Just like humans, dogs are capable of feeling stress, and that stress than be brought on by a number of different factors. As a pet owner, you always want to do what’s best for your pet and you never want to cause your dog any harm. However, without realizing it, there are some ways that pet owners could be causing their dog stress by doing or not doing something for their pet.
Common Signs of a Stressed Dog
Since dogs aren’t able to verbally tell us when they’re feeling stressed, it’s important to be able to recognize when your dog might be stressed.
Some common signs that could mean a dog’s stressed include:
- Pacing or shaking
- Whining or barking
- Noticeable changes in eyes and/or ears
- Noticeable change in body posture
- Yawning, drooling and/or licking
- Increased desire to hide
Situations That Can Cause Stress in a Dog
A dog can become stressed for a number of different reasons, some which are more difficult to pinpoint than others. As a pet owner, it’s important to get to the underlying cause of your why your dog is feeling this way so you can figure out how to help your dog relax.
Situations that can cause your dog stress include:
Not Enough Activity or Stimulation
Even though some of them may look like couch potatoes, dogs are natural scavengers and hunters. Without a productive outlet for their energy or enough mental stimulation, anxiety and destructive behaviors can manifest.
Activity toys, particularly food based ones, can be a great way to challenge them mentally and occupy their time. The toy should be taken away when the pet has finished with the activity so it remains new and interesting.
Lack of a Schedule or Predictability
I refer to my pets as my four legged furry kids. Just like their human counterparts, lack of predictability and scheduling can result in anxiety and undesirable behaviors. Knowing when to expect interaction, activity, and attention can help your pet feel like they are in control of their environment.
Inconsistent and Negative Discipline
Dogs need consistent and clear guidelines for what is acceptable and desirable behavior. Inconsistent discipline can confuse your dog and cause stress. For example, if mom says it is not ok to bite hands when playing, but dad says it is, what is a puppy to do?
Also, negative discipline techniques can cause confusion and actually result in new problems. Reinforcing the behavior that is desired versus focusing on the behavior that is not, will help your pet understand what is expected from him or her consistently.
Stressing When Your Pet Is Stressed
We all love our fur babies, but something that we commonly do that does not help any situation, is stress when they are stressed!
When your pet is experiencing a stressful event or in a stressful situation it is understandable that we may also become anxious or worried. However, we need to approach new and/or stressful experiences without fear.
Calm reassurances, happy and cheerful tones and relaxed posture can all help your pet feel more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Scolding your dog or reprimanding and punishing him for the behavior, will only reinforce the unwanted fearful response.
Forcing Your Pet to “Face His or Her Fears”
It is not uncommon for dogs to show anxiety, fear, or uncertainty in new or unfamiliar situations, especially if we are experiencing similar emotions. It is important to recognize your pet’s discomfort and observe his or her cues, so you can work through those issues in a positive and safe way.
It is important to remember that fear and anxiety are not rational responses. Repeatable and forced exposure to an uncomfortable stimulus or situation, from dog parks to children, in an attempt to “work through” your pet’s fear is actually counterproductive. Without the appropriate guidance, positive reinforcement and an effective and calm response, it is very likely that repeating these events will only reinforce the anxiety and fear. This will result in a worsening of the situation and making the issues more difficult to overcome.
Bringing along play toys and highly valued rewards can be a way to try and maintain a positive and calm disposition as you enter a new environment. It is advisable to seek the help and guidance of a professional trainer and/or veterinarian in Orlando, FL if your pet is unable to reach a calm and relaxed state in new environments.
Talk to a Vet About Your Dog’s Stress
If you know that your dog is stressed but you can’t figure out why or can’t get them calm, then it’s important to get help from a veterinarian. Some causes can be easily detectable and then therefore be helped by making lifestyle adjustments for your dog, while others may not be as obvious to pinpoint. It’s not healthy nor common for dogs to remain stressed or tense for long periods of time, so it’s important to try and calm your pet down as soon as possible.
At OrlandoVets, we care about the health and wellbeing of your pet. Our compassionate veterinary team wants your dog to live a long and happy life with you, which is why we work with you on finding the underlying cause of your dog’s stress and figuring out the best treatment to helping them calm down. We’re available to answer any and all questions you may have about your pet.
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We are a group of veterinary hospitals located in the greater Orlando area. Our purpose is to enrich the quality of lives of pets and their families through personalized partnerships with their veterinarian.