I got this call from a client. I think my dog LULU has some kind of disorder. It doesn’t matter how long of a walk we go on, when she comes home she goes absolutely bonkers. She runs around like we haven’t just walked/run for 2 miles, sometimes longer. She jumps on us grabbing our clothes, taking off into the yard doing the zoomies, digging, barking, basically going ballistic. What’s up with that?
First of all, dogs don’t behave badly. They are behaving in a way that we don’t like, understand or inconveniences us. They don’t wake up in the morning thinking how can I drive my guardian nuts today and then behave badly. No, dogs exhibit bad behaviors because they are stressed and have no other outlet. When we don’t understood their body language (a dogs first language), we can’t understand what they’re trying to tell us. They express their emotions through body languages and manifest in their behavior.
What was happening for Lulu, was that she was anxious when meeting new dogs or even seeing them while walking. She was afraid of new people and certain sounds, like large vehicles passing by. My client thought since she was afraid that she should take her out more often and for longer walks to get her used to it. For Lulu, this was the wrong approach. I’ll blog about that in another blog. So, when Lulu came home after holding in all this stress, she had to let it out, hence the backyard behaviors. She had to release all that pent up energy. Her unnoticed stress signs while walking were, lip licking, yawning, ears pinned back, look away during greeting strangers or dogs, hiding and panting.
I’ve written several blogs on signs of stress in dogs which you can find on my blog pages, here: www.dogdecoder.com. Learning the signs of stress in dogs is step one. However, many people aren’t reading these signs, so when the dog hasn’t been understood they will accelerate the signs with behaviors that are most often disturbing to us and definitely to the dog. However, dogs need to release their stressful energy and we need to help alleviate their stress, NOT punish them. What happens when we don’t is that the behaviors increase and may escalate into a bite.
Signs of Stress
When we’ve missed these more subtle signs, more severe signs begin to manifest
When the more severe signs are misunderstood, unwanted (not bad) behaviors begin to manifest. Your dog needs your help not punishment.
Behaviors that dogs do when they’ve hit their threshold and to release stress are these:
- Get overly excited toward people or dogs
- Start barking excessively becoming reactive to people, dogs or anything that may not normally bother them
- Ask to go out, then want to come back in, then ask to go out yet again. In and out over and over
- Paw you when they normally don’t, out of fear or anxiety
- Stare at you
- Bully another animal in the house, at the dog park
- Bully a child
- Get destructive
- Walk away
- Excessive licking, themselves or you
- Run away
- Excessive scratching
- Become way too needy
These signs may be subtle or very obvious. The subtle ones are harder to notice, yet if they go unnoticed for a long time, your dog will become more demonstrative until you finally notice. This is when a dog trainer or behaviorist is usually called in. It’s unfortunate because now there is a lot more undoing to do and why it’s so important to learn the early signs of stress. If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs or behaviors please call a positive training in to help. Punishing these behaviors only exacerbates the problems by shutting the dog down or worse, increasing stress which can turn into a bite in a very short period of time.
If you aren’t aware of the signs of stress please become familiar with them on my blog page and with the Dog Decoder smartphone app about dog body language. It’s available in iTunes and Google play, with 60 illustrations by the famed Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings.
If you notice that your dog is stressed or your dog is already exhibiting any of these behaviors, please seek help. A stressed dog is more susceptible to illness just like we humans are. Your dog is screaming for help. Whether she’s being reactive on leash, barking excessively, constantly vying for your attention, panting at the vets office, groomer or other times when it’s not hot out, there is something you can do to help relieve the stress. Your dog will thank you for it.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer, award winning writer and dog body language expert loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. Jill has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients and their dogs for 40 years, to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She is now training online, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page