I have read a lot of commentary on stress during dog training; the short version is that there are people out there who don’t believe that a dog should be stressed out for training to be effective or humane, and that stress will damage the relationship between human and canine. While I agree that stress indicators such as panting, yawning, and stretching should be carefully considered during training, I completely disagree that they should always be avoided. If your dog never feels stressed, they will never learn how to handle stress. The fact is that stress is a natural response and there is such a thing as healthy stress; it simply means your dog is learning. It is our job to guide our dogs through stressful situations, which is why we teach the dog a marker system (good, break, no). When you put pressure on a dog, which comes in all forms (raising your voice, pulling on the leash, manipulating your body language, giving stimulation on an e-collar, and much, much more) your dog will feel stress. If you have done an effective job teaching your dog a marker system, you can work them through that stress, which builds confidence in your dog and builds their trust in you as their leader. Once you have done this with enough repetition, your dog will no longer feel stress in that situation.
Every new environment you take your dog into, even something as simple as a new quiet park you discovered down the road with no distractions, your dog is going to exhibit some level of stress. Now every dog is different, more confident dogs with strong leaders will exhibit less, while insecure dogs with owners who believe that dogs should have freedom without consequence, structure, or guidance, will exhibit a higher level of stress. The more new environments you take your dog into, the less stressed your dog will be going into new places. So you might have guessed that with a proper relationship, obedience, food drive, and good communication using a marker system, the more distractions you put your dog into with the expectation that they will focus on you, the less stress they will exhibit in distractions, the less likely they will have reactivity and social issues, and the more balanced they will be in the long run. Now, it is a little more complex than just taking them places and having expectations, as reliable obedience, good timing, consistency, and motivation all play key factors in your rate of success, but when all of these things have been taken into account, putting stress on your dog in the right way is absolutely acceptable and is the only way that you will help your dog move forward in their training.
Yes, for obedience training to be effective and fun, minimal stress is encouraged, which is why we use low distraction environments to begin our training process. For behavioral modification to be effective, stress is as important as positive motivation, the key is to know how to read your dog’s stress indicators and to know when enough is enough, always ensuring you end on a good note with success.
Before deciding which trainer you would like to work with, as they can be a dime a dozen, really think about the behaviors you would like to modify in your dog. If you need help getting your dog to focus in a distracting environment, anything outside the home or controlled setting, than a basic obedience trainer may not be able to give you the results you are looking for. Instead, find a trainer who specializes in DOG behavior modification outside the home in real life situations; one who will be able to teach you how to work your dog through stressful situations, because lets be honest, LIFE IS STRESSFUL!
So why not book a free consultation today to find out how we can help you with your dog! Contact Camellia at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit upk9.ca to find a trainer near you!
Are you at your wits end with your dog’s behavior and would like to have control, sanity, and above all else, safety? No matter the age or breed, please contact me now, I assure you, I can help!