I took part in a Seminar from a well-known dog trainer here in Germany. It was two days working with “problem dogs” and, as always, problem humans…
Amongst the bunch there were dogs with deep, loud growls – some wanted to chase rabbits more than breathe air – and some were afraid of anything that existed. It was such a mixed group. The whole seminar planted many little seeds in my mind that will slowly start to grow in understanding over the years.
We were wrapping up the Seminar and asking some last questions when a woman asked, “I have a dog who pants heavily and drools on longer car rides (multiple hours) and can’t seem to calm down. How do I help him with that?”
So I sat there, as usual, trying to anticipate the answer. Thinking of the many things I might do in that situation. I had a whole plan in my mind that would’ve worked, surely! To my surprise, the trainer asked her in return,
“And how often do you go on these long car rides?”
“A few times a year at the most…”
Then he smiled and said, “I am under stress every day, often with very little, to no, relaxing time. Why can’t your dog handle a few hours of stress a year?” It was a very common-sense-approach. I was stumped because I was sure he would’ve come up with some sort of solution for her or something… anything! He continued, “It would be silly for your time, and even more stressful for the dog, to drive around and around for hours trying to get him used to being in a car. Maybe some day he will realize driving for a longer time in a car is not so bad. Then again, he might have car sickness (because you say it only comes up on long car rides) and trying to train even a person with car sickness brings us nowhere.”
The seminar had quite a few of these moments. Moments where I though I knew what he would say, only to think, “Hmm… okay, common-sense strikes again!”
But it’s true; sometimes people are under the impression that animals should never experience stress, but it’s perfectly fine for us to be stressed 24/7. That’s not to say that your animal should be stressed, but don’t become unrealistic in your acts to protect them from it. Sometimes your animal will have to endure something that is stressful – we all do. Depending on how you deal with that, he or she will either improve from the experience, and learn that it was not so bad, or feed off of your worry and become even more stressed in the future.