
These are absolutely fantastic areas of your home to ensure the comfortability of your dog!
Doggy enrichment lands can be as simple as you like, the main aim is to ensure your dogs comfortability and this helps with so many aspects of your dogs health and wellbeing.
Sometimes dogs can become disrupted by the traffic in the home and become disturbed, which means that your dog is not able to get the deep sleep that they need, not only to rest but to process the day and their memories as discussed in previous blogs and retain information from learning.
The main thing for the Doggy Enrichment Land is your dog's comfortability, making this a cosy and comfortable area can really help, this also means that they are not feeling confined or restricted and are very much still a part of what is going on in the home, utilising a TV and apps like Dog TV can not only help with the auditory enrichment but also aid in desensitisation to sounds as well as separation anxiety programmes to for your dog listen to, whilst gently being exposed to other sounds such as birds, cars and horns for example.
Gentle and soft lighting can also help in making the area feel more cosy and less bright light which can be too overwhelming, white noise machines which have a range of frequencies such as pink and brown noise too as well as different soundscapes, this can help to drown out exterior noises and sounds which can also disturb dogs and their sleep.
Utilising a raised bed can help in preventing cool air and circulation underneath the dog whilst they sleep as well make it more comfortable with not being entirely on the floor!
You can then use the floor space to utilise enrichment and treats, especially if you have a multidog home and want to prevent the risk or rehearsal of resource guarding, you can set up multiple Doggy Enrichment Lands in your home like us to cater to each dog and of course they can share space if there is no problems with them sharing space. Our dogs are free to enter and leave their Doggy Enrichment Lands when they want to, we know if they have retreated they need time for deep sleep or decompression.
Again, if you would like to learn more I highly recommend the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behaviour Handbook!
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