Stress in dogs

PUBLISHING YEAR: 2006von Reinhardt - Stress in dogs

SUMMARY: A professional review of stress in dogs: its physiology, causal factors, signs and influence on the behaviour and welfare of dogs.

AUDIENCE: An interesting read for professionals.

02 Professional


The authors:

  • Clarissa von Reinhardt: Clarissa von Reinhardt is an old timer in dog training. She has worked with dogs for years and is a huge figure in Germany (and worldwide). She is known for her niche market books that focus on one specific aspect of dog behaviour (e.g. stress, chasing, body language, etc.). The beauty of Clarissa von Reinhardt’s books lies in her balanced approach. She does not blindly process to a dogmatic ideology but is effectively force-free.
  • Martina Scholz: I wasn’t able to pick up much information on Martina Scholz as most of what’s out there only appear in German. Please contact me if you can help me write a short profile.

Style and contents:  The book revolves around the notion that nearly all dogs’ behaviour problems can be tracked back to stress. Beyond the self-evidence of that statement, this should give you pause. I say ‘self-evident’ as of course dog behaviour problems are due to stress, they are even one of the signs of stress. Stress – in this optic – being the dog’s inability to cope with what the environment has to throw at him.

The book is tiny (80-odd pages). This adds value in my view, as you can fit it in between larger reading projects.

The style is a little clunky. I am not sure whether this reflex a rigid translation or the original text.


  • The book encourages you to think critically of what we ask of dogs: they must wait for us in complete isolation all day, and then behave like an angel to people and dogs on their all-too-rare outside romp. We demand they come with us on forest walks and ignore the wildlife.
  • An interesting (albeit over-detailed) chapter on the definitions of stress touched on essential concepts like the eustress-distress distinction and the adaptive function of the stress response.
  • The breakdown of stress’ evolution from acute to chronic was interesting and very clearly laid out.
  • The list of stress symptoms was exhaustive and conservative. A nice relief from the free-for-all you sometimes see in similar books where anything and everything the dog does supposedly indicates a form of stress. The list of sympoms in ‘Stress in dogs’, in contrast, was well supported by arguments and/or facts.
  • Ten marks for attention to details on this one: the authors explicitly touched on the distinction between the initial nerve response to a threat, and the adrenaline and corticoid responses. Most authors don’t.
  • The case studies were a nice touch and brought some of the concepts to life. They ran a little lengthy, though.
  • The history-taking questionnaire (focusing on stress) will add a few useful questions to most behaviourists’ forms.
  • Interesting informal survey of living conditions and stress measures. This could make for a solid research project if cleaned up a little.
  • Exhaustive and pertinent list of the most common (and damaging) causal factors and influences encouraging the reader to think critically of gung-ho puppy socialization, excess dog events attendance, daily prolonged isolation, or uncontrolled exposure to rough play.

Possible points for optimization  

  • They covered stress physiology into unnecessary details in my view, going as far as tackling the breakdown of fatty acids and the diencephalic response
  • The results reported in the case studies seemed disappointing, asking the owners/handlers to put in a lot of time and expect relatively little in the way of results, even after weeks of treatment.
  • The grandly presented ‘Anti Stress Program’ (ASP) isn’t a set of detailed steps as you might expect. It is more of an overarching principle: decrease stressors and improve coping skills to unavoidable stressors. Nothing new under the sun but something that bears thinking about.

The verdict: It encouraged me to pay more attention to stress as a central factor in the cases I see. I wouldn’t consider it a must-read but it gets cited a lot, is quite well fact-checked and is really short so why not?

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Author: Scholz Martina, von Reinhardt Clarissa
Genre: professional manual
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