Did you know that anxiety in dogs is the major reason behind so many behavioural issues, such as;
- obsessive compulsive behaviours
- aggression (towards human or dog)
- self mutilation
- incessant barking
- separation stress
- bullying (other dogs or humans)
- lead pulling and frustration
- over the top excited behaviours
and the list goes on.
Don't listen to what many ill informed people will tell you, that anxiety is a brain disease that needs to be treated with medication. In over 99.99% of cases all dogs need is a change to their environment, and/or within the relationship they have with their owner. Anxiety is usually a sign that all of the dogs instinctive needs are not being met, whether that be environmental or social.
Most cases of anxiety can be brought under control and even alleviated once we have a full understanding of the underlying triggers, and without medication. Once we have the dogs anxiety under control, then many of the associated behaviours also tend to diminish.
All psychotropic medication tends to do is subdue the dog, so that its reactions or coping behaviours are not so pronounced, however they do not deal with the underlying cause for the anxiety. We have become a society that has become more and more dependant on the magical pill for a quick fix. Many Vet behaviourists will inform you that your dog has a chemical imbalance, and therefore is causing your dogs anxieties. This is what the big pharmaceutical companies inform them, and they follow along blindly believing all they are told by these companies, who of course have a vested interest in getting your dog on drugs. Well we shouldn't be listening to this propaganda by the pharmaceutical companies, as it is my professional opinion, after more than 36 years working with dogs, that it is in fact anxiety that is causing the chemical imbalance in the brain, and not the other way around. Many dog owners, through what is known as classical conditioning actually condition thier dog into involuntary anxious emotional states. You will not observe any social animals that live naturally within their social groups and environment suffer from extreme anxiety, only those that live within an environment controlled by humans. Shouldn't this fact in itself tell us so much about the cause for extreme anxiety in our dogs?
In the late 1800's Pavlov discovered that we as humans could condition dogs to have involuntary physiological reactions such a salivating, by the use of classical conditioning. Well this is what is happening in most cases with extreme cases of anxiety in dogs, humans have through classical conditioning, created overly anxious dogs. This extreme anxious emotional state in the dog then leads to coping behaviours, such as listed above.
I am honestly tired and saddened by the fact that so many dog owners are being fed a lie about anxiety in their dog by many Vet Behaviourists and the pharmaceutical companies. Unless we get back to treating dogs as dogs again, start respecting their natural instincts, and their environmental and social needs, we are going to continue having a growing epidemic of dogs with extreme anxiety, and a society full of dogs drugged up on these psychotropic drugs.
As mentioned above, watch any documentary on social animals and you will not see any of these animals that live in their natural environment, and that live according to their natural instincts, suffer from extreme anxiety. This is because for one, their environmental needs are being met, but more importantly their instinctive social needs are being met, by living in their social groups as nature intended. Social groups live by defined rules and these rules are enforced naturally to ensure a cohesive social group. Due to the advent and growing popularity of the purely positive and force free movement, many have lost sight of a dogs instinctive needs, by trying to ignore our dogs natural instincts. If social groups in the wild were forced to live by the purely positive or force free ideology, these social groups would instantly fall into chaos, and very quickly cease to exist. These social animals would become extinct.
It is my opinion that we as a human race have become overly emotional, and therefore denying our dogs their natural survival instincts. We have become a society where love and affection totally overrules natural discipline, believing that our physical affection alone whether that be by food or physical touch and interaction, is all we need to raise psychologically and emotionally healthy dogs. 15 years ago dog owners were not afraid to discipline their dogs, now however the word discipline has come to mean abuse, by those that have an agenda to push. I have been working with dogs in a professional capacity for over 36 years, well before the advent of purely positive and force free ideology, and have seen first hand the dramatic increase in the numbers of dogs with extreme anxiety issues over the past 15 years, and it continues to increase at an extremely unacceptable rate.
We are being mislead and falsely informed that purely positive and force free methods are scientifically proven to be affective. We need to understand that the majority of these scientific studies are carried out in very controlled and sterile environments, and under strict conditions, not the real world. Most that conduct these controlled studies are biased before they even commence the study, as they want to prove a theory that is in agreement with their own hypothesis and belief system. And in many cases for financial gain. Pharmaceutical companies are biased towards controlled studies that help them put more drugs into the mouths of our dogs. They have a vested interest in ensuring that these studies are conducted in such a way that the results convince Vets and dog owners that the dog has a brain disease, or a chemical imbalance, and not caused by the dogs environment and the way we are relating to them.
We are also now seeing how political correctness that is slowly invading our society is slowly destroying the underlying fabric of human society, and now we are doing the same to our dogs. We truly do need to open our eyes, and stop being led like sheep to the slaughter, by those that have an emotonal agenda to push, or for financial gain..
I have included the text below from my Facebook post, as that consultation prompted me to write this blog.
This consultation from yesterday (Sunday) prompted me to write the blog in my previous post, and discuss anxiety and classical conditioning.
I attended a clients home that had a 12 month old French Bulldog, that she had informed me was extremely highly strung, and she couldn't train. When I arrived I saw a little Bulldog, so wound up, that she couldn't settle. There were 2 other French Bulldogs there from next door. The one that I had come to see, just wouldn't let up on one of the other dogs, continually bullying it. My clients Bulldog was so wound up that she couldn't settle, and was in a continual frantic state. Her breathing was elevated to almost hyperventilating, her brain you could see was ticking over at a thousand miles an hour, and I am sure her body was pumped up with an extreme amount of adrenaline. Her eyes were almost popping out of her head, and all her muscles were tense. She continually rushed to water and gulped it down and was off again in a matter of seconds, always in an extreme state of arousal. My client informed me that her dog was like this the entire time, except when it was asleep at night. Her dog would attack brooms and the vacuum cleaner, and no matter what she did, she could not get her dog to focus on her to try and do any training. Her dog wouldn't even come in to her space for any affection. If my client went towards her dog, the dog would just back off. I watched this little dog in amazement. It had been awhile since I had seen a dog so highly strung, and apparently this was its life almost 24/7. After about 30 to 40 minutes observing the Bulldog, I informed my client that we need to work on settling her, not only physically, but more importantly mentally, as this was not a healthy state of being at all. I asked my client did she have a collar and lead. She stated she walked her dog on a harness. I asked her to get it (but explaining I was not a fan of walking dogs on a harness, explaining why), so that we could help her dog settle, by taking control with the lead. When we put the harness on my clients dog, there was an instant and dramatic change. She instantly in less than a second, calmed right down. Muscular tension immediately relaxed, the hyperventilating ceased. The muscles around her eyes relaxed. It was amazing the instant change in the dog.... and I mean instant! She walked around calm, let up on the other Frenchie that was visiting, and played more calmly. She actually went over to my client when she called her over, and stayed with her whilst she gave her dog affection, which she had never done before. We went and got the broom, no aggression towards it. She actually had no interest in it at all, same for the vacuum cleaner. My client informed me that she had never been able to stop her dog attacking the broom or vacuum cleaner. We stood there amazed at the instant and dramatic change..yes even me! This goes to show how strong classical conditioning is. The Bulldog, I guarantee would have been a candidate for psychotropic medication if seen by a Vet Behaviourist due to the extreme state of arousal the dog was in before the harness went on. I have informed my client to keep the harness on her dog for the next 4 weeks, only taking it off at night when she slept, and also offered advice on only reinforcing this calm behaviour in her dog. Hopefully during this period we will be able to alleviate the extreme anxiety her dog was suffering from. I plan on going back in 4 weeks, if all is going ok. If there are any changes back to the high arousal state, I will return sooner. We then plan on commencing obedience training. But I first felt it was more important to work on the anxiety and extreme state of arousal first.
This example goes to show that classical conditioning is very powerful at triggering involuntary emotional states. This young dog had had her anxiety levels continually reinforced ever since she was a young pup. But had learnt to be calm when wearing her harness to go for walks, which my client didn't realise. This case is a perfect example how the onset of anxiety alters the chemical levels in the brain, and not the other way around. If this was a case of a dog that had a chemical imbalance caused by a brain disorder, then there wouldn't have been such a dramatic and sudden change when the harness went on. Usually though I come across the opposite, when the lead comes out, it triggers the dog in to an overly anxious state :)
This was a young dog that had never had any boundaries set, no discipline, or rules enforced, except when going for a walk. The harness triggered a calm state in the dog ,which we could use to our advantage.
I look forward to seeing this Bulldogs progress over the coming weeks