Yes, dogs also get stressed and sometimes their stresses are more than ours. One might think that why should dumb creatures like dogs get stressed! Well dogs do not have a powerful thinking power and logic like ours, but they do have many other reasons to get stressed. Let us examine the reason of ‘doggy stress’:
The first stress which is often the worst in the life of a dog is when he is suddenly picked up as a puppy by the new owner and taken away to a new home. The strange touch of the new owner’s hands, smell and weird sounds of his car and home make the pup stressed. He begins to explore the new place in order to locate some ‘familiar’ smells/objects/voices and or people. Alas he finds none and gets stressed.
The second stress a pup faces is on the day he is taken to a Vet for vaccinations. The sudden surprise car ride-because before that the new owner never thought of teaching his pup how to accept the car ride and then the ‘obnoxious’ smells of the Vet’s clinic make him worried as hell. The worst is yet to come. The feel of the cold steel table is yet another shock and the worst is when suddenly the sweet sounding strange smelling chap plunges the needle in dog’s body. The jab of the sharp needle makes him wince with pain-but he cannot shout like a human baby. The pup tries to bear the pain and agony and may whimper a bit. The needle is taken out and the pup again starts the journey back home. He is off color and once at home the master prizes open his mouth and pushes a tablet, which the pup has to swallow because the Vet had shown the master how to administer the pill. Poor pup is stressed.
The third major stress he faces is separation from the new pack (family). Dog is a pack animal and the pack has a hierarchy. The pack members seldom stay alone for more than a few minutes. When the litter is around two months old the dam goes out in search of food and gulps whatever she can manage to get hold of. Returns and regurgitates the partially digested food in front of her puppies. They are according to her now old enough to accept solid food. The hungry puppies devour the food offered. It sounds dirty but that is how they live and survive in the nature. Often our dams in houses display the same wild trait while nursing their litter. Such activities develop a strong bond between the littermates and the dam and also the other members of the pack.
A domesticated litter of pups gets separated from the pack as individual puppies begin to leave for new homes. After the pup has got used to the new home and ‘selected’ his pack leader and pack members, he, gradually begins to take the new pack as his own pack. And lo, there comes the big jolt, when one fine evening the family decides to go for a movie, locking the pup at home. He can somehow manage to tolerate the solitary confinement for about two hours. Beyond that he loses his determination and self-control and begins to whimper and howl. By now he knows that the owners leave by a particular door. He tries to open the door with his paws and scratches the exorbitantly costly teakwood door. The pack does not return as they are busy having dinner at a posh joint after movie, while the poor pup in disgust starts chewing the leg of the sofa. His bladder control also goes haywire by now and he sniffs and finds the flowery pattern on the plush carpet irresistible and pees there.
Poor thing does not know that his last act will activate the next stress of his life. The master returns home, the pup jubilant with excitement jumps around and licks all of them. Then notices the mistress of the house the wet spot on the carpet and the pup gets a good thrashing. This becomes the order of the day with further bouts of scratching the door and chewing the sofa legs and the list of his misdeeds and the master’s anger bouts go on enlarging from hereon.
Adjusting with humans must have been the toughest decision for the dogs! With their super human sniffing and hearing powers they have to tolerate the odor of all the condiments while food is being cooked in the kitchen. Poor dogs do not have gas stoves or electric ovens in their lairs so they are used to uncooked food which has the best aroma in the world for them! Similarly in wild the only sound they hear is that of lightning and thunder and most of them are mentally prepared for that. They accept it without much stress. But once in our homes, they have to tolerate the sounds of TV, music systems, blaring car horns and if there is an all-night religious singing next door then the blaring cacophony of the loudspeakers and above all the angry shouts of the pack members and the leader etc. Worst awaits them during our festivals like Dewali.
The list of stresses which a dog has to face with us is endless. It is for us to make his life comfortable with minimum stresses.
Dog is a creature of routine and learns by association of ideas. Thus if acclimatized to the noise of TV, car vacuum cleaner, hair drier gradually, dog begins to accept all these as fate accompli. Similarly dog can be taught to remain alone for longer durations (but certainly never longer than two and half hours). This is not very difficult to achieve if you teach your dog from day one to remain alone for five, 15, 20 and 30 minutes gradually. Each time reward him profusely on return. Also in case he starts whimpering as soon as the door is bolted, open the door shut in and scold him in a harsh tone with all the anger written large on your face. Soon he will associate the reward with happiness and the scowl on your face as a bad experience and will remain calm left alone.
The trick to reduce stresses of his life depends on how gradually you can teach him to accept them willingly and look for rewards at the end. If you can reduce the stress on your dog trust me lots of your stresses including the vet’s bills will be cut to half.
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