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Recognizing & Reducing Stress in Dogs

Our dogs accompany us every day in most things we do. They are exposed to countless situations, sounds, and smells, some of which are unusual for them and can cause stress. So that you and your dog can go through life together in a relaxed manner, it is important to recognize stress signals at an early stage.

What can cause stress in dogs?

Much of what we consider perfectly normal can cause a dog to panic or become anxious. Be it the loud television with funny noises, the siren of an ambulance, the New Year’s Eve fireworks, or a crowded crowd in the pedestrian zone: the possible causes of stress are diverse and often not immediately comprehensible to people.

How can you tell if your dog is particularly tense? After all, he can’t tell you when he’s scared of something. But if you watch your dog closely, you’ll find that he’s very clear in letting you know what situations or circumstances are troubling him – through his behavior and body language.

For this reason, it is important to know the dog’s body language exactly and to observe your animal in everyday life. In this way, you also perceive less clear stress signals.

How do dogs show stress?

Just as the stress triggers are many and vary from dog to dog, so are the signs. Some animals are hyperactive, others tend to have an upset stomach when they are under intense mental and physical stress, and still, others are nervous or constantly tired.

If you’re taking your four-legged friend to the vet for a health issue and they can’t diagnose an illness after a thorough exam, you should also consider psychological issues such as stressors.

The following signs can indicate stress in your animal:

  • showing reassurance signals such as a tailor turning the head away followed by a yawn
  • recurrent mouth licking
  • noticeable barking that occurs more often or barking for a long time
  • muscle tension
  • unpleasant odor from the mouth
  • increased salivation
  • Tremble
  • raising the hair on the tail and neck
  • recurrent diarrhea
  • frequent shaking
  • increased, shallow panting
  • biting the leash
  • crouched posture
  • stress face
  • self-injurious behavior, chewing their paws or chasing their tail
  • skipping reactions (such as when your dog starts digging in leaps and bounds)
  • whining and yelping
  • upset stomach
  • excessive grooming
  • all kinds of panic reactions
  • disproportionate aggression
  • destroying objects

The above signs are the most recognizable and most common signs of stress in dogs. If you notice one or more symptoms in your dog, you should observe them closely and try to identify which triggers are throwing them off balance.

Can’t you determine why your four-legged friend shows excessive tension? Then it is advisable to consult a veterinarian specializing in behavior who will help you to identify and eliminate the causes.

How does a dog relieve stress?

Stress is in itself a normal reaction to an unfamiliar or seemingly threatening situation. Adrenaline is released in the body, the body is tense and on alert. It only gets worse if the dog cannot cope with such tension on its own or cannot develop any coping strategies.

Well-socialized dogs that have been confronted with new stimuli and situations since they were puppies can usually process unfamiliar experiences well. However, other animals need the help of their owners to cope with fear-inducing situations or noises so that they can relax again.

You can use the following methods to ensure more relaxation in everyday life and help your dog to reduce stress:

  • Desensitization measures – your dog will be exposed to the stress trigger in small doses and will slowly get used to it.
  • Gently introduce him to new situations or objects.
  • Light, classical music has been shown to calm and relax dogs.
  • Regular joint activity units with you strengthen the bond and relax.
  • Ensure a good balance between exercise and training sessions on the one hand and periods of rest on the other.
  • Through conditioning, you can also use a command to calm the dog down after a long period of time.
  • If your dog is very stressed: Consider a visit to a behavioral veterinarian who can look at the overall physiological and psychological issues. 

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