Thought Bubbles

ReADinG DaPhNE dIgeST!!

My dog Daphne is a very sweet and loving dog, but she is anxious about LOTS of things. She gets nervous at the kitchen door when wanting to go outside, waiting for a belly rub, and riding in the car. I have been feeling really bad for Daph, so I wanted to find ways I could lessen her anxiety. After a lot of research, I established a routine with Daphne at the kitchen door because she showed signs of anxiety there frequently. Dogs are creatures of habit, so implementing a steady routine is a good way to reduce anxiety and create a positive change in a dog’s behavior.   

To start, it is important to recognize signs of stress or anxiety in your dog from the very beginning, so they don’t become a habit. At first, we didn’t know what Daphne was communicating, so we weren’t able to help her! It’s important to know the simple body language indicators that tell you if your dog is calm, stressed, or anxious.

After reading an article by Stanley Coren, “How To Read Your Dog’s Body Language,” I made a list to help identify certain states of being in dogs.


Calm/relaxed:

  • Relaxed soft stance
  • Ears relaxed
  • Tail down and relaxed
  • Head high
  • Casual gaze soft

Alert:

  • Tail straight out (not firm)
  • Ears forward pricked  (may move slightly)
  • Standing straight up tall
  • Eyes wide (ish)

Fearful:

  • Body lowered
  • Tail tucked
  • Ears Back
  • Brief eye contact
  • Forehead smooth

Anxious/stressed:

  • Tail down
  • Stiff tail wag high up
  • Body lowered
  • Ears back
  • Panting
  • Lip licking
  • Yawn (tired or anxious)

 

Once I learned a lot about dog body language, I was able to confirm my original hypothesis that Daphne was showing signs of anxiety. But to help her, I needed to know what was making her feel that way. After researching A LOT MORE, I discovered the specific type of behavior that Daph is exhibiting! Displacement behavior (yawning, lip licking, lip-smacking), is out of context behavior dogs engage in when they are faced with a conflict they don’t want to deal with directly. Dogs do this when they have a desire to do something, but end up suppressing it. Displacement behaviors are commonly misunderstood because they are normal responses to some situations.

Next, I wanted to figure out what Daphne might be suppressing at the door. My mom and I realized that she used to jump on the door when waiting to go outside. For the most part, Daph isn’t jumping up on the door anymore, so we thought that might be the urge she’s suppressing. And that would explain why she’s showing displacement behaviors. As a short-term solution, All Dogs Gym suggested creating an alternate energy outlet for her nervous energy. I tried SO MANY different things to lessen Daph’s anxiety at the door, but none of them worked. Before I was completely lost on what to do, we came up with an idea…

Routines offer dogs a steady system to help them decrease or eliminate an undesired behavior. I introduced a new routine at the door to help Daphne feel comforted by a steady schedule. We thought this idea would work because dogs are creatures of habits – good and bad! I got a red ribbon and put it on the door when the dogs are not allowed to go outside. The message I am trying send to the dogs is that they have to stay inside/outside when the red ribbon is on the inside or outside door knob. If the dogs persist at going out when the ribbon is on the door, I say “Stay inside” as a verbal cue to reinforce the visual cue (the ribbon).

After implementing a steady routine for about 3 weeks, I saw a change in Daphne’s emotional response at the door. She stopped showing displacement behaviors while waiting and wanting to go outside. Instead of being anxious, Daph seems more grumpy now that we’re not letting her out whenever it suits her. But, THIS IS A BIG IMPROVEMENT from her anxiety at the door!

After the past 8 weeks of research, I know that implementing a steady routine is a good way to create a positive change in a dog’s behavior. My amazing and very anxious dog, Daphne, stopped showing displacement behaviors after I created a consistent routine for when she is allowed to go in/outside. Before, the uncertainty was causing her to anticipate when she would get to go out, and suppressing the urge to jump on the door only increased her anxiety. Also, she was driving us cRaZY, because Daph wanted us to let her out every 5 minutes. After learning to read body language, I was able to identify Daphne’s anxious behaviors, and ended up finding a solution to help curb her anxiety at the door. All I had to do was create a routine!  🐾 🙂 🐕 😉

 

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3 Comments

  1. natalie dente December 20, 2017

    Hi Anna Well Done!!!!!! I think you are on your way to having a more relaxed and well behaved dog in Daphne. Like all children or dogs limits need to be set. In the end peace is found because we all need to follow some kind of patterns, I know this took a lot of time but you did it. love Grandma Natalie

  2. izzyandmio2 December 24, 2017

    Pretty cool Anna! I think Tiger gets anxious about getting a bath — he exhibits all of those behaviors including running away! I think we need more routine on the bathing front…

    merry christmas!
    UA

  3. donna January 5, 2018

    Anna — amazing writing. This essay is truly eloquent. You explain the issue very clearly, almost clinically, but the reader can still feel your deep personal connection to your subject (we love you daph!)

    This kind of writing really teaches all of us. Thanks for all your work.

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