Advice Blog

Is your dog an adrenaline junkie?

Posted on December 10, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Unfortunately one of the major behaviour issues dog owners have is controlling their dog’s excitement which causes unsocial or dangerous behaviours. An often overlooked aspect from most dog owners is their dog’s mental state and health before the unwanted behaviour occurs.

When we feel fear or are faced with a sudden dangerous situation, the body undergoes an amazing change and adrenaline hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands that increases rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and prepares muscles for exertion. It is natural for dogs as well as humans to use adrenaline when the situation requires it. When adrenaline is produced physical symptoms include increase in strength, reduced sense of pain, heightened senses, pupil dilation, increase of energy and breathing. All of these changes in our normal physical state prepare us to face danger. Typically we can only cope with short periods of adrenaline in order to achieve mentally healthy lives. Our bodies are not designed to live in a constant state of alert or adrenalized. Humans displaying these symptoms frequently in normal daily life are likely to be described as stressed, anxious or having panic attacks.

Adrenaline junkies appear to favour staying in this hazardous state and ultimately seek the release of epinephrine as a stress response. Adrenaline can be addictive as it’s a chemical release in your body. An example of a human occupation that could lead to being addicted to adrenaline would be in the military or sports, as they are trained to stay in extended periods of adrenaline. People in these occupations often find it difficult to relax and can be at a high risk for mental health problems. As a society we are aware of mental health problems suffered by humans but why not with our dogs. Few other species of animals spend so much time in close proximity with humans and live in our homes. We can feed and reward this behaviour inadvertently by how you behave and interact with dogs.

So, is your dog an adrenaline junkie? Symptoms to look for in your dog are the same as above and include incessant - frantic tail wagging, alert ears, pupil dilation, agitation, high energy and breathing. This mental state can affect your dog’s quality of life and also bring unwanted behaviours such as jumping, lunging and charging. Some common unhealthy dog behaviours would be chasing tails, self-mutilation, constant pacing and anxiety. A dog in this state will be unlikely to obey commands they clearly know, follow any instruction and act manic. Rather than being able to absorb an environment and make decisions your dog will react to the first thing that moves. A few examples of this would be a dog that barks at a piece of litter, wants to chase leaves and gets anxious when you simply stop walking.

How would you like to live your daily life? Calm and have the correct response of adrenaline when necessary or constantly stuck in a stress needing a fix. What would you do if a friend or family member was displaying stress related symtpons? I assume, if you care, your response would be to help not encourage or ignore. It is one of the most overlooked aspects from dog owners and saddening behaviours to observe. Adrenaline should only be produced as a response from the body to help you deal with a dangerous or alerted situation. If it is produced regularly at any other time it is mentally and physically unhealthy.

Derek Bryson

Paws for Walkies

Learn more on adrenaline with some great references below:

Special thanks to Chad Mackin of Pack to Basics, who talks more on Adrenaline in dogs in the below link - 

Adrenaline in dogs -


Video talking about Adrenaline in humans and the side effects –


Detailed description of Adrenaline in the human body –


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Reply Caroline Elliott
5:25 PM on December 10, 2013 
So, when the dog is in a relaxed state of mind, then goes from 0-10 immediately, how would you deal with this?
Reply Derek Bryson
5:40 PM on December 10, 2013 
Caroline Elliott says...
So, when the dog is in a relaxed state of mind, then goes from 0-10 immediately, how would you deal with this?

Caroline I assume your using 0-10 to measure the dogs excitement or nervous level. Dogs give plenty of communication before reaching 10 most dogs that described as jumping to this or doing unpredictable behaviours usually means that the handler isn't reading the dog correctly. eg the dog was never at zero he was really at five, sometimes we mistake a sit or lying down as being calm or a zero. Certainly some dogs in particular situations can escalate quickly and we really need to go back to building the challenge gradually and ensuring we definitely have the basics mastered and true communication .
Reply Ted efthymiadis
6:09 PM on December 10, 2013 
Great post Derek!
Reply Jen
4:19 AM on December 11, 2013 
Great synopsis of what to look for! Just need to be more vigilant on keeping on top of the signs in my two older guys! Brilliant read! K
Reply Caroline Elliott
3:55 PM on December 11, 2013 
Yes, I see, when he does his "manic" moment, it's usually when I have him off leash (although he has been on a long lead tied up) he runs around, seems to calm down then goes crazy full pelt running at me, teeth bared, jumping, hackles raised, I know he means no harm to me, he just runs around like crazy but I can't get him to stop.
Great post Derek!
[/Ted efthymiadis]
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