Avoidance & Your K9 Companion

Avoidance & Your K9 Companion

Avoidance for the veteran is all about the need to feel safe. It is normal for a soldier to shop late at night and the only shop in a store he feels familiar with, one in which he knows the aisles and where things are. He is avoiding crowds, to lessen the threat, to keep safe.

At the moment we are probably using avoidance more than ever before and some are in total isolation in order to keep safe. Have you changed your shopping habits? Do you have a preferred place to shop, are you observing the various safety precautions stores have in place, are you compliant or do they annoy you? What makes you feel safe and how do you respond when you feel threatened? Are you recognising changes in your behaviour and responses? 

Our dogs use avoidance a lot when they are placed in situations that make them fearful or uncomfortable, so once again, just like us. Avoidance is also part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, the survival instinct that responds to perceived danger or threat in order to keep us alive.  Your dog should feel safe around you and in your home, so if they start to display avoidance tactics, like running away from you, or hiding from you, or they may become reluctant to engage with you in something they normally enjoy, these are some of the things to be mindful of and maybe take time out to consider.

How are you feeling?
If you are stressed you will release the hormone cortisol and your dog will smell this, individual dogs respond in different ways to this, depending on the circumstances.
Have you set your dog up to succeed? 
Are you attempting a new task in a new environment, with distractions and increasing the difficulty level. Always teach new skills in safe, familiar surroundings and keep sessions short and fun.
Have you been overdoing the training or walking in the current circumstances?
Is your dog still adjusting to their new exercise regime, do they need some time out to chill with no pressures to be anything other than just a dog. Use the new skills you are learning, about providing enrichment and exploring opportunities in order to help them relax, reboot and recharge.
Have you given your dog downtime?
Remember your dog needs time to sleep and relax, they may not be used to having you around 24/7 and even if normally you are fortunate enough to spend a lot of time together, your whole routine will have changed at the moment and require adjustments from both of you.

Always look at the bigger picture and remember your dog would choose to live in harmony with you, so admonishing them for using avoidance will not help to build that bond of trust. Your dog will always have a reason for behaving the way they do, make your focus on working out what that reason is, rather than dwelling on the actual avoidance behaviour.

If you need help with this, please do not hesitate to contact us for support and advice. We are here to help you make a difference in the life you share with your four-legged companion.

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