How many of us have had that thought after a particularly bad day? Your boss changes his mind about your presentation and now you have hours of work to do at home tonight to make your deadline. Then, you find that you have a parking ticket when you leave the office. Once you get home, you find a message that your credit card number has been stolen. You go to the refrigerator and realize there’s nothing to make for dinner just as your child informs you of a science project due at school the next day that you’ve heard nothing about. When your spouse then calls and says he’s thinking about going out after work with some friends and of course, you don’t mind, right? In that situation, my answer is likely to be something like “No, I do mind. I can’t take it anymore!”
I wish I could say that when stresses pile up, I always remain in a zen-like state of calm. I don’t. Sometimes I snap at my kids when they’re just being kids. I can be short with my husband or impatient with my dogs when they add just one more minor stress to what has been piling up all day. I always feel awful when it happens and try to apologize to whoever was on the receiving end, but I also understand that stress is a part of life.
What do we expect from our dogs, on the other hand?
Being taken to a crowded dog park full of rude dogs? Owners walking up and taking away the most delicious bone they’ve ever had? A gaggle of screaming 9-year-olds at the house for a slumber party? Bad weather or long hours at the office resulting in few walks or games of fetch for the last week? Toddlers pulling on their ears, poking their eyes and falling on top of them? Being dressed in a ridiculous Halloween costumes and having cameras stuck in their faces? Through all of it, we expect our dogs never to say “I can’t take it anymore!” We, as dog owners, have a responsibility to realize when our dogs are under stress and realize that there is only so much stress that anyone can take before he snaps.
I have heard from many people, “I won’t tolerate growling from my dog.” I like to think of growling as your dog’s way of saying “Enough! I can’t take it anymore!” Isn’t it important that your dog tells you this? If you punish your dog for growling, how is he supposed to let you know that he’s really stressed out and serious about it? Snapping? Biting? I’d much prefer that my dog give me a warning that he needs things to change for him right now. In addition, I strive to recognize the more subtle signs of stress in my dog so he never gets to the point where his stresses build up to the point that he needs to growl. To read more about these all-important signs, click here.
Instead of worrying about whether you should tolerate the behavior from your dog, be happy that now you know about a situation that your dog can’t handle. From now on, you can manage his environment to prevent him getting into it again. Seeking help from a professional trainer can also help you to change your dog’s mind about things he finds stressful and show him better ways to respond.