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Ask the Trainer

Ask the Trainer: Acknowledging When Your Dog is Uncomfortable

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“Whenever we meet someone on our walks, my dog Bailey will stand there and when they go to pet her, she takes off out of nowhere.  It looks like she is waiting to get petted, but then she runs.  What can I do about that?” – Jane S.

Hi Jane,

I think this goes back to ignoring “the calm before the storm”.  Most people do not acknowledge and respond to signs of avoidance (the calm).  Everyone has heard the phrase “Fight or Flight”, but these are the “storms”, that come after the calm of avoidance.  Flight or fight are responses to the fact that signs of avoidance were not noticed and honored.

When most dogs are put in uncomfortable situations, they display signs of avoidance in hopes that the uncomfortable stimuli (adults, kids, another dog, a car, etc.) will go away.  When their signs of stress are ignored, that is when we often see fight or flight behaviors.  Neither of which are good.  The key is to be educated and conscious of what avoidance looks like, and help your dog during that stage.  Honoring the calm of avoidance, can prevent the storms of fight and flight.  

Dogs quickly and frequently vacillate between being comfortable and uncomfortable (when stress signals may occur), so we need to constantly be aware of the dog’s state of mind.  Virtually every dog owner wants to prevent any opportunity of discomfort for their dog and to provide as much enjoyment as possible.  This is great, but it should NOT only come in the form of treats, excessive petting and lavish praise.  What it SHOULD come in, is honoring avoidance signals, so they don’t feel that fighting or fleeing are their only option to survive.

What are signs of avoidance and stress?  I can sit here and write many pages outlining it, but this is the best article I have seen with details, pictures, and descriptions.  So continue reading HERE.

S.R. Dog Training provides dog training in Putnam NY and Westchester NY.  Learn more about dog trainer Steve Reid by visiting www.srdogtraining.com and “Like” on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/SRDogTraining.

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