Coping With Change

Just like it can be for humans, change can be very stressful for dogs, too. While most dogs do adjust to change fairly quickly and with only minor side effects [e.g. being clingy or whiny for awhile], some dogs become so unstable that they become reactive to almost everything, leaving their owners stunned, anxious, and at a loss about how to help them. Dogs that are already nervous, fearful, and insecure can become highly reactive – and, in some cases, outright aggressive. When that happens, and if the owners don’t know what to do about it, the dog is either separated and kept isolated from the family, rehomed, or euthanized. Either way, the dog loses.

Dogs who have to cope with many changes in a very short amount of time need stability and calm but strong leadership from their owners. If owners fail to provide that, the cycle of mutual mistrust and disrespect begins. And the longer that cycle continues, the more difficult it becomes to break it and start working to rebuild those foundations.

Sadly, I see situations like this too often. And when I ask when the problems started, the response is almost always the same: “It just happened out of nowhere.” It is so unfortunate that the owners didn’t understand that unless there is an underlying, undiagnosed medical issue, unwanted behaviors generally don’t just appear “out of nowhere”; the dog did try to communicate to them that it was struggling, but they didn’t recognize the signs.

Change can be very stressful for a dog. Moving to a new home, bringing home a new baby, adding a new animal to the family… These and other life-impacting changes don’t just affect the people. They affect the animals in the home, too.

If you are going through some major life changes and you start noticing unwanted behaviors in your dog, please don’t wait longer than a week or two to call a trainer for help. The sooner you take control of the situation, the easier it will be to help your dog.

Have a great day, and remember: Stay calm and lead on.


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