How to help a stressed dog?
Signs that may indicate that your dog is stressed
- Trying to retreat or back away from a situation
- Cowering/crouched body posture
- Tail tucked between legs
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal upset e.g., diarrhoea
- Excessive licking or biting of paws
- Difficulty relaxing
- Pacing back and forth
- Licking of the lips
- Panting and drooling
- Whites of the eyes showing
- Ears pinned back
- Inappropriate urination/defecation
- Destructive behaviour e.g., chewing on furniture
- Aggressive behaviour
Does your dog show any of the symptoms in the list? Keep in mind that it is important to see your vet to rule out any underlying medical illness. ss may be the cause.
Stress can manifest itself in many ways
Dogs can get symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and inappetence when stressed. Aggressive behaviour (e.g., showing teeth, growling, snapping, biting) can indicate that your dog is stressed, scared and needs to get away from a situation. Usually, a dog has displayed more subtle signs of stress before showing these behaviours.
Tips on how to prevent stress in your dog
There are several ways to reduce and prevent long-term stress but start by reviewing the dog’s everyday life. Here are some tips along the way:
Remove causes of stress
If your dog gets very stressed in specific situations, try to avoid these situations or triggers where possible. Some common causes/triggers of stress in dogs include thunderstorms, fireworks, loud traffic noises, loud crowded places, unfamiliar people and places.
Exercise your dog
Regardless of dog size or breed, exercise is an important ingredient for a dog’s well-being. A dog that is allowed to stretch properly at regular intervals is less likely to misbehave and often functions better in everyday life.
Mental stimulation is extremely important for your pet. Many pet owners do not realise that keeping your dog mentally active is just as important as physical fitness and activity. A mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog. Ways to keep your pet mentally active include:
- Playing games with your pet e.g., frisbee, fetch, hide the treat
- Going for long walks in interesting places with varied terrain for your dog to explore e.g., in woodlands.
- Giving your pet puzzle feeders.
- Training your dog to do some simple tricks.
- Playing games and teaching your dog tricks also helps to strengthen your bond with your four-legged friend.
Teach your dog to relax
You can teach your dog to relax and take it easy by positive reinforcement. Reward relaxed behaviours e.g., when your pet settles down on its blanket or bed give them treats. This also makes it easier for you to take your dog with you to a café or to a friend’s house. A common cause of stress in dogs is when they are left home alone, this is known as “separation anxiety”. There are measures you can take to train your pet to be relaxed in your absence.
Time and place for peace and quiet
A dog needs a quiet and comfortable place where it can go away and rest undisturbed. It is a good idea to create a “den” for your pet.
Give your dog something to chew on
Chewing and licking can have a calming and de-stressing effect for the dog. Therefore, it can be a good idea to help the dog down by giving him a bone or something else to chew and lick.
Take Seek the help of a professional
Sometimes it can be difficult to help and train your dog on your own, in which case it is good to contact a pet behaviour specialist who can guide and support.
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