What Causes Stress In Dogs
Dogs can become stressed because they are bored, frustrated, scared or anxious.
You may also be feeling a bit stressed by the coronavirus restrictions in place. For many dogs, being around a stressed family member will be enough to affect them, as dogs can sense when things arent quite right.
Dogs can also be affected by a change in routine, such as less exercise. This can lead to excess energy with nowhere for it to go. Or your dog might become stressed when going out to public places following lockdown. Remember that your dog has become used to being at home too and that they may need extra support to help them get used to busy places again.
If Youre Chronically Stressed Your Dog Could Be Too
Canines absorb our emotions, according to a new study of stress hormones in dog owners and their pets.
A glance at your dogs expectant face and wagging tail can brighten even the worst day. And when theyre sick, we hurt, too.
Now, a new study shows that this relationship runs both ways: Owners that experience long-term stress and anxiety can pass it on to their pooches.
Dogs are quite good at understanding humans, says senior author Lina Roth, a zoologist at Swedens Linkoping University. Theyre definitely better at understanding us than we are at understanding them.
Indeed, a burgeoning body of literature is revealing dogs ability to interpret non-verbal cues in people.
This skill has been honed over tens of thousands of years of living with humans. When dogs were first domesticated, individuals that could readily respond to humansboth their direct commands and their indirect body languagehad a leg up over their more wary and socially challenged counterparts.
With this, however, comes a potential downside: If were afraid, our dogs can become fearful as well.
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Children dont always understand the signs telling them a dog might need space. Children and dogs often have strong bonds but its important that you supervise their time together. And its important that you help your child to understand that, just like us, dogs do not always feel like playing or being hugged.
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Listen To Calming Music
Music is a hugely popular thing to do when youre feeling stressed.
Choose some of your favorite, preferably calming music to switch on and get lost in.
Its one of the best things to do to relieve stress and get yourself feeling better.
In fact, make an entire playlist of stress-busting music filled with your favorite artists that you can put on in the car, while youre on your walk, or just to listen to before you wake up.
If youre looking for calming music in particular, there are plenty of playlists online of music to help you stop stressing out.
Plan Something Fun For The Future
There are some stressful situations that are time-based.
Maybe youre applying for college or applying for a job or theres just a really busy month ahead.
Instead of getting caught up in how stressed you feel now, think about how youll feel when it ends and plan something fun for the future.
Book a nice dinner out, book an entire vacation, or just tell yourself that youre going to buy yourself that new phone youve been waiting for when this stressful period is over to give you something to look forward to.
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How To Relieve Your Dogs Stress
After youve identified what might be causing your dogs stress, try using a few of these tips to help you manage their anxiety.
Above all else, you should first look to find the source of your dogs stress. This will help you identify techniques you can use to minimise their anxieties, allowing your pooch to lead a happier and more fulfilled life. Just as it should be!
What causes your dogs stress and how have you helped them cope with their triggers? Let me know in the comments below
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Top 10 Signs Of Stress In Dogs
1. Pacing dogs, like people, also pace when stressed or agitated and this is one of the key signs of stress in dogs.
2. Whining and/or barking being vocal is normal canine self-expression, but may be intensified under duress. Dogs that are afraid or tense may whine or bark to get your attention, or to self soothe, this may be common during a thunderstorm.
3. Yawning, drooling and licking dogs, like humans, yawn when they are tired or bored, but did you know that they also yawn when stressed? A stressful yawn is more prolonged than a tired yawn. Dogs may also drool and lick excessively when stressed or nervous.
4. Changes in eyes and ears stressed dogs, like stressed people, may have dilated pupils and blink more frequently than calm dogs. Stressed dogs often pin their ears back against their heads.
5. Changes in body posture cowering or hunching, may be an indicator of stress. When scared, dogs may also tuck their tails or become rigid or aggressive.
6. Shedding dogs often shed a lot more hair in stressful situations. This is noticeable when they visit the vet or meet new dogs at the dog park.
7. Panting dogs pant when hot, excited or stressed. So, if your dog is panting even though he or she hasnt been running around, he or she may be stressed.
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Sit Down With Him And Simply Hold Him Still
It might seem weird, but pulling your dog into your lap and just holding him steady can actually help your dog settle down.
Dogs have trouble understanding where their bodies start and end when theyâre overstimulated. Holding your dog helps him be more aware of his body, which will help him calm down. Itâs a lot like mindfulness for humans!
How To Help Your Dog Relax In The Moment:
If you think your pet is displaying consistent signs of anxiety, there are ways you can help.
The important thing to know about anxiety in dogs, especially recurring anxiety, is that there isnt a magic bullet. Below youll find some techniques to help your dog calm down in an anxious situation, and later well talk about reducing anxiety in the long term.
The first and most important step if youre seeing a consistent, high level display of these symptoms is to talk to your veterinarian to rule out possible medical issues. Sometimes dogs show symptoms of anxiety because theyre sick!
If your vet agrees that anxiety is the cause, there are a few options to help your dog relax in the moment, depending on the type of anxiety theyre experiencing.
Licking is a soothing activity for dogs, so giving them something healthy they can lick keeps their brain occupied and helps them relax. For example a toy stuffed with some canned pumpkin or low-fat cream cheese. Just make sure to account for those calories in your dogs daily caloric intake so they dont put on extra weight. Treats should only make up 10% of your dogs daily calories.
Distract them with trained behaviors:
If your dog is anxious and wont take any food to distract them, you can try engaging them with behavior commands such as sit, paw, lie down, etc. This is a great way to distract them and have them focus on working instead of whatever is causing the anxiety.
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If Your Normally Social Cat Has Begun Hiding Beneath Furniture Or Blankets They Could Be Stressed Out
“Cats are evasive by nature and love to find places to curl up for long cat naps,” said Arndt. “But if your cat is suddenly hiding, it can be a sign that your cat is experiencing stress.”
Arndt advised that providing perches or cat trees can help, as cats often feel more comfortable when they are up high. Allowing your cat to have a safe room in your house where they can go to relax is also a good idea.
“Consider using a baby gate and cutting a small hole in the bottom, just large enough for your cat,” said Arndt. “This lets your cat escape stressors, such as a new pet that has just been brought into the home.”
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They also were asked to fill out surveys scoring their dogs on traits such as excitability, responsiveness to training, aggression and fearfulness. The researchers then took hair samples from the dogs and their owners to test for the stress-related hormone cortisol.
“Cortisol is incorporated in hair as it grows, so we get kind of a retrospective of our cortisol secretions,” Roth explains.
They found that dog cortisol levels seemed to mirror the personality traits of their owners.
“It was the owner’s personality that influenced the dog’s hair cortisol level, rather than the dog’s personality itself,” Roth says. The correlation was stronger between dogs and owners who compete together than it was between owners and dogs who don’t.
“When it comes to competing dogs, it could actually be that they spend more time together, and that this training could increase this emotional closeness,” Roth speculates, though she adds that “this is a correlation, so we really don’t know the mechanism behind this.”
Roth says she would like to do follow-up studies looking at more dog breeds this research focused on border collies and Shetland sheepdogs. She is also interested in how owner gender might influence the results. This study included only female owners.
“I don’t think you should be anxious that, if you’re stressed, you might harm your dog,” Roth says. “Instead, your dog is a social support for you, and you are a social support for the dog.”
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Get Him Away From The Stress Or Stimuli
The first way to calm your dog is the most obvious one. If your dog is stressed out by something, get him away from whatever is making him anxious!
Depending on what exactly is stressing him out, just removing the stimuli might not be a long-term solution. But getting your pup away from the stressors is the first step to counter conditioning and desensitization training.
Once you remove the stressor, you can start slowly reintroducing it to your dog in a controlled way. This will help him become accustomed to whatâs stressing him out until it doesnât make him anxious anymore.
Heres how you can desensitize and counter condition your pup:
Other Behavior Problems To Rule Out
Sometimes its difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, its important to rule out the following behavior problems:
Submissive or Excitement UrinationSome dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly.
Incomplete House TrainingA dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained. His house training might have been inconsistent or it might have involved punishment that made him afraid to eliminate while his owner is watching or nearby.
Urine MarkingSome dogs urinate in the house because theyre scent marking. A dog scent marks by urinating small amounts on vertical surfaces. Most male dogs and some female dogs who scent mark raise a leg to urinate.
Juvenile DestructionMany young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are home as well as when theyre away. Please see our articles, Destructive Chewing, for more information about these problems.
BoredomDogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because theyre bored and looking for something to do. These dogs usually dont appear anxious.
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If The Problem Is More Serious
A dog with severe anxiety won’t be distracted by even the tastiest treats. You’ll need to slowly get them used to your absence.
They may start to get nervous when they see signs you’re about to leave, like putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. So do those things, but then don’t leave. Put on your shoes and then sit down at the table. Pick up your keys and watch TV. Do this over and over many times a day.
When your dog starts to feel less anxious about that, you can slowly start to disappear. First just go on the other side of the door. Ask your dog to stay, then close an inside door between you. Reappear after a few seconds. Slowly increase the amount of time you’re gone. Put on your shoes and pick up your keys. Ask your dog to stay while you go into another room.
As they get more used to the “stay game,” increase the amount of time you’re gone. Then use an outside door, but not the same one you go out every day. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave.
Only you can tell if your dog is ready to be left alone for longer periods. Don’t rush things. Give them a stuffed treat when you’ve built up to 10 seconds or so apart. Always act calm when you leave and when you return.
Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes. Then stay away for longer and longer periods.
The Smell And Feeling Of Fireworks Can Be Stressful For Dogs
Most dog owners are aware that the sound of fireworks can be upsetting to their pets however, fireworks can offend a dog’s other senses as well.
“Not only are fireworks loud, but the feeling, smell, and sight of them can also be terrifying to dogs,” said Kirk.
If possible, allow your pet to stay home with a trusted human when you go out to watch the fireworks. Your vet can also suggest medication that may help keep your dog calm.
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Does Your Dog Freak Out When You Leave
If your dog seems to worry when you’re heading out, destroys stuff when you leave the house, follows you from room to room when you’re home, goes berserk when you come back and seems to be eyeing you suspiciously even before you leaveyou may be dealing with a case of separation anxiety.
Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit distress and behavior problems when they’re left alone. Some of the most common ways they do this:
- Digging and scratching at doors or windows attempting to reunite with their owners
- Destructive chewing
- Urination and defecation
Medical Problems To Rule Out First
Incontinence Caused by Medical ProblemsSome dogs house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog leaks or voids his bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems often seem unaware that theyve soiled. Sometimes they void urine while asleep. A number of medical issuesincluding a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter caused by old age, hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushings disease, neurological problems and abnormalities of the genitaliacan cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Before attempting behavior modification for separation anxiety, please see your dogs veterinarian to rule out medical issues.
MedicationsThere are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling. If your dog takes any medications, please contact his veterinarian to find out whether or not they might contribute to his house-soiling problems.
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Cats Who Feel Threatened May Crouch And Flatten Their Ears
One way that cats communicate stress is through body language, Farrell explained.
“A stressed cat may flatten their ears and get into a crouching position. In this position, they will wrap their tail close to their body and may flick the end of their tail as a warning,” said Farrell.
This compact position makes the cat’s body a smaller target and allows them to spring into an attack more easily.
How To Cope While Your Dog Learns To Be Calm
It can take time for your dog to unlearn their panic response to your departures. To help you and your dog cope in the short term, consider the following interim solutions:
- Ask your veterinarian about drug therapy to reduce your dogs overall anxiety.
- If your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, take your dog to a well-run doggie daycare facility or kennel when you have to be away.
- Leave your dog with a friend, family member or neighbor when youre away.
- Take your dog to work with you, if possible.
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Ways To Ease Your Dogs Anxiety
You’ll want to read this before the next thunderstorm hits.
Dogs suffer from stress and anxiety as much as people do, though it can be harder to recognize their symptoms. Your pet might try to tell you that hes stressed by pushing his ears back, tucking his tail, salivating, yawning, licking his muzzle, or lifting his front paw. Other, more obvious signs of dog anxiety include cowering or hiding, trembling, panting, or expressing his anal glands.
And just like people, there are plenty of ways to help relax and soothe pets. Love listening to a certain type of music to unwind? Apparently, so does your dog. When it comes to tension-taming tunes, pups seem to prefer the sounds of soft rock or reggae to jazz, pop, or Motown. Playing the music was linked to a decrease in shelter dogs heart rates in one 2017 study.
But even if youre not a fan of Bob Marley or Michael Bolton, dont worry. There are plenty of other ways to calm your furry friend. Here are five simple strategies worth trying:
Before shelling out for any products that promise to soothe your pups stress, consider how you might be able to help him feel calmer. “Most of the time, pet owners do have to do something different to help manage and improve their dogs anxiety,” explains veterinary behaviorist Meredith Stepita, DVM.