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Behavioral Inhibition and Over-Excitability in Dogs

Over excitability is a blanket term often used to describe many of the behavioral problems found in dogs, from being stressed by new surroundings, unfamiliar people or other dogs, loud noises as well as social isolation, physical confinement, or even over stimulation.

Yet on the other hand, we can see extremely subdued dogs that seem to lose contact with any environmental stimuli and react to stress with complete inertia, obvious depression, or stiff, slow movements. This problem can occur with dogs when the owners sleep at night, or the dog is left alone for long periods of time. Stress caused by being ignored, even in the owners presence, can cause the mother to develop an introverted behavior characterized by self mutilation which then in turn creates extroverted hyper-activity in the overly excitable son.

Both of these conditions can often to be enhanced by a number of herbal remedies and synthetic drugs, including those derived from living tissue. Even though these drugs may not have the same affect on all individuals, whether dogs or people, it supports the findings that an internal neurochemical balance may be the main influencing factor in behavior expressed as either inhibition or excitability.

Throughout life, the body chemistry of individual animals can fluctuate greatly. A hormonal imbalance can cause physiologic, structural and behavioral changes, and of all the body's hormone-producing glands and controlling organs, the emotional centers of the brain's limbic system appear to have the major controlling influence. Slight or extreme psychological stress, along with certain drugs can create subtle to extreme neurochemical imbalances.

It seems clear that such reactions caused by these mildly stressful experiences help to explain much of what is often described as "spontaneous aggression" or "Springer rage syndrome". In this instance, it may be possible to sensitize the area of the dog's nervous system that controls the defensive or more aggressive behaviors, such as biting, but it can never be completely activated by mildly threatening stimuli.

Often owners apply various types of punishment for their highly excitable pets that exhibit these behavioral problems. Punishment can range from scalding (which can actually cause the dog to react by snapping), clamping down on the muzzle with the hand, shaking by the scruff of the neck or the jowls or hitting with the hand or a rolled up newspaper.

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