By Elaine Stavert
Please welcome England-based Animal Complementary Therapist Elaine Stavert, who has studied widely across Applied Zoopharmacognosy, canine nutrition, canine massage and acupressure plus many more related disciplines. In this article, she shares the key points of knowing what drives your dog’s instincts and how to understand how he or she communicates and functions. Over to Elaine…
Canines evolved over 40 million years ago and became efficient hunters. Food is survival, and anything that moves is a potential food source. This is why dogs run after rabbits, bicycles, balls and sticks. In the past, dogs hunted only every few days in social groups, creeping up on prey as close as they could to conserve energy.
Understand when your dog tells you he’s stressed
When a dog sees movement, a likely prey, (ball, rabbit, etc) his adrenaline instantly shoots up
This is the fight or flight hormone triggered to help dogs survive in a potential emergency.
A physiological reaction then takes place; hundreds of biochemical processes begin which can affect the dog mentally and physically. It takes 2-6 days for a physiological effect on the body to disappear.
And he’ll tell you when he needs to rest, so listen to him
For acutely stressful situations it can take months – 9-10 months for instance, for a rescue dog.
Adrenaline can be raised by; excitement and playing, agility, obedience classes, fast or long walks, running, guarding, cuddling by humans (most hate it), pain, being enclosed in a crate, fear, a new place, etc.
The appropriate amount of exercise and nose work can be good for muscles and cognitive skills. However if adrenaline levels are constantly high, even if they go down again, the damage has still been done to the body which can lead to lack of concentration, hyperactivity, diarrhea, eating problems, excess urinating, vomiting, skin problems.
If your dog were your child, what would this behaviour tell you?
Imagine your dog is your own child. You take little Johnny for a jog, he sees sign (a smell in a dog’s case) saying “murderer was here.” This is crucial to his survival: he wants to stop. You do not have the time, so you yank your child with a lead, compressing his thyroid gland and arteries, pulling the neck and shoulder muscles.
At home you give him a meal replacement bar (dry dog food) and synthetic vitamins, then leave him alone all day while you go out.
Later, you take him to a party with strangers
You command him to jump in, up and over things. You balance a cupcake on his nose, make Johnny sit on the floor, roll over, lie down. You give him another meal replacement bar.
He spends the day shouting at you (dog calming language signs) telling you he is unhappy. The next day at school he behaves badly, and you can’t understand why.
Hopefully, this has made you understand a bit more doggie speak!
If you want to know how to communicate properly with your dog, and to help him have a happy, relaxed life, I recommend reading On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.
How well do you speak doggie?
Please share in the comments – and I’m sure if you have any questions about your dog’s behaviour Elaine will be happy to answer.
Elaine Stavert is a student of the renowned Norwegian Canine Behaviourist, Trainer and Author, Turid Rugaas, who has given her the gift of being able to look at dogs in a completely different way than before.
Her recently adopted rescue dogs, Toby and Milly, are therefore now well on their way to becoming calm and healthy.
You can find out more about Elaine and her work on her website, Animal Therapy Works.
And questions about writing and communicating with humans? Buzz Suze on firstname.lastname@example.org.