As many of us are feeling the stress of our current climate, it's not a surprise that our pups pick up on the angst we're feeling. Recognizing that your dog may not be feeling their emotional best is the first step towards helping them. Below are some of the most common symptoms of dogs who are suffering with anxiety.
Does your dog howl, whine or bark a lot? Excessive noise, whether inside or outside the house, can be a sign of anxiety. Try and find a pattern to the barking to determine the cause of the anxiety. Does it happen when you're gone? When strangers come to the door?
All dogs seem to shed, but have you ever noticed how much hair can come off when your dog is stressed? You might see this happen in the veterinarian's office, as you pet your dog in the exam room and the hair covers your hands and the floor.
Dogs seem to be constantly licking things anyway, so how can this be a sign of stress? The repetitive licking of nose and/or lips usually accompanies other behaviors such as some of those mentioned here.
One of the biggest signs of stress is having accidents in the house. Many dogs who are stressed about being left alone, but have otherwise been house-trained, will backslide in their training. Consider crate training, or confining your dog to a comfortable, closed-off location when you're out, as this may give him a more secure feeling.
Dogs generally pant to cool themselves down when it's hot or they've been exercising. If your dog is panting for no apparent reason, possibly with her ears pinned back and low, this can be a sign of stress. Be careful if the dogs suddenly stops panting and closes his mouth, as he may be escalating toward biting.
Especially in the more aggressive breeds, dogs may try to alleviate stress by chewing or biting furniture (or you!) or even by destructive biting or licking of her own body. Try to examine the circumstances that increase the behaviors, such as being left alone or when other animals are present.
There are many reasons your dog may show avoidance, whether it's avoiding other dogs or people. Tail tucked, avoiding eye contact, turning away — these are all ways your dog shows you he is uncomfortable. It's important to remember that if your dog is avoiding a situation that makes him uncomfortable, this is better than showing aggression and it's best to respect this message.
You might think that your dog is ignoring you when she starts sniffing around and ignoring commands, but it's likely that she's stressed about something. Does it happen at certain times, like during obedience class or at the dog park? See if you can narrow down the cause.
If you find your dog fits the above criteria, here are a few ideas for making her life a little more mellow:
Get Regular Exercise: Exercise can be a great stress-reliever for your dog, as long as it's kept fun and relaxing. Repetitive games of fetch at the dog park can actually cause stress in some dogs, so make sure you find the right balance.
Stick to a routine: Patterns are incredibly important for dogs mental health. They suffer less stress when they know their routine, from where they sleep to what time of day they go for a walk or eat. Dogs experience less stress when they know exactly what to expect. Your dog wants to please you, but cannot possibly succeed if the routine keeps changing.
Stay Away From Situations That are Stressful: If you know that your dog doesn't do well in crowded situations, spend time taking him on solo hikes or backyard play. If your dog is stressed when you aren't home, the protectiveness crate training provides might bring him some comfort.
Make Bonding a Priority: If you can, spend more time with your dog to reduce stress. Working out in the garage? Bring your furry friend out there with you. He craves being near you and it's good for his soul (and yours).
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