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Agility Addicts is one of the top dog agility clubs in the West Midlands. Check our Training page for class times and available spaces.

How Does Your Dog Feel About Life?

Coping with Humans

Our dogs all live in completely artificial environments, no matter how loving the homes we give them. They live with us in mixed groups that do not resemble wild dog families. They depend on us for all the basics in their lives - e.g. food, water, exercise - but are limited by us in their abilities to follow instincts to their ultimate conclusions - e.g. hunting, sex.

It is a tribute to their adaptability as a species that they cope with humans as well as they do. However, the increasing number of dogs needing 'shrinks' demonstrates how much pressure the pet dog is under in our modern world.

The lack of a normal canine family for young dogs to be raised in can sadly lead to dogs not understanding how to interact properly with their own species, either. We all know of dogs that do not understand how to 'talk' to other dogs.

Signs of Stress

Stress in a dog can manifest itself in a number of ways, and it is worth reading Turid Rugaas' article on Calming Signals.

Signs of stress include:

• licking lips and/or nose when worried about something;
• taking the lip licking further by yawning widely;
• turning away from the object causing the anxiety, sitting with its back to the object, or even moving away.

The above are also called 'calming signals' as their intention may be to calm the person/dog causing the anxiety. Dogs are good at appeasing others, or showing uncertainty, by:

• wagging tails sideways, or wagging their whole behinds;
• approaching slowly (does this ring a bell on recalls?);
• using puppyish behaviour such as licking people/dogs.

Personal Space

Dogs vary hugely in their ability to tolerate rudeness in other dogs (or indeed in humans). Puppies are given a short-term licence to misbehave, but expected to behave with more restraint as they grow older. However, some dogs living in our human families remain eternal puppies, and never learn the self-control they would if part of a canine family.

We have all seen these eternal puppies in the park. They come bounding energetically towards our dogs, rushing straight into our own group of dogs. For most dogs, this behaviour is considered rude. They will respond in different ways to the approach, including chasing the rude dog off with a snap.

Dogs will always provide some clue as to how they are feeling in such a situation, and how they might react. Watch out for freezing and stiffening, or signs of stress as described above.

Be pro-active - move away from the approaching rude dog.

Help Your Dog

By taking dogs into our lives, we are also taking on the responsibility of helping them cope with life with us.

In training class situations, do not place your dog in a position that will make it extremely anxious. This is unfair on your dog, will undermine its trust in you, and can lead to problems later.

Learn to read your dog - watch out for signs of stress and calming signals, and do your best to figure out why the dog is using them, and who they are directed at. If your dog is worried about another dog, move away from that dog, and place yourself inbetween. If your dog is worried by the class trainer, find a different class or club!

And above all, if you realise that your dog is using calming signals on you - lighten up! Yawn, stretch and lick your lips, then smile and have a game with your dog.

See the Links page for other sites with useful training information

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