Is your dog suffering from sensory overload?

It’s surprisingly common for owners to experience behaviour issues as a result of their dog being over-stimulated.

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It’s surprisingly common for owners to experience behaviour issues as a result of their dog being over-stimulated.

At Wood Green, we are happy to offer a free behaviour advice/support service for owners that are struggling, and below we also offer some valuable advice that could help your dog to cope.

We all want our dogs to live happy and fulfilled lives. We want to do things with them that they enjoy and excite them.  On the surface this sounds great, but a balance needs to be struck between excitement and rest for our dogs to be truly content.

How can you tell if your dog is suffering from sensory overload?

If your dog seems to be constantly alert or hyper vigilant, they bark at the slightest noise, are hyperactive, find it difficult to relax, or they have become 'snappy' in certain situations, then you may need to consider sensory overload contributing to the problem.

All occurrences in the environment can stimulate our dogs to varying degrees. What that stimulation looks like is down to a number of things. For example, breed type, age and health status are the obvious factors, but we also need to consider a dog’s individual personality.  Dogs, just like people, are all different.  Some are shy, sensitive introverts, some are happy-go-lucky, and some are bold, confident extroverts. All of these factors impact on just how much stimulation a dog can cope with, and how that manifests.

Considering your dog's behaviour

If you are struggling with their behaviour, consider what an average day consists of for your pooch.

How much repetitive ball chasing is your dog doing? How much rough-housing and playing with other dogs is he doing? How busy and noisy is your household?  Does he practice barking and ‘seeing off’ postal workers and passers-by? Essentially, how much of the average day does your dog spend being active, alert and over-excited?

When we are stressed, stress hormones are released into our brains. During this time we can’t concentrate properly, our tolerance levels drop, and our sleep is affected, as is our behaviour. We commonly associate stress with negative things that occur in our lives. However, over-excitement, high levels of stimulation and endurance exercise can have the same physiological effects, owing to the stress hormones being released into our brains. This is exactly the same for dogs.

Did you know that the average adult dog should enjoy resting/sleeping for approximately 16 hours over a 24-hour period?  If they are not getting close to this amount of sleep due to an over-stimulating lifestyle, then you may start to see some behavioural issues.

The answer isn’t to force downtime on your dog, but to consider how you can introduce some calming activities into their life so that they are less stimulated. This will help to calm their brain activity, resulting in them being more likely to take themselves off somewhere for a good nap.

 

Lowering their excitement levels

If you feel your dog could benefit from lowering their excitement levels, there are a number of things you can do.

Reduce over-stimulating activities

Where possible, reduce activities that cause them to be over-stimulated. For example, if he barks at passers-by, try shutting the curtains or restricting access to the windows. If the children playing in the garden over-excites your pooch, you could give them a stuffed kong and limit their garden access to times the garden is calm. Some things are easier to avoid than others, but if you can reduce incidences of over-stimulation, it’s a major step in the right direction 

Enrichment

  • Enrichment Feeding: Make meal times last longer and more interesting by utilising enrichment feeding. It slows the process of eating down and requires concentration, which can be tiring for your dog. For more information on enrichment feeding, click here.

  • Scent games: Hiding things for your dog to find provides wonderful focused mental stimulation, and is always tiring.

  • Sniffing walks: Allowing your dog to stop and sniff when on walks provides them with an opportunity to know about other dogs in the area without getting them over-excited.

  • Training: Force-free training again tires the brain, but it also helps improve your dog’s overall mood.

So, if you feel your dog’s brain is over-stimulated and they are displaying excitable behaviours that frustrate you, consider their mental health and see what you can do to improve it.

In need of more help?

If you’d like more information on how to improve your dog’s behaviour, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer free behavioural support and pet advice, and will be happy to help!

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