Monday, June 30, 2008

Dogs and Stress

We've had a lot of thunderstorms lately. When it gets loud, Kelly either wants to sit in my lap or hide in the closet. But she's not desperately anxious; barking and panicking like some dogs. I can only imagine those funny crazy scenes in Marley and Me.

I've been reading a new book lately, Three Dog Life. Poor Henry the beagle is anxious as a result of a traumatic incident. He slipped his collar while walking with his owner. The owner dashed into the road to give chase. Henry made it across okay, but the owner was hit by a car and suffered major injuries. I can only imagine little Henry's confusion at the noise, commotion, sirens...and wondering where his owner was. The book details both Henry's stress, and the owner's wife's, as they try to put their lives back together.

Kelly has moments of stress, such as the grooming episode. But overall she's not a high stress dog. I've been communicating with Roxanne, who writes a blog Champion of my Heart, about her dog Lilly, and special behavioral training methods she uses to help handle stress situations.
Dogs, like people, react to stress in many different ways and i'ts up to their owners to find the right way to handle the situation. Fortunately, most dog people I've met are loving and caring and want to do what's best for their best friend.

How do you handle your dog's stress? Share your tips here!


  1. Marley's MomJune 30, 2008 at 3:11 PM

    When I take my dog, Marley, to Petsmart for grooming, she tries to hide in the corner (as if they don't see an 85 pound German Shepherd). I ignore her behavior, and when they are ready to take her, i simply say "Come Marley" and hand the leash to the groomer. I think that by NOT making a big deal over her anxiety (like talking baby talk to her, or trying to comfort her) she accepts that the situation is safe. She very willingly goes with the groomer each time. i use this same approach at the vet. I think it is OUR anxiety that triggers the dog's anxiety.

  2. That tough love approach does work with some "normal" dogs. However, it's a myth that providing comfort to a fearful or anxious dog "rewards" the behavior.

    And, it's true that our dogs pick up on all our little nerves, including how we smell, how we breathe... but something like 10% of dogs are genetically predisposed to being cautious or fearful.

    Talking about occasional anxiety in the average dog is completely different from talking about a full-on generalized anxiety disorder in a dog.

  3. Thanks Marley's Mom! I like your comment. I'm sure our dogs pick up on our anxieties and fears. Since your dog goes to the groomer willingly and seems in good spirits when you pick her up, it sounds like this is the right approach for her temperament. I bet Marley looks great after her grooming!

  4. Thank you for your comment Roxanne. You are right, some dogs have more specific anxiety issues than others. I've learned that each owner needs to be extremely sensitive to his or her dog to know what helps and what doesn't. Communicating with other dog owners in similar situations helps too. You seem very in tune to Lilly.


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!