Throughout the year you may get busy with holidays, family vacations, backyard BBQ’s, house guests, busy activities, day trips, and changes to the daily routine. While these are all fun and good, occasionally dogs have a little trouble adjusting and can suffer the signs of stress as a result.
Furthermore, they may also pick up on any tension you’re feeling, which can exacerbate the problem. Dogs that are stressed may suffer health problems, anxiety, destructive behavior, and may be more prone to act out in aggression.
How can you tell if your dog is suffering from stress?
Watch for these signs and body language signals:
- Panting, nervous/excessive/for no reason
- Licking, constant/obsessive
- Tense muscles
- Shedding, sudden or excessive
- Tail wagging that is not relaxed and happy
- Pinned back ears
- Avoiding people
- Refusing food and treats
- Red eyes or showing the whites of eyes
- Digging or clawing, trying to escape
- Bloating (a life-threatening emergency)
- Refusing to look at people
How can you help your stressed dog remain calm?
- Take some time to pet and massage your dog, as you normally would. Don’t reward your dog for acting stressed.
- Provide a den where your dog can escape such as a quiet bedroom, crate, any place your pet feels safe when things get chaotic.
- Try to stick to normal feeding, play, and exercise times.
- Avoid over stimulation.
- Take a walk or engage in another activity your dog loves.
- Provide a safe chew toy and use toys, games, or training to divert attention away from the stressor.
- Act normal, remain calm, and take a deep breath. Your own body language responses can sooth a stressed dog.
- Don’t force your dog on people, visiting pets, and guard your pet from rambunctious children.
- Never allow your dog to be cornered.
- Don’t allow house guests to feed your dog.
- If the symptoms are severe, aromatherapy or a trip to your vet may be helpful.
Dogs exhibit stress at some time in their lives and this is totally normal. By helping dogs relax and giving them an escape option (such as a quiet place when you have a house full of company) most dogs will deal with the situation and may even begin to enjoy it. The trouble usually arises when dogs are forced into situations that may cause them to become ill or act out. The symptoms of stress can also indicate other health problems so if your dog suddenly acts stressed for no reason, call your vet. Your dog will take cues from you so if you are having a great time and enjoying your day, most likely your dog will do the same.