Yes. I am being totally sarcastic.

Anyone who deliberately tries to stress out their dog, in my opinion, is not worthy of being a dog owner – disclaimer complete!

I am not talking about nervousness and anxiety, though they are definitely a byproduct. There is a ton of information about nervousness and anxiety on the Web, so I will just bypass that topic.

I am talking about plain old stress; the type of stress that is akin to us beating feet to work every day, putting in long hours, paying bills, and dealing with people that, well…stress us out. It is the the kind of stress that can be created, and undone, with a little help from the owners.

If you want to stress out your dog:

  • Image by luigi diamanti

    Be inconsistent when setting boundaries; chastise for action one day and let them get away with it the next

  • Do not use a standard lexicon; change your words up regularly so you really confuse your dog (“come on,” “let’s go,” “heel,” “stay close,” “off,” “down,” “don’t jump,” etc.)
  • Even better, if two people live in the home, have both people give opposite instructions and use their own set of words
  • Leave your dog wondering about what you are asking of them, (“Sit, stay, wait; no, I mean down…OK, if you don’t want to do ’down’, then just sit and look cute and you will get a treat – maybe, unless you want to try ‘down’ again”)
  • Make sure to avoid any type of structure or schedule. Switch up their feeding time, play time, and walk time.
  • Regularly blow off activities that your dog has come to expect, because we all start with good intentions. When they sit at the front door day after staring at their leash, just ignore them. (since life does sometimes get in the way, make sure you ignore it 3,4 maybe even 5 times a week)
  • Ask too much of your dog – over train, over play, over everything
  • Ignore all those Web sites that tell you basics like what a tail wag or pitch of the bark means
  • Completely ignore any Web site that describes the signs of your dog just wanting to be left alone, so that you can disrupt your dog’s quiet time on a regular basis
  • Since we ignored all those sites, give your dog belly rubs every time they go toe-up, who cares if going belly up sometimes means they have ‘tapped out’
  • Leave them in the yard all day with nothing to do, and then get mad because they decided to amuse themselves by chewing on the fence.
  • When you get home, let them go frantic and think it’s cute that they welcome you home by jumping so much that it probably rattles their brain (figuratively speaking)
  • When your dog shows the first sign of stress, coddle them and foster the behavior so it will get worse and worse.
Image by Grant Cochrane

I am guilty of several of the items above, like not giving her enough space, an inconsistent schedule, asking too much from her and sending inconsistent messages. Having just gone through a bout of doggie stress-out (seeing the manifestation of stress building-up, with calm slowly returning), I have a whole lot to say and plenty of examples to give about these items.

It is like having several piles of mosaics that you pic from, and lay them in front of you until you eventually see a picture evolve. So how do I tackle this topic with examples? I guess I will hit a couple items at a time and then wrap it all up in the end so you can see how Phoebe went from primarily cam to a little nervous-norvus in four weeks flat.

We had that little growling incident 5 or 6 weeks ago, but things went back to normal very quickly. Shortly after that we started her intermediate obedience and nose work training classes. During that time frame, Phoebe started showing increasing signs of stress.

We regrouped. evaluated the household dynamics, came up with a plan, committed to it and have been following through. Over the past few weeks she is chilling out. THANK GOODNESS!