Should we protect dogs from stress? Is your dog stressed? Would you know?
It’s my opinion that we should protect dogs from living in a state of stress, but not protect them from stressful experiences. Let me explain why.
When a puppy is born it immediately starts experiencing stress. Every new experience is stressful to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the dog. This continues when they go home (more stress, new people, other dogs, different smells), when they go out (different environment, sounds, smells, stimuli).
All these stressful experiences develop the dog’s coping mechanisms and help him grow in confidence and learn to adapt to this world we live in. They quickly learn what is no threat to them and experience reduced or no stress when they next encounter this scenario.
Dogs need leadership to feel confident and safe. When this believable leadership is absent the dog will try to fill the void in any way he can. This can include being in a state of hyper alertness, reacting to perceived threats whether dogs or people in the street, squirrels, cats, push chairs, bikes, cars etc etc. When this leadership vacuum is filled the dog can relax.
If you have a stressed dog already, teaching them how to develop those coping mechanisms and providing him with believable, unemotional, consistent and clear leadership is the key to helping him to relax.