Ever have one of those days where things just don’t go as planned? You start your day as usual, but encounter an unexpected traffic jam on your morning commute. So you try to get some work done with a few phone calls, but your cell phone cuts out at the most inopportune time during the conversation. You finally arrive to work, just to find your computer keeps freezing up on you, and a project deadline is just around the corner. As a result, you find yourself with a short fuse, highly frustrated, and highly unproductive.

This is a perfect example of what is known as trigger stacking, in the dog world. On any given day, if only one of these events happens, we may be mildly irritated, but the inconvenience doesn’t set the tone for our entire morning. However, if two of these instances occur, we are in a very different mental state and it can take us longer to regroup, refocus, and get our emotions back on track. If all three of these events happen, our whole day can be shot where we simply want to throw in the towel on our previously planned activities.

Dogs’ Moods Ebb and Flow

The same is true with our dogs. Their moods can ebb and flow throughout the day, depending on the situations they encounter, as well. It can be as simple as heading out for the morning walk where our dog immediately sees a lizard to chase, then two bunnies in the park, then an unfamiliar cat on the way home, all making the walk way too exciting! Our dog can’t hold it together and all they want to do is chase, run and hunt. Or it can be more serious for some dogs. They can often be put into situations they “tolerate” more than enjoy. In people terms, think of an extended visit from that Great Aunt, who is the “close talker.” After a few days of having your personal space invaded, your tolerance level drops and you need an escape. In dog terms, consider the long-term effects of a dog moving in next door, who barks at your dog every time they head outside.

Dogs Can Show Uncharacteristic Behavior Due to Stress

Stress is cumulative and too much of it can result in uncharacteristic behavior. If we are unaware, it appears our dogs suddenly act ill-behaved, and are forever maligned. Dogs, just like people, have specific and definite personalities, with varying degrees of abilities to cope with life’s stressors. Learn to understand their limitations, respect them, and provide a safe space for them to disengage and disconnect. We all benefit from having a safe space in which to retreat. In turn, we can live a more harmonious life.