Stress is something we can all relate to. Each of us feels it every day - in the workplace, at school, or Atlanta traffic, it’s something we have all experienced before. But were you aware that our dogs can experience stress as well?

 

National Stress Awareness Day

National Stress Awareness Day takes place on the 16th of April each year. The origin of the holiday is derived from the Health Resource Network in 1992 to raise awareness of stress. Stress Awareness Day is a special day set aside for people to reflect, de-clutter, unwind, and make conscious efforts to decrease this level of stress. There are many dangerous consequences of stress, as it can have direct effect on our mental, emotional, and physical health. But as pet owners, it’s important that we remember humans are not the only ones that experience stress.

 

Decoding Your Dog’s Body Language

Although it’s a difficult task, it is important to be able to decode our furry friend’s body language and recognize signs of stress. You must be familiar with your dog’s normal behavior when he or she is in a relaxed state and consider the norm before attempting to decode his body language. Take various situations into consideration and be aware of certain behaviors that may seem out of character.

 

Context is extremely important to consider. For an example, it is normal for dogs to bark for various reasons. However, excessive barking can be derived from confinement, separation anxiety, frustration, loneliness, or lack of exercise. If your dog is in a new or difficult environment, it is not necessarily abnormal but observing such abnormal behavior occur repeatedly, or in a sequence, may be an indication your dog is experiencing stress.

 

Signs Your Dog is Stressed

 

  • Sudden and consistent aggressive actions toward other animals or people.
  • Excessive shedding
  • Slow or tense movement
  • Dilated pupils, tensions around eyes and mouth
  • Excessive whining, barking, or other vocalization
  • Sweating from paws
  • Refusal of food/decrease in appetite
  • Pinned ears
  • Panting with no physical activity involved
  • Increased sleeping
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive issue
  • Isolation

Causes of Stress

 

Dr. Melissa Bain, board-certified in veterinary behavior and Chief of Service of the Clinical Animal Behavior Service, attributes the following as common causes of stress based on her research:

 

 

  • Trauma, whether as a result of accident or mistreatment
  • Physical restraint
  • Confinement and loneliness
  • Change of routine/unfamiliarity
  • Separation
  • Noise
  • Boredom/lack of stimulation
  • Unwanted interactions, such as with overly aggressive people or other dogs

 

How To Make Your Dog’s Life Stress-Free

 

  • Exercise and play with your dog often. Exercise is a great stress reliever. Physical activities like a game of fetch or simply a walk around the block do wonders.
  • Choose a high quality dog food. Just like humans, a dog’s diet is an integral factor for health and well-being. A diet that is not properly balanced may cause unforeseen anxiety and stress.
  • When going out without your pet, avoid drawing too much attention. Chew toys or treats can also keep your dog’s mind off your departure. Try training your dog with short outings then gradually increase the duration as your dog gets used to staying alone.
  • Stick to a routine whenever possible and avoid unfamiliarity. If you have recently moved to a new home, place a few of your old things around the house with your dog’s old toys.

 

Celebrating National Stress Awareness Day With Your Dog

 

Occasional stress is quite normal for a dog, just as it is in human life. However, it’s important to notice signs of stress early, so that it does not lead to a bigger problem.

 

As discussed above, confinement, loneliness, and physical restraint are common causes for stress in dogs. If you are at work or school for many hours of the day, it may be best to consider a pet sitter or a dog day care in your area where your furry friend can get exercise and social interaction while you are away. When you are out of town, we highly recommend cage-free dog boarding.