Monday, January 23, 2012

Nobu stressed

Of all the doggie books I've bought, the one I like best is a slim volume by Turid Rugaas called 'On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals'. This picture of Nobu at the Sports event shows he is totally stressed and feels threatened, with his tail down, and it gave me a shock to see how totally unhappy he looked...
"Primarily a dog gets stressed for the same reason as humans: when they feel unable to cope.... A dog with a constantly high stress level will be much more likely to get stomach problems, allergies and heart trouble. They will be faster and more violent in their defense...Many dogs have a high stress level because of demands resulting from a young age, anger and aggression from the owner's side, or being constantly commanded to obey, with the owner often using a harsh voice. A dog such as this is stressed by these things every day. As a result stress levels remain high, and consequently the dog never calms down....This leads up to my conclusion: There is no, absolutely no, reason or excues to punish, be violent, threatening, or forceful towards a dog or to demand too much of him...We always have a choice of how to behave. Then we can understand our dogs' calming signals and tell them that we understand. Or, we can overlook these signals and make the dog feel he cannot cope, consequently making him stressed.' 

I completely forgot all this wisdom at the sports event, in the blithe assumption that Nobu, who loves playing with other dogs, would love the whole thing. In fact the long car drive makes him feel carsick, so he went through prolonged agony, only to be told to wait, not run freely, and then perform in tricks like waiting and running to heel when he's only just arrived in our home and had never learned to "sit" before, and only had two obedience classes to get a feel for what it's about. No wonder he was into playing and grabbing my coat and stressed by the need to behave in a particular way...Fortunately he had a little time to play with Aria and Claire, and overall I think it was a positive learning experience for him, but what bothers me is that my own assessment of how great it would be for him made me blind to his real feelings, and so I didn't use any of the calming signals that the book teaches to help him relax: head turning, softening the eyes, licking my nose (as best i can), yawning and picking imaginary weeds from the lawn (since I can't sniff). Here he is below telling me with a nose lick that this is highly stressful, and he's trying his best to calm down and manage to do what I want...I should have licked my own lips, turned my head away and sat down as well, to let him feel at ease, instead of thrusting my face in his space and waving my hand dangerously above his head...sigh, the mistakes we humans make...

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