Zoomies are Funny but a Sign of Stress in Agility Dogs

dog stress in dog agilityMost of us love to see a great display of dog agility zoomies as the dog seems to be having a great time on center stage, however, we cringe when we see another dog tuck tail and run out of the ring. The truth of the matter is that both are a dog’s way of dealing with stress.

Dogs deal with stress in their own way but fall into two main categories:  Stressing Up (or High) and Stressing Down (or Low). If your dog slows down, sniffs the ground or shows avoidance to obstacles they are stress low dogs. On the flip side, if your dog starts running faster or even breaks out into their own style of zoomies, you have a stress high dog.

If your dog is prone to either behaviors in the ring, observe what is causing your dog stress. Is it a hole in training, like a missed weaves entry that sets your dog off. He is telling you he is still uncertain of his entries. Go back to proofing weave entries away from the competition ring and be creative. Maybe it is physical, we know of a German Shepherd Dog that started avoiding jumps when they reached full height. A vet visit revealed the dog had advanced hip dysplasia. Worst of all, could it be that you are inadvertently reinforcing your dog’s stress. How is that possible? We can be guilty of reinforcing the stress behavior by petting, cooing and coddling our stress low dogs and “playing” into our stress high dogs by chasing, yelling and focusing on the bad behavior.

Understanding the “whys” to your dog’s behaviors will allow you to address them in your training. Proofing obstacles, teaching yourself and your dog that mistakes are ok. Teaching yourself to see signs of stress and use positive ways to redirect your dog with a game of tug or a series of requests that can get your dog’s mind back in the game. Keeping your dog working is one of the best ways to keep their stress levels down to a manageable level where they can learn to cope with them.

How does your dog react to stress?