Friday, September 14, 2012
Relieving stress - handling the cause, not the symptoms.
Today, you are stuck behind a desk while your boss maligns your work, or you are stuck behind the wheel of your car while an SUV cuts you off causing you to swerve dangerously into another lane. Modern culture doesn't allow you to throw a spear to release the tension, so eight hours later, when you get home from a stressful day, you kick the dog, or if you are smart, you play a round of golf, go to the gym or take the dog for a run. Exercise can help in the release of stress.
Chewing, whining, barking, pacing, spinning, digging and aggression are all responses to stress. All of these behaviors will release the tension of stress and are used by dogs to do so. None of these behaviors are acceptable to most humans - especially aggression.
There are many methods in the dog training world that deal with these "symptoms" of stress. You have the assertive crowd who use shock collars, prong collars, rolled up newspapers, choke chains, spray bottles of vinegar or citronella, bark collars, electric fences and a host of other tools that cause pain, fear, intimidation or shutdown in the dog. You have the "positive" crowd that teaches an alternate behavior to the chewing, whining, barking, jumping, etc.. You have the serious crowd who use slow, careful counter conditioning and desensitization methods to change the behavior, to change the response to stress causing stimuli. All of these are reactive - the humans are reacting to the behaviors they don't like, dealing with the "symptoms" of a deeper issue which goes, with most trainers, unnoticed. Most of these methods actually increase the stress load in a dog, hidden underneath the alternate behaviors, the avoidance behaviors created by the assertive crowd and the actual introduction of the triggers that are cuasing the stress by the serious trainers.