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In the movie Falling Down, Michael Douglas plays a character who experiences a lot of frustration. He is unemployed, divorced and he is trying to be with his daughter for her birthday, but along the way things happen that make it hard for him to get there and his behavior is becoming more and more extreme. We can say he is severely trigger stacked.

Dogs can have experiences that cause stress, some of which we may barely notice. They might see, hear or smell something that they have a negative association with. Individually these events might not cause a problem, but if there are multiple events, they get ‘stacked’. Fire works being set off in the evening, relatives visiting with their boisterous dog, seeing that neighbor dog he is reactive to, having a member of the household being out of town or sick, these can all be triggers that create stress.

Now the dog comes to daycare, and the high energy dog he normally plays with, is just too much and the dog snaps at him. The dog is trigger stacked. Stress hormones have build up and the dog’s tolerance level is much lower than what we are used from him.

Stress releases hormones, that give us the energy to respond if we feel we are in danger. A different part of our brain takes over, it is ‘fight or flight’. We are not thinking about our actions, we are reacting. A severely trigger stacked dog makes poor decisions. Also, these hormones can stay in the blood stream for a long time. We talk about the ‘stress bucket’. The increasing stress and hormone levels fill up the bucket until it spills over and the dog acts out. It also can take days for levels to go down, for the bucket to empty out.

It is important that we know about stressful events in your dog’s life or when there is something unusual going on. It is also important that we see your dog regularly, so we get to know him and recognize when he is behaving normal or when is behavior is out of the ordinary. That is why we have an attendance policy, it is there to keep all the dogs safe.

Sometimes clients are surprised when we describe their dog’s behavior, because they don’t see that behavior at home, that is not how their dog behaves. But remember that you too behave differently at home than when you are with a group of friends or if you are out in public surrounded by people you don’t know. The dogs too are influenced by who is around them.

There will be some price increases starting June first for our daycare, lodging and grooming services. These will be posted on our website.

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Dirk Broersma