Is Your Dog A Stress-Head?
It's been a more stressful day than usual for a few reasons. I know what upsets Badger and for the most part I can avoid those things but sometimes it's unavoidable.
For example: she's very sensitive to the vocalisations of other dogs and gets worked up if she can hear continuous barking or whining. Today I had to transport her in the van at the same time as one of my other dogs who gets very giddy when she knows she's a few minutes away from her house and she whines and yips loudly.
Normally Badger can handle this without getting too upset but today she was shaking and panting and unable to take treats after listening to this for the few minutes that it went on. The fact that she couldn't cope with this today when she normally can means that she must have experienced other triggers leading up to this. Sometimes these triggers go unnoticed by us because they may seem so minor.
Think of your dog as having an emotional bucket.
Every day, different experiences (both positive and negative) add cups of water into that bucket. At some point the bucket may get so full that it begins to overflow. When the bucket overflows, your dog can no longer cope and you may start to see behaviour that seems extreme, out of character or 'naughty' (like lunging and barking at other dogs or people when they would normally walk past with no issues).
This is what happened to Badger today. By the time we got to our walk, I knew it wouldn't be the best because of the stressful part of the car journey and the fact that it was very windy today (wind activates the special part of Badger's brain that makes her more loopy). After 5 minutes off the lead it was clear that she wasn't nearly as responsive as I'd like and was going to work herself up into a frenzy charging around, so she had the rest of the walk on lead with lots of scatter feeding along the way to wind down.
To top this off, she had to have her monthly vet visit today for her arthritis injection. She's not the biggest fan of the vet but she's gotten comfortable enough to sit in the waiting room quietly eating treats until they're ready to see her. Today, she paced, whined, whinged and jumped up at me for reassurance. She couldn't settle whatsoever. The vet gave her a lick mat with some soft food spread on it and she loved that and it also really helped to bring her back down to earth (ask me for more tips on relaxing your dog!)
Ideally I wouldn't have taken her to the vet's after a day like today but her visit has already been postponed a few days and I don't want the effects of the injection to lapse and cause her to be uncomfortable.
When a day like today happens, go home. Don't continue the walk, don't take them to your mate's house or the pub or to work with you. Don't play fetch for hours on end to tire them out or let them run around like a numpty to get it out of their system.
What they need is rest and relaxation. Decompression from the day they've had. They are living, feeling, sensitive creatures with mental health that needs protecting just like our own.
As soon as we got in I made a coffee, sat on the sofa and invited her to sit with me. She laid her body across my lap and we are cuddled up together quietly listening to music while I massage her little shoulders and neck. She's sleeping and twitching and decompressing. We won't go out for a walk tomorrow, we will do calming activities at home and mask the sound of the outside world with music to give her a break. It's hard being a nervous dog but there's lots we can do to ease that burden for them.
If you have a stressy dog, I see you and you're not alone. Get in touch and I can help you make both your lives easier ❤️