Fear exposure on a regular basis can make our dogs sick. Expecting a dog to continually face their fears, without long-term help, is a highly effective way to canine illness.
Long ago, we believed that the mind and body were totally unconnected. We thought that stress happened in the brain and the body carried on as normal. We even believed that the body and brain had a vast gap between them, but we underestimated.
The mind and body are intricately connected and this connection must be considered, for ourselves and for our dogs.
The canine nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves which gradually fork from the spinal cord into all areas of the body and finish just under the skin. The nervous system is complex and ancient. It still works with the idea of a potential predator around every corner. It still creates a strong survival response of fight or flight.
Canine Fear - Fight or Flight
When our dogs “act-up”, when they offer a fight or flight reaction, it’s because their nervous system is screaming DANGER to every cell in their body. When the body believes the dog is in danger, the oldest area of the brain takes over, screaming at the dog to react or run. All of this is happening when your dog is facing his fears, along with much more.
The body sees no point in digesting food when danger is upon it. Neither does it place emphasis on fighting disease, for it is putting all that effort into fighting the threat on life itself, so the immune system shuts down. Effort goes into the inevitable fight or flight for survival. Adrenaline and cortisol are produced in abundance and many other things switch off.
The above process has kept our dogs alive throughout evolution, it’s very useful, even now on some occasions, however it takes up to two days to recover from. That’s many hours of lowered immunity and poor digestion, both of which lead to physiological imbalance and susceptibility to illness. Some dogs experience fear every day and the body never gets chance to recover.
When we take care of reactive dogs who have not learned to live in harmony with the environment around them, they are at risk of being in constant fight or flight state. This is why we must try to relieve their stress in the best possible way for them. Whether we use flower remedies, medication, natural therapies, behaviour modification and environmental management can be decided on an individual basis.
We must offer them the help that they need.