Buckets and Spoons - Trigger Stacking Explained
You might have heard the term 'trigger stacking' before - but what is it?
Picture this - you are out on a walk with your dog, enjoying the sights and sounds, when all of a sudden your dog is barking, lunging and growling at something, or snapping at you which he has never done before.
Dogs are much more aware of their surroundings than humans, so whilst you may not have noticed several things on the walk, your dog definitely has!
This is something dog professionals call 'trigger stacking. Imagine you have a bucket which is slowly filled up by the things the dogs find stressful. Eventually the bucket is full, and all of a sudden, one more thing is added and it overflows. This is when your dog reacts.
Throughout your dog's day, he may well encounter things he finds stressful. On their own he can cope, although may seem a little stressed, but add lots of things together and all of a sudden it's too much.
The spoon theory is also used to explain this as well as the 'bucket theory'. The spoon theory works off that each dog has a certain number of spoons at the beginning of their day. Each time they encounter something they find stressful, they lose a spoon. Eventually they run out of spoons and cannot cope anymore. Some dogs have less spoons than others, but we can increase how many spoons they have with time and training!
So imagine you are walking, and plastic bag blows past your dog - he is unsure but he can cope and walks on. As you go round the corner, there is a dog barking at him, again he is stressed but he can cope, he still has some spoons. Then all of a sudden a man in a hat comes round the corner - your dog hasn't even seen a hat before and he has now run out of spoons, and he reacts, lunging and barking at the man in the hat. So whilst it might seem the only trigger for his reaction was the hat, we need to look at the other triggers before in order to help.
Human's have spoons too - but we are much more in control of our lives and how we use these spoons - for example if we know it's painful for us to go for a walk, we can avoid it. Dogs cannot control how they 'spend' their spoons.
People commonly say a bite came out of nowhere but this is very rarely true and is normally the result of trigger stacking.
A dog with many spoons is a happy dog!
If you want to know how you can increase your dogs spoons - get in touch!