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Instant stress relief for you and your dog



Whether your dog is reactive towards other dogs on walks or cannot cope with visitors to your home, the constant exposure to the things that scare him only builds on his stress levels and means he is in a continuous state of readiness, 'fight or flight' mode. This is dangerous as the body is under constant strain as a result. Apart from the outward reactivity, which we as humans can detect easily, i.e. dog lunging at the end of the lead, growling, and or barking. There are massive changes that happen within the dog.


The heart pumps faster to speed up the bloody supply to the legs for a quick getaway. Hormone levels increase, such as testosterone, adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. For the body to put all of its energy into making the physiological changes it needs to make a quick getaway or fight off the threat, the immune system is suppressed, and the digestive system is altered.


One of the first things we look to change for our reactive dogs is to remove any triggers that cause stress. By doing so, we instantly give stress relief and give the body chance to recover fully, therefore allowing your dog to be able to reset emotionally and be able take on new learning as a result.



So how can you instantly destress your reactive dog?


The first step is to know his triggers. What sets him off? This could be one or many factors. We usually find that many reactive dogs are reactive to many things, not just one particular stimulus. A trigger could be noise, postman, visitors, another dog, another person, car, lorry etc. Find out what they are if you do not already know, and remove them.


For example, if your dog is reactive to other dogs on a walk, give him a walking holiday. This means that for two days, you do not walk him but instead provide him with activities that replace the walk, e.g. sniffing opportunities in the form of scent games.



Walk your dog in an area and at a time where you are less likely to come across another dog walker or find a location where you have the opportunity to gain more distance away from them.



Is your dog is reactive to visitors? Stop them coming for the interim until you get professional help. Go to their house instead, or meet them at a cafe or restaurant.



Does your dog bark at the letterbox every morning the post is delivered? Put a mailbox on the side of the house and seal off the door letterbox, or even better still, put the post box on your gate. That way, you remove another trigger, the sound of the gate being opened.



Does your dog react to people walking past the house? Ensure they are not able to practice the behaviour of being 'lookout'. Use window film to block the visual sight and ensure they cannot access the window or sit there for long periods staring out.



Old fashioned approaches to behaviour would have labelled this approach as avoiding the problem, but the most recent scientific research greatly supports the importance of giving your dogs a cortisol break to help them reset.



This is something you can easily do straight away that will make a big difference.


Thanks for reading.

Gemma

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