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How can I understand if my dog is stressed out ?

For many years people have been asking me the question, “How can I know if my dog is stressed out ?” And for many years now, my answer to that question has been "Well, he's your dog: you'll know if he's stressed out because you know him". I'll admit I'm not the world's most diplomatic person.
In reality, learning to recognize the signals dog use to show stress wasn't easy for me either. Anyone who sees a dog with its tail between its legs, a dog who is trembling or trying to run away can understand that the emotional state at the root of those behaviours is fear.

The signs of stress are instead much more subtle and require much more careful and thoughtful, willing observation. The best example that comes to mind is that of sniffing the ground. A dog may sniff the ground because there is a smell that interests him, but sniffing is also a frequent and important signal indicating stress. In the past, when I saw a dog with its head down, I always wondered if it was sniffing, or stressed out !

Over the years, I have gradually learned to recognise the two very different contexts ... and to believe what I see. In order to distinguish a stress-related behaviour from a normal investigative one, as sniffing can of course be, my rule of thumb is is to stop looking at the dog and instead look at the world through the dog's eyes.

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the guide to dog behavior

What it is: the complete list of all the stress and fear behaviours of the dog, described and illustrated with both photographs and videos

How it can be used: the ethogram is an indispensible tool in learning to understand, and in studying, the social behaviour of dogs.

Who it’s designed for: anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the social behaviour of dogs.
The ethogram of stress behaviours is a an extremely useful tool in learning to recognise and evaluate the social behaviour of dogs, which can be useful in living with dogs, and which becomes fundamental in dog training.

TAKE A LOOK INSIDE! here some sample pages from "Ethogram of stress behaviours of the dog"

Authors:
Alexa Capra: bibliographical and scientific research; video footage
Daniele Robotti: photographs, editing.


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But is my dog really as stressed out as he seems ?

When talking to owners and explaining the signals their dogs are giving, there's another question they inevitably ask: "But is my dog really as stressed out as he seems to me ?". And the answer is, yes. If the first step in understanding is seeing, the second step is believing what we see. Dogs express their emotional state, intentions and motivations with a constant stream of visual, acoustic and olfactory signals. If a dog displays signs of insecurity, fear or stress, it is insecure, afraid or stressed. And it's important to see and recognize these signals, because ignoring them can have negative effects on the dog's well-being and behaviour.
Stress is a normal adaptive process, and a natural response to events that make the dog uneasy. One thing that helps in coping with stress is having the possibility to do something that makes us feel better.

Fear and stress in dog training

I have purposefully included several video clips regarding training sessions for sporting dogs.
For decades, the learning which took place both in basic family dog training and in advanced training for sporting dogs had the sole purpose of changing a dog's behaviour to something desirable for its human companion. In recent years, things have fortunately taken a turn for the better, and a new way of thinking and conceiving training is becoming ever more widespread.
Today, trainers see that there is also great value in learning in that it is a way to give dogs tools with which to make sense of, and relate to, their physical and social environments, tools which allow them to develop communication skills and emotional self-control, to make the most of their cognitive abilities and yes, even to have fun. In this sense, learning has become something useful for the dogs themselves, not just for their owners or handlers. Nevertheless, learning can also be a significant source of stress, and even of fear.

The complete list of all the STRESS and FEAR behaviours of the dog.

download stress fear behaviour of the dog
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the guide to dog behavior

This work is designed for use on a computer, tablet or smartphone and is not suitable for use in a DVD player or home video entertainment system.