Stress and anxiety in a German shepherd
I was in Swadlincote near Burton upon Trent on Friday as I was asked to help a couple with their rather noisy German shepherd whose behaviour towards visitors was worrying them because of the amount of noise the dog generated. They were also concerned the dog might nip someone as the dog would lunge towards people.
The certainly was noisy when I arrived and continued to be noisy for about 15 minutes. There are many ways you could deal with this but most of them would involve giving the barking attention when trying to calm the dog down and this could be counter productive.
This dog was working on a time frame of expectation, from when I arrived to when she would get attention for her behaviour. Once this time frame was exceeded, in this case about 15 minutes, , her behaviour began to change and she calmed and quietened down, until we tried to go into the kitchen. She clearly had issues with people in her space.
We let her out into the hallway and she barked and lunged a few times but without any purpose apart from venting frustration and anxiety.
This frustration and anxiety comes from shouldering a large burden of responsibility that she could not cope with.
When dogs feel the need to be in control because their people are not, the burden is too much for them and they exhibit signs of stress and confusion which comes out in behaviours we often interpret as aggression. This can mean we react in an inappropriate way because we have misread the situation.
When the situation and the behaviour is reacted to correctly and by doing so we relieve the burden of responsibility and we reduce the amount of stress the dog is under, we see a behavioural change that is pleasing, the dog starts to relax.
Once the dog was relaxed we could then work on her reactivity to noise and to other external stimulus like next doors dog and their constant argument with each other through the garden fence. Because of this, parts of the garden are out of bounds because of her behaviour.