it is an unfortunate truth that dogs these days are suffering from more stress than ever before. The phrase ‘It’s a dog’s life’ sadly doesn’t exist for all dogs.
They have of course always had behaviours they performed to show stress, vital for their survival and allowing flight or fight. You may see your dog avoiding a certain person or running away when something gives them a fright, this is normal and the dog allowing himself to deal with the stressful event and move on from it. It is when these behaviours start to escalate we have a problem. If owners are not vigilant in distinguishing their dogs stress it can be detrimental to the dog.
Of course not everyone can easily tell if a dog is stressed so it is best to seek professional advice on the matter.
Short term stressful events can turn into separation anxiety and aggression if not dealt with correctly. Not only can long term stress have behavioural consequences but it can also impact on their health. Chronic stress can lead to immune deficiency, meaning your dog is at a high risk of developing infections and illnesses.
There are some behaviours to look out for if you are unsure, excessive drooling, hiding, lip licking, shaking, panting and pacing to name just a few. These are all to be taken in context, when your dog shakes after getting wet, he is not necessarily stressed. Many dogs are storm phobic which is fear based and can have many triggers, dark skies, rain or high wind. Dogs can react in very different ways to phobias, they may simply freeze and refuse to move or the complete opposite, they can chew threw any restraints and break free from any area. Many dogs go missing when storms arise as people can be unaware of their dogs fear.
Separation anxiety is an extremely common problem in dogs these days. To spot this, watch out for anything your dog may do while you’re away that he wouldn’t while you are there, for example toileting in the house or shredding your couch. When you arrive home, the dog is frantic and not his usual self.
You should always seek professional assistance when it comes to treating serious behaviours such as these, but here are something’s you can do to help your pup in the meantime.
Don’t force your dog to approach something he finds stressful. If you know he gets extremely stressed when the postman comes, put him out the back and go meet the post man at the gate, or better yet put a post box at your gate. Of course it is not always possible to avoid storms but you can help your dog get away from it by giving him a quiet place to go, somewhere fun with sounds that drown out the storm. Always ensure the dog has somewhere to go when feeling stressed, somewhere dark and quiet where he won’t be disturbed.
You could desensitize your dog to the frightening stimuli. This involves gradually reintroducing the dog to the stimulus slowly to change their association with it. For noise phobic dogs this could be playing a sound on a radio very low and gradually increasing it. Separation anxiety can be worked on by doing all the things you normally do when leaving the house, but don’t leave. You may not want to do this on a work morning as you won’t get to leave the house for a long time….or perhaps you do!