April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress is a part of our everyday lives, and it’s no different in our dogs’ lives. Like humans, dogs feel stress and exhibit it in different ways. Stress can be the result of many different things in our dogs’ lives. In this blog, we explore the potential causes of stress for dogs, possible signs of stress, and how to prevent stress in the future. At Citizen Canine, we love to educate our clients so that all dogs can live stress-free and happy lives!
Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed. Stress can include being overwhelmed physically or mentally. When our dogs cannot cope with the emotional stressors and triggers in their lives, the pressure causes them to feel anxious, uneasy and stressed. This blog specifically focuses on emotional and mental stress that can affect our dogs every day.
Many things can stress our dogs out. These types of stress can fall under three categories: acute (temporary) stress, episodic (occasional) stress, and chronic (continuous) stress. Acute stress can be a moment in time, something that comes out of the blue that makes your dog nervous. For example, a loud noise or unfamiliar situation can stress your dog. Episodic stress can occur in intervals. For example, your dog can be stressed out if you go to the dog park regularly or if they attend daycare. Chronic stress is the worst and can negatively affect your dog. This type of stress occurs daily. For example, if your dog lives in an uncomfortable environment or lives with someone they don’t trust. Stressors can range from objects and sounds to places, people, and experiences. Finding the stressor is the first step to helping your dog overcome their anxieties.
Signs of stress can vary depending on the type and severity of the stress and the dog. Some indications that your dog is stressed are: increased movement (pacing or shaking), vocal (barking or whining), change in body posture, ears and eyes. Other behavioural signs of stress include: excessive panting, licking, drooling, shedding their fur, and acting distant, trying to hide or escape the situation. Your dog can exhibit one or multiple of these signs when they are stressed. Everyone handles stress differently, and our dogs also have different ways to demonstrate and cope with stress.
A quick way to get rid of stress is to get rid of the stressor. When the physical thing or person is causing the stress, removing them from your dog’s life is the easiest way to get rid of feelings of anxiety and stress. Sometimes our dogs’ stress comes from specific actions or behaviours. Prevention is not likely in these situations, and training must be involved. For example, if your dog experiences stress from separation anxiety, then training your dog to know you will return will be necessary. When stress comes from situations that your dog must get used to, then training will be needed to teach your dog confidence. If you have a puppy, exposing your dog to everyday things like leaving home for a while can help prevent future anxieties.
Whatever anxieties or stresses your dogs have, getting tons of hugs and attention from you will help them feel safe and calm. For National Stress Awareness Month, be sure to pay extra attention to your dog and see if anything causes them stress. Remember, stress can come and go, and in time your dog can become a confident and calm dog with stress prevention and training.