Stress is something everyone can relate to. You know how it makes you feel, and how it changes how you react and think. When stressed, one might become defensive, depressed or aggressive. It could also impair your ability to recall things and concentrate on your work. Eventually, the effects of stress are detrimental, and they affect both the mental and physical well-being of a person.
Dogs are just as vulnerable to stress as human beings are. Not only is stress becoming a common condition to our furry friends, but it is also at the core of many of their behavioral and physical issues. Most pet dogs suffer stress to different extents during their lifetimes. From a tender age, they learn how to cope physiologically, but sometimes it can get out of hand. So, if you come home and realize that your dear pet dog doesn’t run to you as it usually does, it might be stressed. Here are the typical signs of a stressed dog you should look out for.
The Eyes And Ears Have It
Dogs use their ears and eyes to show emotions, including anxiety and stress. When dogs pin their ears slightly backward, they are communicating feelings of unease. Watch out for the rotation of the base of ears from their neutral position, but remember that this cue might be difficult to tell in dogs with floppy ears. If you suspect that your dog is stressed, consider observing the positioning of its ears in various situations. That will help in realizing patterns of ear positions during different emotional conditions.
You may have noticed that your dog makes whale eyes when they are being hugged too hard by a child or when they are uneasy being touched. Therefore, it is a sign that your dear friend is stressed or worried about the overly-affectionate kid. In such a case, divert the kid’s attention from your canine friend. When a dog’s eyelids are peeled back to show the white part, it is an indication of stress, and it’s known as the “half-moon” eye. Although red eyes are no better, it is a sign that the dog needs some rest.
Stress Sounds Like This
Unlike animals that react to stressful events by hiding and becoming docile, dogs will be overly aggressive when they are uneasy. The aggression might be towards the owner, veterinarian or any other person who interacts with the dog. Sometimes your furry friend may show aggression towards other animals. If it is usually not hostile, consider the possibility of their distress.
An aggressive dog is likely to bark excessively or bite aimlessly. Sometimes it might be less than barking, such as whimpering, whining and growling. That is why most veterinarians prefer dogs to be restrained by a trained technician instead of the owners when they are examining the animal. They suspect misdirected aggression and feel that this is the best to ensure the owner’s safety. However, stress is not the only reason for too much vocalization.
A Tail To Tell
A tucked tail is often an indication of a myriad of emotions in dogs, such as those of anxiety, aggression, and fear. Observe the positioning of your dog’s tail to know if your dog is stressed or not. The tail might leave its regular position and move to another place as an indication of stress. A tail between its legs is a common sign of a stressed animal, as well as wagging its tip or being straight down.
Tail abnormalities might also be accompanied by other behavioral changes such as avoidance behaviors. Your furry friend might hide behind furniture or away from you. Sometimes a stressed animal will choose to hide from everyone in the household, both humans and animals. Anxiety usually triggers flight or fight response in dogs. Although the fight response dominates the flight reaction, be keen to notice the flight response as it is a common stress indicator.
Yawning, Drooling, Panting And Licking
A dog yawns when it is bored or tired, but did you know it can also yawn when it is stressed? A dog that is going through a stressful episode will yawn involuntarily. A stressful yawn is usually intense and prolonged. If you notice several yawns continuously, your dog might be trying to displace uncomfortable and anxious feelings.
Just like human beings, dogs also experience a rise in body temperature when placed in stressful situations. This leads to sweating around the nose and paw pads. You might also notice that they produce more saliva than they usually do, even when the weather is cold, and they haven’t exercised recently.
A dog will also lick its lips when it feels threatened, whether around a strange animal, person or situation. They do this to tame their aggression and prevent it from swelling up. In case you notice these signs, look around to identify the reason for the stress and get rid of it.
Unlike humans, dogs do not opt to do fasts and diets in a bid to reduce weight. So, if your dog suddenly loses interest in food and starts eating small meals only, consider taking them to a vet. Reduced appetite in your furry friend is either a sign of a core health condition or an indication of stress.
In case your furry friend develops anorexia, it might make them lose their interest in food and lead to drastic weight loss. They might also go through nutritional deficiencies rapidly. Therefore, make sure you do not delay the visit because the sooner you see a vet, the better for your dear pet dog.
Why Is Your Dog Stressed?
When you deprive a dog of its owner or human company and confine it to a specific space, it is hit with two stress sources at once. When you leave it in this situation for a prolonged period, the worse the stress will get. Simply because you come home to a neat house, it doesn’t mean that your canine friend did not suffer stress when you left. Just like noise can cause anxiety, even confinement and separation can make a dog stressed.
- Lack of mental stimulation
If you are not keen on keeping your dog’s brain engaged, it is at high risk of being stressed. A challenging game, a task and a toy are essential in alleviating stress in your furry friend. Make sure to keep your canine friend engaged whenever you can, and set aside some time for you to play together.
- Higher vulnerability
Some dogs are more vulnerable to stress than others. An increased susceptibility can be due to the particular breed or merely the neurochemistry of an animal. Older dogs tend to cope well with stressful situations because the body’s ability to deal with its mental and physical effects decreases with age. The more stress a dog experiences in its earlier stages of life, the more the adverse effects it has later. Usually, the harmful stress effects in dogs are prominent when the dog is either physically or mentally ill.
Although this is the 21st century where noise is inevitable, high levels of noise might be making your furry friend to be stressed. Most dog owners do not realize how stressed their pets can be when they are shouted at. That is why some owners scream at their dogs a lot, especially when they want to show their frustration. When giving commands such as “sit” and “wait” to your dog, consider toning down your voice. People living in urban dwellings tend to be very affected by noise, but try your best to reduce the levels. You can look for a quieter neighborhood or use window treatments to cut noise penetration into your home.
- Lack of training or inadequate training
When your dog is not trained well, it is likely to lead a stressful life. This is because they are ever striving to please you, but they do not know how to do it. Dogs are always worrying about doing the wrong thing, and lack of training might stress them.
10 Tips To Help Your Stressed Dog:
1. Lessen The Source Of Anxiety And Stress
Whatever that is stressing your dog, make sure you create a safe space for them. With time, your canine friend will feel that they are safe with you, and they will run to you when they are anxious. If a person is making your furry friend anxious, take the dog to another place. Let’s say there are fireworks out there that are causing your dog stressed up, close the blinds and turn up the music. In the case of a frightening sound, cover your canine companion with a blanket to seal the noise.
2. Spend More Time Together
If possible, spend more time with your canine friend to reduce stress. Whether you are working in the garage or garden, consider tagging your dog along with you. Dogs crave human attention, and they do well when they feel cared for and loved.
3. Distract Your Dog
Distract your furry friend from the stressful event by giving it something to focus on. For instance, you can throw a toy at them. Some toys are made specifically for mental stimulation such as ropes and balls that are meant to ease separation anxiety. Dog stress toys allow your canine better half will help them to associate stressful circumstances with a fun-filled experience. Once they are used to this, they won’t be affected by negative stimuli.
4. Create Rules
Dogs feel less stressed when they understand what is expected of them. Set house rules and be firm but gentle when they disobey. Your dog yearns to please you, but cannot succeed if the rules are always changing.
5. Pet Your Dog
Dogs like it when they are petted. Some prefer gentle strokes while others are into pats and firm squeezes. The most common kind of petting is the gentle one on the back. Follow your pet’s spine towards the hips from the head. Repeat the movements to calm your dog.
6. Exercise Often
Just like humans, dogs are less stressed when they exercise. Working out is an ideal way of relieving stress for dogs as long as you keep it relaxing and fun. Repetitive games like those of throwing and fetching at the park might spike stress in some dogs, so make sure you create a balance.
7. Use A Supplement
Look for the Best Calming Supplements For Dogs. Most are prescribed to be taken twice daily. Dog owners who have utilized supplements to calm dog anxiety have given positive reviews. Ask the vet to recommend a suitable one or check online reviews.
8. Mask Your Reactions
Dogs mimic their owner’s response. They feel that they are members of the pack. So, when you feel stressed, fearful or anxious, they will copy your reaction, as long as they sense it. The best approach is to prevent your negative emotions from showing. Take deep breaths as you exhale slowly and deliberately. If you keep reacting each time you hear loud noises, your dog assumes that it’s something to fear.
9. Use A Dog Anxiety Vest
An anxiety vest is worn over the pet’s torso. It applies pressure to your canine friend when it gets nervous or anxious. Just like a baby interprets swaddling, a dog views pressure in the same way. Anxiety vests are usually comforting to dogs, and they reduce involuntary shivering and help the dog to feel calm.
10. Keep A Routine
Routine is crucial for dogs, just like it is for humans. Everyone suffers stress when they are unsure of their routine, from the time they sleep to the time they eat or walk.
You know your dog better than any other person. So, if you are worried about high levels of stress and anxiety in your furry companion, you are probably right. Make sure you consult with your vet to rule out any medical issues and work out a plan to ease these feelings. Although you cannot alleviate the stress symptoms in totality, there are ways to tone the effects to help them lead a healthier and calmer life.