Trauma in dogs
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 Land
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!
What to expect when booking/ how virtual consultations work?
So for many virtual consultations may be a far out there and misunderstood experience, let’s break it down.
A virtual consultation is not a video chat, it isn’t like facetime with a friend, it is better for your dog in preventing unnecessary travel, trauma and stress. We can see you and we can see your dog, you can train in the comfort of your own home in real time and we can see this.
You need an initial consultation, any ethical behaviourist that you work with is going to want to know more, especially when we work with you holistically.
Upon initial contact if there has been a change in behaviour we are going to recommend going to the vets first and asking for an appointment concerning the problem, this is because we ethically need to consider the dogs whole being and not just behaviour modification. If you have already seen a vet to no avail, we may also recommend a complementary service such as a McTimoney chiropractor, to further eliminate or identify pain.
Within the initial consultation looking at your dog as an individual we need to also look at nutrition and diet, to ensure that your dog as an individual is on the best diet for them.
We need to review any traumas that your dog may have experienced, this is to also help your dog in the best way possible, identifying and healing traumas is going to help your dog to feel much better in their overall health and wellness.
We need to know more about the environment, the environment can play a role in your dogs behaviour and can be detrimental to the overall health and wellness of your dog and determine how they are going to progress with a behaviour modification plan.
The need and the function of the behaviour has to be identified, why is the dog giving the behaviour in the first place and what is it that they are trying to communicate?
In order to be successful as the behaviour modification and implementing changes comes down to you, you will need to keep journals and actively document your dogs behaviour, as well as any changes in the home, in order for you to be successful in any changes that can potentially take place.
Need more family members present who can't travel? No problem they can just jump on from their location.
Virtual consultations are helpful and convenient for you and especially your dog, this is who it's all about. Learning virtually and being able to learn in your home and out and about is a huge help with one to one guidance for when you're ready for your homework. Forgotten anything? No worries, simply watch the recording.
You'll also receive video tutorials, feedback, protocols and much more, so you don't have to remember everything. Virtual consultations are so much better for so many reasons, but mostly for the welfare of your dog who it's all about at the end of the day anyway!
Healing trauma in humans
Healing trauma in humans
Following on from the dog does love you blog.
Whether you have had a traumatic experience with your dog, whether you have ditched aversives or felt a lack of a bond and secure attachment to begin with, whether you feel you haven't been the best guardian to your dog or that you have made mistakes, it's time to forgive yourself and begin the healing journey for you and your dog.
Forgiving oneself for past mistakes is a crucial step towards healing and moving forward. Here are some tips on how you can begin to forgive yourself for making mistakes with your dog(s):
1. Acknowledge and accept the mistake: The first step towards forgiving oneself is to acknowledge and accept the mistake made. It can be helpful to reflect on the situation and identify what went wrong. Maybe you already have, to move forward is to put the mistake begin you, if you are feeling incredible guilt you are already aware of what happened and what went wrong or how you feel about a situation. You don't need to dwell on it, dwelling only holds you back and develops your relationship. Your dog forgives you and loves you unconditionally, there maybe a lack of a secure attachment there because of whatever happened in the past or because you have been unable to move forward. But it's OK and here is your permission. It's now time to start a new journey together focused solely on your secure attachment.
2. Practice self-compassion: Show kindness and understanding to yourself, just as you would to a friend who made a mistake. Be patient and treat yourself with compassion. Remember your dog needs a secure emotional attachment and they need to know they can rely on you for everything and that you are both OK.
3. Focus on the present: Dwelling on past mistakes can hinder one's ability to move forward. Focus on the present and the positive changes that can be made going forward. Keep a journal, this is your blank slate, don't include the past or mistakes, a clean slate with the training you want to do, and list all of the wins no matter how small, journal about your walks, where you went, take a photo, set goals such as sniffafaris or a nice area you know you will both enjoy.
4. Make amends: Taking positive action to make amends can help in healing and forgiving oneself. Reach out to the dog and show them love and care and make a promise that you're both going to move forward, focusing solely on their needs.
5. Learn from the mistake: Mistakes can be an opportunity to learn and improve. Identify what can be done differently next time and take proactive steps to prevent the same mistake from happening again. That's as far as the mistake needs to go, no more punishment, move forward and strive to do better one day at a time.
Remember that dogs are incredibly forgiving creatures, and it's never too late to make positive changes to improve the relationship with them. Seek professional help and learn new techniques to communicate and interact with your friend positively. With time, patience, and dedication, you can forgive yourself and create a better future for yourself and your dogs.
Maybe you made a mistake with your first dog, or you shouted at your dog, or you used aversives in the past or anything that makes you feel guilty. Moving forwards, learning from your mistake and focusing on making your dogs the best life that it can be by meeting their needs will help you to both heal and move forward stronger than before, with a secure connection and emotional stability for you both.
This is a very lengthy but really interesting journal on Learning from Errors: and how this affected students in a learning setting, the negative impact, poor feedback from teachers and conversely positive outcomes and feedback. The conclusion is we learn from errors and we become better when we learn we have made an error depending on the individual, the feedback and how they could move forwards. https://www.annualreviews.org/.../annurev-psych-010416...
With this in mind the self care journal I mentioned to begin with I have created and included below for you to print. I really hope this helps you as a tool on your healing journey, learning to forgive yourself and focusing on a strong emotional connection with your dog.
What is trauma in dogs?
What is trauma in dogs? They're just reactive, right?
Wrong. Trauma in dogs refers to an event that causes the dog to experience fear, anxiety, or physical harm. The experience of trauma can lead to long-term behavioural and physical changes in dogs. These changes can include increased anxiety, nervousness, and aggression towards other animals or people.
It can also lead to shut down, freezing on walks, hiding at home, weight loss, poor coat and other noticeable physiological changes and of course internally, externally you may see vomiting and diarrhoea as an example.
One way to help a dog heal from trauma is through various therapies that support their emotional wellbeing and help them process their experiences. These therapies may include cognitive behavioural therapy, desensitisation and counterconditioning, and emotional support therapy.
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that the combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and medication can significantly reduce anxiety in dogs. Another journal published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science recommends the use of desensitisation and counterconditioning techniques, which work by gradually exposing the dog to situations that make them anxious, in a controlled and positive way. This helps the dog to feel less anxious over time.
But when we apply this holistically we don't want to do this in an intense way, first we need to work on healing and re establishing a secure emotional attachment to ourselves, we need our dogs to feel safe with us and secure and the connection needs to be settled and secure before beginning desensitisation. We focus on healing first.
Building a secure attachment with your dog is essential for their emotional and mental well-being. A secure attachment can help your dog feel safe and supported, reducing any potential anxiety and stress they may experience. Here are some tips to help build a secure attachment with your dog:
1. Spend quality time together: Whether it's taking your dog for decompression walks if they want to go and can manage this or playing with them, make sure to allocate time each day to spend one-on-one time with them. This helps build a bond between you and your dog.
2. Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog for positive behaviours, praise them often and take time to set up training sessions at home where they feel safe to utilise these opportunities. This positive reinforcement helps to develop trust and a positive association with you.
3. Be consistent: Consistency is essential when building a secure attachment with your dog. Be predictable, if they ask for cuddles, give them, if they need space, allow them their space, if they want to play, play. If they need enrichment rather than play, utilise this on an individual basis of what your dog enjoys as an individual. Give them time to rest and heal through sleep, allow them to express their emotions such as barking and allow them to release the tension which may have built up, another great thing you can do is set a dig box in the garden, https://youtu.be/Yvt8C1UHc98 herbal safe plants for sensory enrichment and to encourage curiosity and confidence, bringing puppy behaviours back.https://youtu.be/JwUfqJXTCO8 This consistency helps your dog feel safe and secure. This is also a great link for beginning a sensory garden https://www.rufflesnuffle.co.uk/creating-a-sensory.../
4. Provide comfort: Dogs seek comfort when they are feeling anxious or stressed. Providing a comfortable space for them to rest, cuddling with them, or giving them a favourite toy to play with can all provide comfort and make them feel secure. Watch a film together or try out DogTV. This has helped us a lot and they love watching it. https://youtu.be/WNOls9-0On0
5. Attend classes online: Attending classes online with your dog can help establish a healthy relationship and provide valuable training. This can give your dog confidence and help them feel secure by remaining in their own home and not having to face other dogs and feeling overwhelmed and scared.
Building a secure attachment with your dog takes time, patience, and effort. But with these tips, you can develop a strong and healthy relationship with your dog.
Zombie has taught me so much, I knew I was taking on an anxious puppy and I didn't realise how anxious of course until he came home. The first thing I offered him and he sought was a secure attachment. This photo of him as a puppy was the day after he came home. I was studying and he chose to be next to me and go to sleep and he's been like this ever since. When he was overwhelmed on a walk after an off lead dog came bolting into the field and tried to play with him, he hid behind me without being cued, when we got the dog away and asked the owner to put their dog on a lead who was not even at the entrance of the field he jumped onto me and took deep breaths like a human, it's really hard to explain but it was like watching a human taking breaths in a pattern following a panic attack. We stayed there for ten minutes, breathing, gentle stroking, cuddling allowing him to lick to soothe himself and waited until he felt he could walk home. He slept all night (as he had to be walked as close to midnight as possible due to his fear of daylight walks and other dogs and people) and he slept for two days after, only waking for the toilet and his meals.
It was awful for me to see at the time but the fact that he knew he could immediately use me as a shield and seek me for releasing all of the panic immediately after the dog was gone was a relief to me as if he hadn't this could have been much worse.
With careful management, building on the secure attachment, showing him he can consent and refuse to consent, playing with him, dropping everything when he seeks my connection, gentle training and allowing him to express his biological needs paired with complimentary therapies he's gone from strength to strength. He can now select dogs he can play, he can walk in daylight and ask to go out in daylight, he can now seek out fuss from other humans and has no fear around women and is only slightly cautious of men.
He sleeps a lot less and he's comfortable with seeking out my company rather than his enrichment area to be alone.
Acknowledging that he didn't want to be around people or other dogs, that he didn't want to attend clubs or socialise in groups and that he needed to have space as he grew and matured has set him up to be an awesome and confident dog, I even had people say to euthanize him because of how nervous he was and I'm so glad that with the power of holistic care, complimentary services and love that he's a happy, confident and securely attached dog.
In summary, healing from trauma can take time, but with patience, love, and the support of a village, dogs can overcome their traumatic experiences and lead fulfilling lives.
You wouldn't remove your smoke alarm batteries, so don't prevent your dog from growling!
Growling is a common form of communication in dogs and is usually used as a warning sign to indicate an uncomfortable feeling or a potential threat. It is essential to understand that growling is not necessarily aggression but is a form of canine communication to express their emotions.
It was found that humans are adept at using vocal cues to understand the emotions of not only other humans but also animals like dogs. However, there are limitations to our ability to perceive certain emotional nuances in vocalisations, such as with growls. It underscores the importance of context in interpreting emotional expression. Faragó, T. et al. 2017
To understand the reason behind the growling, it is important to consider the context, body language, and tone of the growl. For example, a low, rumbling growl could indicate that a dog is feeling uncomfortable, stressed, or threatened, while a higher-pitched growl may indicate excitement or a need for connection seeking. Other factors, such as the dog's history, breed, and temperament, can also influence their communication.
It is vital to note that punishing a dog for growling can be counterproductive and increase the likelihood of aggressive behaviour. Instead, it is important to identify the root cause of the growling and address it with positive training methods such as counter-conditioning and desensitisation. These techniques can help dogs learn alternative behaviours and reduce their stress levels, leading to better communication and behaviour.
It's not recommended to punish a dog for growling because it can cause the dog to learn that growling leads to punishment, and then they might stop growling altogether. This can be dangerous as growling is a dog's way of communicating, and a dog that doesn't growl may resort to biting without warning.
By punishing a dog for growling, you suppress the warning signs, which can cause the dog to become anxious, fearful, and aggressive. Instead of punishment, it's essential to try to understand the cause of the growling and address it appropriately. For example, if the growling is a result of fear or anxiety, you can work on desensitising the dog to the trigger, using positive reinforcement to encourage relaxed and calm behaviour. Ultimately, it's essential to encourage open communication between a dog and their guardian, rather than punishing the dog for expressing their emotions.
Understanding a dog's growling is essential for effective communication, and it is important to avoid punishing growling behaviour. By recognizing the underlying reason behind the growling and addressing it with positive training techniques, humans can help their dogs feel more comfortable and prevent aggressive behaviour.
Researchers found that humans are not able to translate a growl whether the growl sound played indicated aggression or a positive communication. Taylor Am, et al. 2009
Dogs growl during play to communicate with their playmates. It is a natural behaviour for dogs to growl during play because it's a way for them to express their excitement and enthusiasm. Often, the growling is not aggressive in nature but is a way for them to communicate that they are having fun and want to keep playing. However, it's important to keep an eye on the behaviour of the dogs to ensure that it does not escalate into aggression.
Dogs happy growl, to communicate their positive emotional state. Happy growling is usually a low, rumbling sound, and it often accompanies wagging tails, playful behaviour, and other signs of enjoyment. Happy growling is a way for dogs to express their excitement, contentment or happiness, and can be triggered by a variety of situations, such as getting attention from their guardians, playing with other dogs, or enjoying a good belly rub. It's important to note that happy growling is usually not a sign of aggression, and it's a natural and healthy behaviour for dogs to exhibit.
When a dog is happy growling, their body language usually signals that it is relaxed and comfortable. Signs that a dog is happy and not aggressive include:
- A wagging tail (with the tail wagging from side to side or in a circular motion)
- Open mouth with the tongue hanging out
- Relaxed ears that are not pinned back against the head
- A relaxed, loose body with a wagging or bouncing movement
- Playful behaviours such as play bowing, jumping or rolling over
- Soft and round eyes with a relaxed expression
Overall, when a dog is happy growling, they will exhibit the same body language cues as when they are engaging in friendly play, relaxed and comfortable with the situation.
Dogs can growl for all sorts of reasons it can be an energetic expression, it can be an emotional release, it can be to protect themselves from perceived threats, it can be happiness, connection seeking, play or fear based aggression or aggression.
Growling is a wonderful communication that we need to encourage for our dogs and not punish, growling can prevent an escalation to a bite and help the overall well being psychologically and physiologically.
Acknowledge the growl, listen to the communication and don't punish.
Faragó, T. et al. (2017) “Dog growls express various contextual and affective content for human listeners,” Royal Society Open Science, 4(5), p. 170134. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170134
Taylor AM, Reby D, McComb K. 2009. Context-related variation in the vocal growling behaviour of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Ethology 115, 905–915
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (n.d.). Understanding Dog Growling and Other Canine Vocalizations. https://www.aspca.org/.../understanding-dog-growling-and...
- Coren, S. (2012). Do Dogs Need Punishment to Learn?. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/.../do-dogs-need...
The Pet Professional Guild Assistance Animal Division latest blog is available via Pets and Their People and a big thankyou to Pam for all of Pams hard work. "Stereotypes of assistance and service dogs" there will be a regular series of blogs from the division to help to educate the general public and professionals about assistance, service and therapy animals! A great step forward for teams, professionals and the public, you can subscribe to Pets and Their People too, to stay up to date with the latest articles!
Reasons dogs are not stubborn from the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behaviour group on facebook
Journals are incredibly helpful for helping you with your journey with your dog and sometimes it's tough to know where to begin or journals online can be costly.
Here's a free one you can use and print as you go: You can print all the pages or save them and print just the one you want at the time for example adding in separation anxiety pages or walks or training. Whichever one you need. Hopefully this is a help to all of you.
Behavior means what you are teaching, for example a pattern game.
Duration is the amount of time spent on training the behaviour.
Protocol is the method you used to help your dog, for example a white noise machine for separation anxiety or pattern games for anxiety on walks.
Criteria is how far you aim to go with the behaviour for example, spin. Today I will attempt a 1/4 turn with Koda.
Feedback is how the session went, so you can look back on how far you have come.
Just block out rest days however you like
The cover is for you to add a picture of your best friend and enter their name in the blue box. This will also be incredibly helpful for walkers, pet sitters and family, with everyone being able to refer to your dogs journal