January can be a busy time for dog trainers – and, sadly, for animal rescue centres. Often owners see new or ‘worse’ behaviour in their dogs. What has gone wrong? What’s the matter with the dog? “It never used to be like this – if it carries on, we’ll have to get rid of it!”
Here, Roselle Collins from Thame based, Dog Training company, Out of the Doghouse explains more about why your furry friend could be expressing abnormally, erratic behaviour:
The “festive season” is over; Christmas and New Year celebrations have come and gone. Many people are glad to return to “normal” because the festive season brings stress and, even for those who enjoy it, hard work and raised blood pressure! The children are over-excited (sometimes the adults as well!). People are coming and going; there are rooms to get ready for visitors, decorations to put up, meals to be prepared and consumed, travelling to organise, people to keep happy, drinks to be drunk, presents to be wrapped and unwrapped – organised, or disorganised, chaos! Perhaps for some, the festive season is less than happy – people trying to get on when they’d rather be doing something else. Tempers become frayed, stress levels rise.
So what are our dogs to make of all this?
Certainly their natural instinct does not prepare them for festive celebrations! All this unusual activity is at best confusing. However, their natural instinct gives them an ability which far outweighs our own when it comes to sensitivity to things like blood pressure, emotions and stress levels. How many people will tell you that their dog always knows when they are upset because it comes to them to comfort them? Why is that we can use dogs to detect cancer or the imminent onset of an epileptic fit? We do not need to tell our dogs what to look for; they know already. What we can’t tell them is the cause. So telling your dog that you are upset by Auntie Mary’s behaviour or that the dog must not worry as all this excitement and abnormal behaviour will be over in a few days, won’t make any difference to your dog’s understanding. It lives in the moment – it judges by what it sees, what it hears, what it feels – and it can easily become stressed.
Dogs like calm. Yes, they love to play and they love using their brains and senses – and they are always ready for action – but in between they like calm, a sense of rest and safety. For many dogs, therefore, Christmas and the New Year change everything that they are used to and often their anxiety shows itself after the events in different behavioural patterns.
So if your dog has become more excitable, barks more, gets reactive when out on walks, seems more worried or withdrawn, or displays any new behaviour, it is telling you it needs your help. Your dog is a living, feeling creature – just like you are – and something is wrong.
Maybe you love your dog and want to make it happy – but you just don’t know what to do. Don’t feel a failure! Many of us haven’t known what to do – but we can all learn and we can all help our dogs.
For advice contact Roselle
T: 07989 947316