As humans, we are accustomed to discussing stress. In reality, the majority of us experience it daily. However, as peculiar as it may sound, dogs can also experience stress. A stressed dog will exhibit many symptoms such as hyperactivity or apathy, behavioral changes, or repetitive behaviors. The way we address these symptoms may be what’s causing the issue in the first place—even if we didn’t mean to agitate our four-legged friend. That is why we must comprehend what stress means to a dog. And, because we want the best for our canine companion, Dog World decided to conduct research to learn more about what to do and what not to do when it comes to stress and dogs. Additionally, don’t forget to check out our bonus at the end of the article.
1. Leaving them alone for an extended period of time.
When left alone, dogs may experience separation anxiety or stress, especially if they are not accustomed to it. Such stress is common in both young and old dogs, manifesting itself in barking, howling, destructive behaviour, and in some cases, even soiling in the house. It is not recommended to leave a pet alone for longer than 6-8 hours, especially when they are still getting used to it. Before you go, it is advisable to lock doors and windows to prevent escape, ensure that your pet has adequate water and food, and provide them with toys for distraction. Ignoring your pet for about 20 minutes before you leave is also recommended, so that upon your return, you can spend some quality time together, only after your pet has had time to settle down.
2. Taking them out with a very tight leash and not ever letting them run free
It is well-known that canines require outside physical activity to remain healthy and balanced. Without the benefit of an outdoor yard, people in this position should pay close attention to how much leash they use when taking their dog out for a walk. An overly-tight leash is not only a source of physical injury, such as back damage, but it can also produce an elevated level of stress for the animal. This, in turn, can affect their behavior.
Instead, owners should take their dog to an area with more open space, like a square, park, or wide field. Allowing the pet to run without the constraint of a leash, even just a couple of days a week, is important to both maintain their physical wellbeing and decrease their stress. However, if the pet must be kept on a leash, a more loose fit is recommended so that the animal still feels somewhat unrestricted while running. In the case of larger breeds, there are alternative methods to ensure they are still getting a healthy amount of exercise, such as an ahead harness or a training harness.
3. Ruling with an iron fist
According to research, dogs that experience high levels of stress often come from homes that are run with an iron fist. These types of homes tend to feature excessive punishments, leash-pulling, and physical manipulation such as pressing down on their back. This often leads to a hostile environment, one where dogs can be temperamental and have difficulty playing with other dogs.
Rather than using oppressive techniques, it’s much better to use positive reinforcement. Rewarding the dog with compliments, petting, and treats when it responds to commands is an excellent way to make progress. Conversely, screaming and physical punishment will do nothing but harm the relationship. A simple “no” will suffice, and when done with regularity, it will help the dog understand your expectations.
4. Pretending to throw the ball
Playing with your pup is the best way to make them happy, creating a stronger bond between the two of you. Nevertheless, some activities that bring amusement to humans may leave our four-legged companions anxious and bewildered, such as feigning to throw a ball, only to conceal it in the end. This behaviour can slowly lead to your dog losing their trust in you, so try not to do this. Additionally, research has shown that playing with your furry friend can decrease their cortisol levels – the hormone that controls stress. Instead, try playing games like fetch, teach them tricks such as ‘paw’ and most of all, have fun with your pup!
5. Exposing them to very loud sounds
Dogs, just like humans, can become easily overwhelmed when exposed to extremely loud noises such as high pitches, music, fireworks, traffic noise, and more. However, their disadvantage is that they don’t know where these noises come from, leaving them in a state of confusion and stress. To ensure their comfort and help them remain relaxed, it is important to give your pup a safe place to retreat to whenever they are overwhelmed. Whether it be under a bed or a box, it is important to not move them, but to let them take their time in calming down and exiting their safe space on their own. You can also attempt to reduce the reaction to noises in the environment by playing some soft music.
6. Preventing them from sniffing out everything they want to sniff
Your furry friend relies heavily on their nose to discover and process the world around them, be it during a walk or when they are interacting with other canines. To truly experience their surroundings, pulling the leash and stopping them from taking in all the scents is not the right move. A dog’s sense of smell is one of the most remarkable and powerful senses they possess, so give them time to relish in their journey of exploring all the smells they can find. Let them lead the way and be patient if they stop – this will give them the opportunity to enjoy their exploration and learn as much as possible from the environment.
7. Hugging them too much or touching their face
Emotions are generally a trait specific to humans. Dogs cannot understand them in the same way. Showing too much affection may cause them to feel anxious, stressed, or in pain. Moreover, they don’t appreciate having their face touched or stroked. Seeing an approaching hand may cause them to believe they will be hit. If they act restless, such as yawning, avoiding eye contact, huffing, or running away, they may be rejecting your advances. Nonetheless, not all dogs reject this. Some of them love being cuddled and may even demand it. To ensure they are comfortable, let them approach you by gently placing your hand on the level of their muzzle.
8. Using different words for the same kind of behavior
Talking to your pet as if they can understand you is natural, yet use the same phrase for every instruction – like ‘down’, ‘stay’, ‘come’, ‘sit’ and the like – instead of multiple synonyms. Your furry friend won’t recognize that you want the same thing when you say “bring this to me” and “go get that”. This can lead to confusion, since they won’t comprehend what you actually desire.
The way you present yourself is significant. Alter the tone of your voice and be conscious of your body language. Visual cues have more impact – point at the item or give a signal with your fingers. Benefit from the power of repetition, as this can really be effective in training your pet. Furthermore, they will appreciate the regularity of having the same training everyday.
9. Dressing them
Generally, dogs are more open to the idea of wearing clothing than cats are. Although some breeds are better adapted to colder climates and might need additional warmth in the form of clothes, most dogs find it to be quite restrictive and irritating. If your furry friend shows clear signs of agitation when trying to get dressed, it is best to not push the issue and respect their wishes. Not only will this ensure a more pleasant experience for them, but it will also help prevent damage to their skin from the fabrics used for canine apparel.
10. Not following a routine
Puppies need structure to make them feel secure, and forming a regular daily routine can go a long way in improving their wellbeing and fostering their resilience. Having no fixed habits, on the other hand, can lead to a feeling of stress, frustration, and unease. Therefore, when the puppy is still young, it’s important to establish a set plan for sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, walking, and playing. This schedule will serve to deepen your connection with your pet and make introducing new activities much easier, so long as the dog’s schedule is respected.