Veterinary Behaviourist Dr. Kristi Seksel: Canine Body Language: Are you really seeing what you think you are seeing?
This was about recognising stress and conflict signals in dogs as well as a discussion on abnormal reaction to fears (or phobias) that would cause an on-going anxiety issue in your dog.
Anxiety is a feeling of anticipation of an upcoming, unavoidable danger.
Generalized anxiety in a dog can be just as debilitating as an anxiety disorder in a human. In fact according to Dr Seksel 1/5 dogs, that is 20% of all dogs will have an anxiety disorder! Seksel’s main point was that although an anxiety disorder may be helped with behaviour modification, such as counter conditioning, it will not be cured and must be diagnosed by a vet in order to receive medication that will help that dog. Keeping in mind of course that medication is not a cure in and of itself, and also must be followed up with a plan to help that dog learn to cope with the changes in his/her environment that cause the anxiety. Eventually the medication would be reduced, and all the behaviour modification that the owner and trainer have so diligently worked on will take its place.
The main points I would like to cover from this lecture are:
-Dogs with abnormal fear and anxiety can release pheromones that other dogs will sense and will react to, a dog with generalised anxiety will regularly “set other dogs off” and be more likely to be involved in more events that make the anxiety worse. If a dog is showing abnormal signs of fear or aggression, that dog must get medication in order to help them through the hardest stage of learning to cope with their anxieties. These dogs should not be expected to “get over it” even with behaviour modification, they must receive medication.
- Do not punish fear behaviours, that will only make anxiety worse, and therefore the behaviour worse. Allow the dog to show fear so you know what her triggers are, and do not be concerned with reinforcing the fear behaviour, by soothing the dog.
- Owners must be taught to learn to read the dog’s body language, watch their own body language, and be able to read the emotional state of the dog.