Each of my dogs handles stress in a different way.
Seelie takes his energy to a whole new level – run faster, bark more. If he’s stressing when we’re running agility, he’ll body slam me or grab my sleeve or arm with his mouth (he never bites). The best way to let him get rid of the frantic energy is to play tug. He throws his whole body into it, growling furiously. I’m lucky he’s only thirty eight pounds of wiry muscle and hair; I can lift him up off the ground and spin him around as we’re both holding on to the toy.
Raven used to download with tug too. She would also bark, but unlike Seelie, her barking was truly yelling at me for not running fast enough or being quick enough to tell her about the next obstacle on the course. Now she expresses stress by whining; usually it’s because she wants or needs to get outside into the yard.
Merlin smacks his lips when he’s stressed or nervous. His initial reaction to something that scares him is to move away, but then he’ll dart in for physical comfort. When he’s really unhappy I’m at risk of getting one of his big feet in my face.
Gryphon’s response to stress is a very clear message: ‘I’m outta here!’ He simply walks away, done with whatever’s got him upset.
Phoenix, my red merle Aussie who passed away in October, had the cutest stress-relief, a technique he developed when my lab-whippet Panda died many years ago. Nix latched on to a stuffed duck. His ducky went everywhere with him for a long time, and it had to be that particular ducky. No other type would do; I tried geese and pheasants from the same manufacturer. There were many duckys – luckily, that particular type never went off the market! If he couldn’t find it, he’d come and sit, staring at me. I’d ask him what he wanted by listing different things, and when I said ‘ducky,’ his head would tilt to one side. I’d go find the ducky for him, and he’d lope through the house, body wriggling, holding his ducky in this mouth.
Sometimes Nix was asking me to turn on the television instead – he’d curl up on the couch and watch. Maybe he picked up that particular stress relief from me!