Creating Balance: Practical Techniques to Reduce Arousal in DogsJoanne Baker | Thursday, May 25th, 2023
As dog owners, we strive to provide our furry companions with a harmonious and stress-free life. Understanding the role of arousal in our dogs’ behaviour is crucial in achieving this goal. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of canine arousal, the Yerkes-Dodson law, and delve into practical strategies that can help reduce arousal levels, creating a balanced and calm environment for our beloved pets.
The Physiology of Arousal:
Arousal is a physiological and psychological state that impacts our dogs’ behaviour and performance. Just like humans, dogs have an optimal arousal level for peak performance, as described by the Yerkes-Dodson law. This law suggests that there is an ideal level of arousal that maximizes performance, while both low and high levels of arousal can lead to decreased performance. By recognizing the signs of arousal and learning how to manage it, we can help our dogs navigate the world with confidence and composure.
Identifying the Signs:
Arousal manifests through various physiological indicators that are invaluable for dog owners to observe. These signs include an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, dilated pupils, muscle tension, elevated body temperature, heightened activity, and vocalizations. By paying attention to these cues, we can gauge our dogs’ arousal levels and take appropriate action to bring them back under their threshold.
Practical Techniques to Reduce Arousal:
Understanding Triggers: Identifying the specific triggers that lead to heightened arousal is the first step in managing it. By knowing what sets our dogs off, we can gradually expose them to these triggers in controlled environments, using desensitization and counterconditioning techniques to reduce their reactivity.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Regular physical exercise helps our dogs release excess energy, lowering overall arousal levels. Combining this with mental stimulation through puzzle toys, scent work, or obedience training keeps their minds engaged and redirects their focus, promoting a calmer state.
Establishing a Calm Environment: Creating a peaceful atmosphere at home is crucial. Providing a designated quiet space, incorporating soothing background sounds, and maintaining consistent routines help our dogs feel secure, reducing anxiety and arousal.
Positive Reinforcement Training: Rewarding calm behaviour through positive reinforcement techniques is highly effective. By reinforcing relaxed body language and calm responses, we encourage our dogs to exhibit more serene behaviours and strengthen their ability to self-regulate.
Controlled Socialization: Gradual exposure to different environments, people, and animals in a controlled manner helps our dogs build confidence and reduces arousal associated with novel experiences.
Relaxation Exercises: Teaching relaxation exercises such as “down-stays” or “settling on a mat” aids in impulse control and relaxation. These exercises can be practiced in calm settings and gradually introduced to more distracting environments.
Calming Techniques: Exploring methods such as aromatherapy, pressure wraps, or pheromone diffusers can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels in some dogs. These techniques can provide additional support in managing arousal.
Consistency and Routine: Dogs thrive on routine and predictability. Establishing a consistent daily schedule for feeding, exercise, play, and rest helps dogs feel secure and reduces anxiety-driven arousal.
Professional Guidance: In cases where managing arousal becomes challenging, seeking the assistance of a professional animal behaviourist or certified dog trainer is highly recommended. They can provide tailored advice and guidance based on your dog’s specific needs, ensuring the best approach for managing arousal effectively.
Reducing arousal levels in our dogs is a key aspect of creating a balanced and fulfilled life for them. By implementing these practical strategies and observing the physiological signs of decreasing arousal, we can provide a calm and supportive environment that allows our dogs to thrive. Together, let us embark on this journey of understanding, training, and nurturing, building strong bonds and harmonious relationships with our canine companions. By applying the principles of the Yerkes-Dodson law, we can optimize our dogs’ performance and well-being, ensuring they remain in their ideal state of arousal for a happy and balanced life.
If you need help, our trainers at Righteous Pups can help you!