You are trying to cutback in sweets. You walk into the breakroom at work and find a large platter of your favorite dessert sitting in the middle of the table. The sign next to them says: “Help yourself.” Do you
- Say, “Thank goodness!” And grab a large helping?
- Say, “No thanks,” and sit down a few seats down to eat your healthy snack?
- Say, “Uh-oh” and walk out of the room before you can give in to temptation?
You check your receipt and realize the store clerk overcharged you by a few cents. Do you
- March back into the store and loudly demand things be made right?
- Quietly approach the customer service counter, explain what happened, and request a refund?
- Shrug and decide it is not enough money to waste time on?
The way you answer these questions depends on your personality and personal circumstances (health, finances), but it also depends, more than we sometimes like to admit on our mood and what else has happened to us recently.
Self-control is a muscle and, like all muscles, it can be exhausted by heavy use or by other circumstances that reduce our physical and mental health.
This is called trigger stacking it is also familiar to most of us in the phrase: “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The same thing is true of our dogs. (It’s true of our cats and other companion animals as well, but we typically spend less effort on developing their self-control and favor them with lower expectations.) Unfortunately, a dog who “just snaps” from being pushed past his or her limit can do a lot of damage in very little time, especially if he directs techniques that might be successful in communicating with other dogs–especially snapping–at people.
It is our job, as responsible pet owners to know our own dogs, know their triggers and their limits, and keep those triggers from stacking too high.