With behavioural and fitness businesses booming, I would hope there is a sharing of knowledge, so a complete package of canine body and mind could be put in place.
After all, there’s a whole dog, muscle and mind thrown in with reactivity, these two subjects should go hand in glove.
Looking at muscle and mind.
Dogs that have lived, or started out, largely in a reactive state, seeming to be doing daily work outs of isometric stress held muscles and then the changes in muscle as the stressed behaviour, reactivity improves.
With behavioural and fitness businesses booming, I would hope there is a sharing of knowledge. After all, there’s a whole dog, muscle and mind thrown in with reactivity
What I have noticed in some reactive/trigger happy dogs, is pretty hard muscle packs that you can recognise, there’s similarities in other reactive dogs you meet.
They are on high alert, putting the triggered, reactivity into practice often. compared to dogs that relax in environments, and are working fit muscled, using those muscles only when movement is required.
Working sensibly with our dogs on fitness of any kind, we would warm up the muscles, in doing so we would be stretching and softening the fascia, ready to start work. Dogs that are reactive/triggered throw the body into tense action, possibly many times in each day, without any warm up at all, the whole system regularly flooded with stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
This is something I’ve seen for myself with more than one dog.
As very trigger happy, reactive dogs improve, settle, begin to relax and accept what used to trigger, along with the world, the bouts of intense muscle pumping lessens or stop altogether, so that muscle starts to soften, as does the dogs shape over time, from the hard outlined of the dog that was constantly on red alert
Accepting and being comfortable with what used to trigger, doesn’t affect them all the same way.
The extra sparkle that went with the muscled self, sometimes seems to disappear too. I had thought this may be for other reasons and not connected, but in general conversations with trigger happy/reactive dog parents, when I’ve mentioned these changes, others have experienced the same, although nothing researched as I can find on this specific subject.
As the triggering side of behaviour improves, there’s sometimes a knock on effect in confidence.
One would expect more confidence, but it often goes the other way.
Its as if, as they stop so much triggering off, they start noticing more in and around the environment, they become a little more sensitive to things they never bothered about or noticed before, while they have lived on red alert, or in shout first ask questions later mode.
At this point I will add that I am sensitive to the dogs in my care, I’m pro active, have almost grown eyes in the back of my head, aware of space, aware of environments and come down times after life has bitten us all on the bum, life happens all the same.
This is different from the teenage stages often experienced, where some dogs go through various stages, some showing spooky cautiousness or teenage “bring it on” challenging behaviour, that’s no different from two legged teens, the age of stressed parents, where dogs are given up to shelters and two legged parents wonder where they went wrong.
One of my many questions has been, with all the chemical flooding that is happening in these dogs, how are these hormones that are pumping round in the system affecting their health?
What effect are they having on internal organs?
Will the muscles and joints be more vulnerable to damage later?
In this modern world of canine research and behaviour does any info exits on this specific subject, the muscle and mental, build and breakdown, when confidence seems to be lost. Those behavioural changes that have come along with their more untriggered selves, and what implications does this have on their health and mental state in the future.
(Not the reactivity, that’s a different subject, they are who they are probably for many different reasons)
There has been so much interest in the last 12,15 years in various canine massage courses, and the last 6 or more years fitness has really taken off, a lot of that I feel is unfortunately for commercial gain, with designer equipment.
Experienced dog guardians often notice that their dogs suffer muscle stiffness after a reactive episode.
Watching some dogs in competition that are tense, there is a defined back arch that can be clearly seen, not all stressed/tense dogs hold themselves this way, but this is quite a noticeable outline when you see it.
I think some things we notice and think about but never get to discuss with others, or maybe we do but it just gets dismissed.
Noticing similarity in muscle build in reactive dogs (observation over many years) I have just decided this must go on to my DDL. “Dig deeper list”
I’ve had sound advise that fascia is now thought as, or, more important than muscle.
Fascia is a network of connective tissue that surrounds body organs, muscles, groups of muscles, nerves, etc. a dense maze of collagen fibres, these fibres provide structure and support for internal body parts.
Chronic stress causes the fibres to thicken in an attempt to protect the underlying muscle. Poor posture lack of flexibility and repetitive movements, such as reactive, trigger happy dogs practise, pull the fascia into ingrained patterns.
With Fascia that has thickened, hardened and has impaired gliding ability, a tight connective tissue chain can distort the skeleton so that wear in the joints occur and the balance is disturbed.
Fascia and the horse.
Dr. Vibeke Sødring Elbrønd
In 1936 Canadian biochemist Hans Selye of McGill University in Montreal, defined two types of “stress” eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress).Both eustress and distress release cortisol. Once the alarm to release cortisol has sounded, the body becomes mobilized and ready for action but there has to be a physical release of fight or flight. Otherwise, cortisol levels build up in the blood.
Eustress creates a kind of “fun, excited, anticipatory, party time” heightened state of arousal, with cortisol levels then returning to normal.
Distress, which was designed to insure survival, fight, flight, freeze doesn’t provide an outlet, cortisol levels can take seconds to flood the system but days to leave, causing repeated triggering reaction to stack up.
When reactivity is triggered, the hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of the brain, sets off an alarm system in the body, through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts the adrenal glands, located at the top of the kidneys, to release a surge of hormones.
Adrenaline increases the heart rate, and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream. Cortisol also suppresses the digestive system , and dulls the immune system, basically knocks out any non essentials, to free up all energy for fight or flight
The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, body and mind return to normal, but when stressors are always present, fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all of the body’s processes.
Stress hormones cause blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to the muscles to add strength ready to take action.
With behavioural and fitness businesses booming, I would hope there is a sharing of knowledge, so a complete package of canine body and mind could be put in place. After all, there’s a whole dog, muscle and mind thrown in with reactivity, these two subjects should go hand in glove.