Dogs can experience stress just like humans. However, the way they show that they’re stressed may be entirely different from how humans display stress. We have a lot in common with our dogs, but at the end of the day, we’re different species. In this article, we’ll look at common stressors for dogs, how to avoid them, and ways to help your pet calm down. Here are 9 things that may be causing unnecessary anxiety in your dog.
1.Punishing your dog for being, well, a dog
Your dog might be one of your best friends, but it’s important to remember that he or she is still a dog. Dogs love to chew on things, dig holes, smell rotting things on walks and dig in the garbage. While it’s important to have house rules for your dog, it’s good to remember that it’s in a dog’s nature to destroy an open trash can and to set them up for success. Don’t leave things out that you don’t want to risk being chewed, and perhaps protect the corners of your couch if your dog is a furniture nibbler. Practicing positive reinforcement is key to training dogs, so try not to get mad when your dog acts like a dog, and instead reward them with treats and affection when they display the kinds of behavior you want to see.
Inconsistency in their daily routine can cause your dog a lot of stress. The best remedy for this, and their potentially upset stomach, is to have mealtimes at the same time every day. Keep your boundaries consistent as well—for example, your dog is either allowed on the couch or not—changing the rule for special occasions can be confusing to your dog. Also, move slowly when rearranging things in the house, allow for plenty of thorough investigation by your dog, especially if you are moving any of their things or places around.
3. Giving your pet human displays of affection
This one falls under the “dogs are different than humans” category. While some dogs may like to be hugged, dog experts caution against it, since it isn’t in their nature to hug or be hugged. Your attempts to give your dog human affection may be unwelcome and cause them stress. If you want contact with your dog, but Fido doesn’t want to snuggle, they may be more receptive to being brushed or petted. As you get to know your dog, you’ll be able to learn the ways they like to receive affection.
4. Aggressive body language
Do you wag your finger at your dog while standing over them? Do you use a loud, or threatening tone when disciplining them? This can be very stressful to dogs, who are much more aware and sensitive to body language than we are as humans. It’s important to imagine how you might be appearing to your dog when you stand over them and use a menacing tone of voice. Also, these aren’t the most effective ways to discipline your dog and might be making the behavioral issues you’re trying to address worse. Use a calm tone of voice, and try to be relaxed when disciplining your dog. Remember, they aren’t chewing your shoes out of spite, they’re just acting the way dogs act.
5. Not giving your pet enough exercise
Dogs need to be active, otherwise, they might become stressed and start acting out. Daily walks and playtimes are important for all dogs. Consider other forms of exercise like swimming for your dog, and do your best to enjoy your daily walks. Daily, regular exercise won’t just reduce the stress your dog might be experiencing but is beneficial to their overall health.
6. Sharing resources with other pets
In a home with multiple dogs, sharing resources, like a food bowl, can be stressful on one or more of your dogs. This can induce competition for food, which can be very problematic. You can solve this by giving each dog their own food bowl, and his or her own spot where they’re fed. Place out two or more bowls for water, that way each dog can drink when they’re thirsty. Also, each pet needs its own bed and personal space. Be on the watch out for bullying; when one dog is bullying another dog, it’s time for training.
This is a classic stressor for all pets, including dogs. Not only is there a car ride, but there are strange people and other dogs, and often, pain from shots during the examination. Plus, you’re letting a stranger touch them, which can be very frightening. Take your dog on short car rides more often, and reward with treats. This way they won’t associate a car ride solely with a vet visit. You can also take your dog to the vet when you don’t have an appointment and allow them to explore the new environment, and let the staff pet them and give them treats.
8. Thunderstorms and fireworks
While you can’t control the weather or your neighbors, you can have a proactive plan in place for when thunder or fireworks occur. If your dog hates fireworks, keep them at home when you know they’ll be set off. Make sure your dog has a space to go to and offer lots of affection as needed. Putting on classical music, using a compression wrap, or using a quality pet CBD may help keep your precious dog calm during thunder or fireworks.
9. Other dogs outside the home
Other dogs outside the home can be problematic for your pup. Be sure to communicate as clearly as possible with other dog owners if you are walking your dog on a leash about whether or not your dog wants to meet other pups. Use training, such as asking your dog to sit when he or she encounters another dog to help keep them calm. If your dog doesn’t respond well to other dogs, put a yellow ribbon on his or her leash, which is a universal sign to other dog owners that your dog would prefer space from other dogs.
Ways to Help Calm Your Stressed Dog
Here are some other methods for calming down your stressed dog. Maybe try some for yourself too, since a stressed dog can cause you stress as well. (these should be h3’s)
1. Compression Wrap
Compression wraps work by applying gentle pressure to your pup’s body. This has a similar effect to swaddling an infant; the pressure calms the nervous system and reduces stress. While you can buy a pet compression garment, you can also easily make your own compression garment for your dog by using an Ace bandage or a soft scarf. This is a great preventative method for when you know stressors are coming, like fireworks or guests arriving for dinner.
Classical music can help calm you and your dog! Try putting on a classical music playlist during a thunderstorm or tuning into your local classical radio station and leaving it on before you leave the home. A recent study by the Scottish SPCA and the University of Glasgow found that classical music can effectively calm dogs. They observed two groups of dogs in a kennel, one without classical music playing and one with classical music playing in the background. After the end of a week, the group listening to classical music displayed fewer signs of stress.
According to Pet MD, a massage can be a natural way to relieve your dog’s stress. Their feet, ears, and the tops of their heads are full of pressure points, and just 15 minutes of massage can calm down your stressed dog. You can also help out your pup’s lymphatic system by gently stroking their throats and neck in a downward fashion. And pup’s muscles get sore too; whether from stress or playtime. Massaging the muscles alongside the spine, hips and legs can be beneficial as well. Use flat hands, and don’t force it if your dog isn’t cooperating.
Acupuncture is also recommended by Pet MD for stressed-out dogs. A licensed veterinary acupuncturist can customize a treatment plan to help reduce stress. This is a good option to try before putting Fido on medications. Acupuncture treatment “stimulates the release of the body’s pain-relieving substances” and is often more effective than medications.
5. Mental Stimulation
Mental stimulation can be necessary for some dogs, especially working dog breeds like Border Collies. A lack of mental stimulation can be stressful for some dogs, who need to have jobs. While you can’t assign your dog household chores, you can train them to have tricks and skills that will engage them mentally and give you and your dog something to do together. Another idea is to hide treats around the house, perhaps in a blanket, so they have to hunt for their snacks.
Many dog owners are turning to CBD to help their dogs have a healthy response to environmental stressors. In 2019, a whopping 48% of pet owners had purchased hemp oil for their pets. CBD may help support dogs maintain a normal and relaxed disposition in the face of daily stressors. CBD may support your dog in maintaining contentment during separation, travel, and tension caused by changes in your dog’s daily routine. In addition to training with treats, and proper exercise, CBD may help your dog cope with external stressors. Pet Releaf’s award-winning, high-quality CBD is made with hemp grown in Colorado with sustainable and regenerative farming practices. They have a CBD product for every dog, whether it’s hemp oil or one of their famous peanut butter and carob flavored Edibites.