Dr. Temple Grandin highlights on the very first page of her book, Animals Make Us Human, animals are entitled to five freedoms. They are entitled to be:
Free from hunger and thirst
Free of discomfort
Free of pain, injury or disease
Free to express their normal behavior
Free from fear and distress
Animals are not only afraid when a stimulus is present, but may also be anxious when exposed to a “pre-fear stressor”. Although it may be a “normal” behaviour for a dog to run free for hours a day, it may be against ordinances in a municipality. But the more stressors we can remove from an animal’s life, the less anxious and stressed that the dog or animal should become.
This is a complex topic as it is difficult to quantify the amount of stress an animal might be subjected to. For example, what would you think would be more dangerous and damaging to a dog? Would it be a great stress such as a life and death situation that lasts for an hour or would it be more stressful for an animal to have a little pain its knee such as from arthritis over months or years? One might surmise that less stress, and a lower stress level, would be less damaging or impactful in a dog’s life. But the reality is that long term stress, although much less intense, is more potentially damaging to an animal than a higher level of short term stress.
Stress can be good sometimes. It keeps us on the edge. Whether going to a job interview or competing in an olympic event, it can be considered positive for a short time. But even more damaging is a lesser amount of long term stress that continues over weeks, months or years. Short term stressors activate the adrenal glands and endocrine system. The adrenaline and stress hormones give you that fight or flight reflex. Long term stress at lower levels however, taxes the body
Dogs are sometimes scared of a thunderstorm or 4th of July fireworks. He’s shaking like a leaf and your heart is breaking for him. But once the hour long thunderstorm has passed or the show of fireworks is completed, your dog returns to his natural state. He has dealt with the stress and will be fine. One the other hand, a dog who is fearful or uncertain, may feel anxious or uncomfortable for a long period and this may cause him not only behavioural issues, but also physical maladies. Dogs under great stress may gray out much younger, be more prone to seizures, cancers and other conditions including autoimmune dysfunction.
If you want to make your dog truly happy and relaxed, give him what he needs: give him what all dogs deserve, clarity™