5 Clear Signs Of A Stressed Dog And How To Reduce It?
We often use the word stressed to describe our mental state when we feel strain or tension due to demanding circumstances. When we feel stressed, many people relieve it through various stress-management strategies. The stakes go a bit higher when a loved one is stressed. If they cannot diagnose or reduce it, it’s up to us.
Our furry buddies can also experience stress. But unlike you, they cannot self-diagnose or take steps to relieve it. They depend entirely on us to notice it and help them feel better. We are here to help you out.
This article will inform you about five clear signs of a stressed dog and what to do to reduce it. If you are wondering why is it important? The article will help you understand canine stress and why it is crucial to deal with it.
Canine stress, what it is, and why it is crucial to deal with it
Just like humans, dogs vary in the way they respond to different stimuli. If a dog learns to remain calm to certain stimuli, he will not be stressed by it. However, if the stimuli can trigger pain, fear, or anxiety, it becomes a stressor.
Stimuli could be internal, for example, discomfort due to pain, an ailment, or injury. Stimuli could also be external or in the environment. It could be a person (people), other animals, surroundings, sounds, or anything in the surroundings. Dogs can also get stressed because they are bored, frustrated, or when you (the owner) is distressed.
Stress can be detrimental to the emotional and physical wellbeing of a dog. Your dog could behave in an undesirable manner and fail to meet the expectations of the general public.
Often, such behaviors in dogs result in requests for relinquishment to shelters or even euthanasia. But you can avoid taking such drastic action. Here is how to tell a stressed dog and what you can do to help.
Clear signs of a stressed dog
To notice the signs of stress, you should be familiar with the dog’s traits, temperament, and history. If the dog is stressed, it may show the following signs.
Food and tummy issues
A dog could have symptoms like loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation when it is stressed. If your dog does not want to eat, even when he is hungry, he must be having a deeper problem. Perhaps he ate something toxic.
If that is the case, try some home remedies before taking him to the vet. If the vet determines that there is no ailment, nothing blocking his tummy or medical condition, he could be stressed. Tummy issues like diarrhea and constipation could manifest due to anxiety and stress.
Take your dog to a vet, and have them rule out any ailment before you start treating for stress.
Isolation and hiding
Dogs are social animals. They enjoy being around other dogs and their human companions. A dog that constantly isolates or hides from people or other animals could be stressed. He could be sick or afraid of something in the environment.
If the stress is due to a new environment, the dog could run away and hide in unusual places. Find him, take him to a professional for help to understand the cause of the strange behavior.
Many aggressive dogs are also stressed. If your dog is typically calm, unusual signs of aggression like growling, hyper-vigilance, showing gums, and a defensive look and posture could be signs of stress.
You should reach out to a vet or a dog behavior specialist for help to understand the reason behind the aggression.
Unusual body language
Body language is by far the best sign of a stressed dog. Some of the body language signs include:
- The whale eye or when a dog reveals the white part of his eyes.
- Tucked ears.
- Tucked tail.
- Raised hackles.
- Freezing in place.
Frequent lip-licking and yawning are self-calming behaviors. The dog will do these when trying to cope with the stress.
Strange and frequent vocalizations and activity
Excessive or nuisance barking, whining, or howling can be signs that the dog is stressed. This is how the dog says something is bothering him, and he might keep at it until you notice or the stressor leaves. Besides strange vocalization, the dog could also start shaking (or experience full-body tremors), pacing, and become unable to settle or relax.
How to help a stressed dog
If your dog displays these signs and the vet has ruled out medical conditions, the following ideas will help to reduce stress.
Deal with the stressor
Of course, if you remove the stressor or your dog from the stressor, the dog will calm down. Find a calm place where your dog can regroup and find his feet. But avoid being all over him or giving treats.
He might be mistaken and think it is commendable behavior. Instead, get him to perform an energy-diverting activity, like sitting or routine commands, and if he does them, reward him.
If the dog becomes frequently stressed, take him to the vet for a physical examination. After ensuring that all is well (physically), the vet could recommend anxiety-reducing medications and a visit to a dog behavior specialist.
Desensitization and counterconditioning
If the stress is due to a permanent change, consider desensitizing or counter conditioning your dog. The dog should adapt to changes like the addition of a family member or moving homes.
Desensitization entails exposing your dog to the stressor in little bits and helping the dog become more confident around it. Counter conditioning takes the same approach.
However, you divert your dog’s attention to a different activity. For example, he can learn to sit and shake his paw when he sees a stress trigger.
Both of these approaches take time and intense training. You may need help from a professional trainer.
Regularly indulge in stress relievers
Play, exercise, and socialization are excellent stress relievers for both people and dogs. A dog that does not get enough exercise is prone to stress and anxiety because it has excess unutilized energy. Apart from keeping the body fit, exercise helps to boost a dog’s mental faculties, keep him calm and happy.
Create a safe area
Is your dog scared by loud sounds like thunderstorms and loud parties and cannot be left alone? Create a safe area. A safe place where the dog trusts and can run to and hide. For example, you can set up a comfortable blanket at a hidden corner in the house or invest in a calming dog bed.
Invest in the dog’s physical wellbeing
Feed the dog with high-quality foods, exercise regularly, play, and visit the vet frequently. Physical wellbeing is an integral part of the dog’s mental wellness. It helps to keep at bay ailment-triggered pain and stress.
A final word on stress in dogs
Like people, dogs also get stressed. However, they cannot say it. They rely on you to notice the body language or tell-tell signs. If your dog repeatedly shows signs of stress, take him to the vet.
It could be because of a medical condition. There are various ways to help a stressed dog. Remember, helping your dog learn how to handle stress could save his life.