When a dog is stressed, the chemical cortisol is released. Cortisol can take some time to dissipate, up to 72 hours. If a dog is continually stressed, then cortisol will always be present. Not only does stress cause the production of cortisol, but the presence of cortisol makes the dog stressed, so the dog is more likely to react disproportionally to something that would ordinarily only have been mildly stressful.
If you were sitting in the lounge watching the lunch time news on the TV and the postman knocked on the window to say that he had a parcel for you, you’d probably jump as you weren’t expecting it, but it wouldn’t ruin your day.
Let’s say that you’re not that comfortable with the dark, but you can cope with it…
And you quite like a good horror film, but it puts you on edge, you check inside the wardrobes and under the bed before you go to sleep…
And you like a good storm, it’s dramatic, but you wince at the noise if it’s a particularly bad storm.
But what if…
- you’re watching a horror film at night
- and there’s a bad storm that’s taken out the electricity
- and someone knocks one the window….
That’s trigger stacking!
The more stressful situation in which your dog is placed, the more stressed he will become, and the more likely he is to over react, and the longer he will take to calm down.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, dissipates quite slowly. After a stressful event it can take up to 72 hours for the cortisol levels to normalise. This can mean that more cortisol is produced before the existing cortisol has dissipated, making the dog more sensitive to other stressful events.
Serotonin is the ‘happy’ chemical. Raising serotonin also has the bi-effect of lowering cortisol. Lowering cortisol has the bi-effect of raising serotonin.
In dealing with anxiety or stress we look at ways of
- lowering cortisol
- raising serotonin