Stress is a universal human experience and can be triggered by a lot of factors such as school, work, finances, personal relationships, and many more.
But did you know that dogs can be stressed out too? Unlike humans, however, it’s sometimes difficult to discern if your dog is feeling stressed. This is because they only display subtle signs of stress but physical factors are easily noticeable especially when they are suffering from injury or traumatized during interaction with people or other animals.
Since people tend to be more vocal about their frustrations, dogs can only act it out. What’s more, dogs that exhibit stress-related behaviors are usually no different from a normal dog’s demeanor.
In this blog, we’ll talk about how to spot signs that your dog is stressed and how you can use natural stress relievers to keep them calm.
How to Determine If Your Dog is Stressed Out
Below are some of the signs that your dog is stressed out. Some are obvious while others tend to be more subtle indicators:
- Loss of bowel functions
- Flattened ears
- Dilated pupils
- Intense yawning
- Excessive drooling
If you notice a combination of these signs, there’s a high chance your dog is under distress. You can observe this behavior if, for example, you decide to go to the vet. Your dog will likely display obvious signs like whining, barking, and flattening its ears.
Others may be less expressive and choose not to exhibit these signs, though. That’s why it’s important to be in tune with your dog’s behavior and know how to spot the subtle signs, as well.
How to Help Your Dog Relax
Check out these tips to help your dog stay calm whenever it gets locked on and enters a stressful state.
1. Physical Contact
When your dog is under stress, physical contact is one of the most effective ways to keep it calm. It provides assurance that it’s in a safe place and not alone.
2. Use a Comforting & Reassuring Voice
Speaking in a comforting and reassuring voice, along with physical contact, is a great stress reliever for dogs. Always use a soothing tone when you’re trying to calm your dog down.
Your dog might not understand what you’re saying but it can determine the emotion behind your words. So stay soft and calm and your dog will follow suit.
3. Perform a Massage
If your dog is tense, its muscles are most likely tight and agitated. To alleviate the tension, try massaging them starting from the neck and work your way down its body with gentle, soothing strokes.
Keep one hand on your dog, while the other massages its body. Also, pay attention if the muscles have relaxed because it means that your dog has managed to calm down.
4. Music Therapy
Interestingly enough, you can use music therapy to help calm down your dog. Psychologist Deborah Wells at Queens University in Belfast examined dog behavior in relation to the music currently playing.
The researchers chose three genres of music for the study: pop, classical, and heavy metal. They also used the sounds of human conversation recordings to see if the dogs would respond to the sound of people talking.
The researchers found that when dogs are exposed to heavy metal music, the dogs became agitated and started barking. Popular music and human discussions didn’t produce any reactions at all.
Classical music, on the other hand, had a calming effect. It lessened barking among the dogs and they started feeling a lot calmer.
5. Use Toys
You can use toys to distract a dog from any triggers of stress. It’ll help to hand them a toy that’s usually associated with treats and rewards so they can focus on the rewards instead of the stress.
6. Encourage Play & Exercise
Speaking of distractions, play and exercise are also great natural stress relievers for dogs. This is effective if you’ve already established a routine for your dog. After all, working out is a time for bonding and fun.
7. Use Safety Blankets
Dogs usually sleep with a safety blanket. And since sleep is associated with relaxation, you can use this to your advantage by wrapping them up with the cloth when your dog is stressed. Since the blanket includes your scent, it’ll definitely help assure them.
This method is quite useful when the stress trigger is separation anxiety. Of course, safety blankets alone aren’t enough and some pets may not be comfortable with it wrapped in their body and some may actually start to chew it. Instead, try using an alternative wearable leg protection for easy movement. You'll also need to be proactive and make sure that your home is a safe space for your pets.
Calm Your Dogs by Removing Stressors
When all is said and done, keeping your dog calm boils down to identifying what the main trigger is. Once you’ve determined the source, try to apply the tips above to help your furry companion calm down.
As a dog owner, you’ll soon realize that relieving dog stress can actually feel rewarding. And over time, your best friend will thank you for it and return the favor by giving you years of friendship and companionship.