At RosyDogs, I talk a lot about buckets. Every dog has one, and in the bucket the dog is carrying stress. Every bucket is a different size. It’s all tuned to the dog’s individual personality. Great Danes can have thimble size bucket while a tiny toy poodle may boast an Olympic pool size bucket.
Everything adds stress to the bucket. Good things like cuddles. Scary things like thunderstorms. Frustrating things like the squirrel teasing from an unreachable height. Exciting things like their human coming home. Everything adds to the bucket, and you know what happens when you keep filling a bucket. It overflows. We see that as an overreaction to something. Sometimes something very minor. When that bucket starts to overflow, it’s Boom Time, and almost anything can happen.
The important thing to remember when the bucket overflows is that dogs will do what makes them feel better even if only for an instant. Once they find something that helped them feel better, they do it again and again when the bucket overflows. What you see as excessive barking, or charging after the cat is really what your dog is using to feel better.
Dogs cope with their filling stress buckets in one of two ways. They’re either an Active Coper or a Passive Coper. Active Copers are easy to see. They’re the barkers, the lungers, the charging off after rabbit dogs while the passive Copers tend to fade into the background. They stare off into space, or go into sniffing mode that seems to block out the rest of the world.
Active Copers disperse stress faster and more efficiently. Studies have proven this time and again. Neither method is wrong. One’s just lower the stress faster. The larger point is we can help both types keep the bucket level so low it never overflows.
So what can we do? Well, we have 2 choices. We can either change our homes and lifestyle to accommodate the stressed out dog, or we can meet them somewhere in the middle by working to change the bucket to better match the lifestyle you all want to live. I think you’ll agree that meeting in the middle is best for everyone.
Tomorrow I introduce your first Practical Calming Tip, one to use In Case of Emergency because life gets crazy sometimes.
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.