Recognising the signs of stress and anxiety in your dog
Stress has always been a constant for humans, especially in the workplace or difficult domestic situations, but stress for dogs? Dogs are very empathetic creatures, domesticated for many centuries and eager to please their owners. So it’s not surprising that there are times when they get stressed and anxious, and it’s up to the owner to detect that and try to help a dog through its problems with careful, focused training.
Why could a dog be stressed?
There are a number of possibilities to consider here. Dogs are very sociable animals and need to be exercised regularly, especially the larger breeds. Families that work long hours, necessitating leaving a pet alone for long periods, may find their dog becomes anxious and stressed because it needs those regular, long walks and is not getting them. If getting back from work to exercise the dog is difficult, then employing a professional dog walker could be a solution to help reduce the pet’s distress.
Dogs are also emotional creatures and if their early training has not equipped them to deal with loud noises, then events such as thunderstorms and firework displays could be very stressful for them. The problem can be helped by the owner being calm and soothing during a noisy event, training and encouraging the dog to relax, and over a period of time, helping to take away the tension that would otherwise build up.
A dog may also have an undiagnosed disease that may cause it to become stressed. Professional information and support can help with anxious dogs, so a visit to vet will ensure a diagnosis can be made and effective treatment administered as soon as possible.
Stress signs for dogs
Dogs communicate in a number of ways – barking, yapping excitedly, jumping, wagging the tail enthusiastically and in many cases gazing adoringly at the owner, especially when food or exercise is in the offing. Dogs can be trained to calm down with vocal and signed messages but a lot of the pleasure of owning a dog is in its sheer exuberance. If that goes, something is wrong and something needs to be done about it.
Stressed dogs may often shed a lot of hair, more than has been normal in the past, so it’s a trait to watch out for. When a dog draws back its ears and keeps them low, it’s a sign that is easy to recognise as a symptom of anxiety and stress.
Destructive behaviour, such as chewing or biting furniture, may be a sign of a dog seeking to alleviate stress. It could be symptomatic of being left alone for long periods or happen when another animal is present in the home or a particular room.
Helping relieve stress
Identifying symptoms early on gives an owner the opportunity to help the dog through its stress and anxiety. Professional help should be sought where necessary but being aware of the possible causes and taking swift action, including additional training, can help a dog through the difficult times and emotions it is experiencing.