How many of us have either said or thought, “I wish I could lead my dog’s life?” We feel that our dog has the life of ease with no stress at all. Wrong! Dogs feel stress just as we do; they just cannot talk about it. It is a conscious owner that notices when their dog is becoming stressed out. Most dogs give very subtle signals when they are stressed. Hopefully, in this article, I will be able to enlighten you on recognizing signs of stress in your dog.
Here are a few reason why de-stressing your dog is important: stress is the universal cause for aggression, it can have a negative impact on the health of your dog, it impairs your dogs ability to learn, dogs respond poorly to commands and can cause negative conditioning in your dog.
Many families think their dog’s love children and would never hurt a child. Wrong! Most dogs only tolerate children. If your dog approaches a child with a wagging tail, a wiggling body and squinty eyes, that is a sign your dog adores children. However, anything less than this, is a sign of just pure tolerance on behalf of the dog and a sign, anything can happen. Most dog bites of children are said to be “unprovoked,” but a pulled ear or tail may be all that a stressed out dog needs, to decide to bite a little human.
Some signs of stress when meeting other dogs are slow movement, lip licking, sitting, lying low or showing their undersides, turning away and avoiding eye contact with the other dog. If your dog does not like other dogs, avoid meeting other dogs, for your safety and your dog’s.
When things in the household are out of kilter, such as changes in the usual routine, someone new moves into the home or moving to a new home.
These are all things that can induce stress in your dog. Watch for such things as loss of appetite, avoidance of petting or treat acceptance, frowns (muscle ridges in the forehead) digestive problems, behavior problems, excessive scratching, excessive yawing, hyperactivity, leaning into their human’s (as if for security) sweaty paws, and panting.
If your household has experienced any changes it is important that you keep an open eye on your dog’s normal behavior, as there are many more subtle changes your dog may experience. Unexplained whining, nose licking, excessive stretching, trembling, rapid blinking, snapping and lack of attention to normal commands are stress signs.
What can you do to help your dog? It takes patience to help a dog. It would be nice if we could talk to them, explain things and comfort them with words, but that is not totally possible, as dogs do not have a good handle on our language.
First of all, do not yell or scold your dog if there have been changes in your household, and the dog’s behavior changes. Spend time re-bonding with your dog, play with it, talk to it and keep yourself relaxed. If you are relaxed, breathing normally and feeling calm, your dog will pick up on these vibrations and respond.
If you have moved, find a safe pace for your dog to lay, away from the hustle and bustle of unpacking and usual turmoil that comes with moving.
Give your dog love and a sense of security. Walking outside is calming for you both. Relax your expectations of your dog’s behavior, while things get back to normal.
Regarding children, if your dog does not adore them, do not leave children alone with your dog or any other dog. Supervise play, keeping safety first in mind.
Thunderstorms, fireworks all cause stress in some dogs. Sometimes, a dark room with music or the TV on helps, distracting by playing favorite toys might work, yelling is not the thing to do, and over coddling is not what you should do either. Making a recording and playing it in less stressful times for 30 to 60 seconds at a time and bonding with your dog, may help. In my house nothing helps Tater, when fireworks start, so we just go with the shivering and shaking and eventually it is all over.
Talking to you vet may give you some options to calming your dog during certain stresses in your life. There is a product in the market place called D.A.P. (Dog Appeasement Pheromone) that is known to work in calming a dog. It is a smell (dogs smell it, you cannot) that makes them think of their mommy and it is calming and works about 85 percent of the time.
Whatever you do, do not ignore signs of stress in your dog. Alleviating stress is not only a safety measure, it will improve your dog’s health, behavior and keep life at home peaceful and relaxing.