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dealing with stress in your dog

Many of us deal with the stress in everyday life, whether it is traffic jams, work deadlines, financial worries or just difficult teenagers! But have you ever considered that it is possible for your dog to also experience stress? Last month we looked at ways of helping your dog get past November 5th but the silly season is around the corner and it’s a hectic time of year! Routines change, family descends on you and life is pretty busy. Or maybe your bags are already packed and your off on that long deserved holiday, sending “Fido” to the boarding kennel!

These things can also be stressful for your dog!

Research has shown that stress in your dog can cause a range of symptoms from digestive upsets to behaviour disorders. Some animals suffer from chronic stress,where others will experience acute stress, influenced by the immediate environment. So what causes stress in your dog and how can we recognise and help to eliminate it?

The Signs and symptoms

Most of us love our pets and consider them to be pampered: with warm beds, healthy food and plenty of human love and attention! But even the most spoilt dog can experience stress and in situations we may not have considered.

Here are ten of the most common triggers for stress in the dog, some are obvious but others not:

  1. Exposure to new and unfamiliar people, places, pets or things.

    2. Loud noises, thunder and fireworks

    3. Separation anxiety

    4. Moving to a new house or being taken to boarding kennels

    5. A new baby, human or pet or the absence of a familiar person or pet

    6. Changes in the usual household routine, a new job etc

    7. Separation from the family – separation anxiety

    8. Poor relationships with members of the family human or animal

    9. Invasion of personal space, constant petting, hugging and disruption when trying to rest

    10. Disciplinary training methods such as shock

    11. collars, hitting or shouting

    12. Lack of access to exercise particularly for

    13. those dogs that are herders, runners or retrievers.
    These triggers can lead to your dog feeling stressed, compromising the health and well-being of your pet. Not all dogs will show the same symptoms but below are ten signs your dog may display when experiencing stress.

    1. Repeated nose or lip licking

    2. Yawning

    3. Panting

    4. Lack of appetite

    5. Diarrhoea

    6. Cowering or hiding

    7. Tucked or lowered tail

    8. Trembling or shaking

    9. Whining, howling or barking

    10. Pulled back earsand /or aggression

What can you do?

If you feel that your pet may be chronically stressed, discuss it with your Veterinarian. Your vet will be able to examine your dog to ensure there is no underlying problem and will be able to advise you as to how to minimize stress in your dog’s life.

If possible, try to identify what the stress trigger is and then avoid or minimize it. Some stress triggers are beyond your control such as thunderstorms/ fireworks.However, you can try some of the following strategies to help your dog deal with those anxious moments.

  1. Behavior Modification – Desensitization and Counter-conditioning.

    These are both common approaches to modifying behaviour and are often use in conjunction with one another.

    Desensitization – the dog is increasingly exposed to the stress trigger over a long period of time in order for the dog to become familiar with the trigger and no longer feel threatened by it.

Counter-conditioning – With this method the dog is given positive stimuli when the trigger is present for example, food or a favorite toy, thus making the trigger less threatening.

If you feel that your dog could benefit from this type of training contact your vetpractice and they should be able to recommend a trainer or behaviourist who can help.

2. Be patient with your dog. If your pet doesn’t like children/ strangers other dogs consider utilizing one of the above conditioning strategies or try to avoid confrontations.

3. Avoid punishing your dog it will just make the anxiety worse, rather use positive disciplining.

4. Make sure your dog is safe. Some dogs try to run when anxious or stressed particularly during thunderstorms or fireworks. Make sure they are securely indoors, reassure them ,distract them with treats and the TV!

5. If your dog becomes aggressive when stressed try to make sure that no one can be harmed, this includes other pets. Try to reassure your dog and use positive gestures rather than punishments.

6. Regular exercise and play can help alleviate stress in your pet

7. Acupuncture, touch therapy or the use of gentle pressure body wraps may be of some help in the anxious pet.

8. If necessary, your vet will be able to advise
and possibly prescribe medications that can alleviate stress.

9. Prescriptions diets: there are foods specifically

formulated for the stressed pets particularly those prone to gastro intestinal upsets caused by stress.

Did you know… that Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Miniature Dachshunds and Pomeranians are just some of the toy breeds that are prone to gastro intestinal upsets caused by stress and anxiety!

The next time you come home stressed after a hard day at the office, maybe a nice walk in the park will be just what you and your dog need to RELAX!

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