As humans, we’re used to talking about stress. In fact, most of us experience it on a daily basis. But as strange as it sounds, dogs can also suffer from a similar kind of stress. A stressed dog will show several symptoms which can be seen in hyperactivity or apathy, changes in behavior, or repetitive behavior. It could even the way that we deal with these symptoms that’s causing the problem in the first place — even if you never meant to upset your four-legged companion.
But that’s why it’s important for you to know what stress means for a dog. And because we’re sure you want the best for your little buddy, Bright Side thought we’d do some research to better understand what to do and what not to do when it comes to stress and dogs. Don’t miss our bonus at the end of the article as well.
1. Leaving them alone for a long time
Separation anxiety or stress is very common in young dogs that are not yet used to being left alone. Very old dogs are also affected by separation anxiety because they lose their normal ability to take care of themselves. It manifests itself with destructive behavior, persistent barking, or howling when you go out or come back. Some dogs might even poop inside the house.
For them to get used to it, it’s recommended not to leave the pet alone for more than 6 to 8 hours. Before leaving, you should secure the doors and windows to prevent an escape, see that they have enough water and food available, and leave toys to entertain themselves with. Also, before leaving, you should ignore them for about 20 minutes. Do the same thing when you come back and don’t greet or pet the dog until they’ve calmed down. Then you can both spend some quality time together.
2. Taking them out with a very tight leash and not ever letting them run free
It’s a well-known fact that dogs need to exercise outdoors and love releasing energy while running. This is especially true for dogs that live in apartments and have no space to exercise at home. If your city doesn’t allow dogs to be walked unleashed, you should pay close attention to how tense the leash you’re using is. A tight leash can not only cause physical damage to your dog (think of back injuries, for example) but it also stresses them out. In the end, this can affect your dog’s behavior too.
Try to take your pet to a square, park, or open area where you can let go and allow them to run freely. It’s best to do this at least a couple of times a week to prevent your dog from stressing out and to keep them in good physical shape. If for whatever reason you can’t unleash them, make sure the leash you’re using is loose enough for the dog to feel free while running. Of course, it’s not an easy thing to do if we’re talking about a big dog, but still, there are many solutions out there. You can buy a training harness or a head harness, for example. These allow you to walk your pet without stressing them out.
3. Ruling with an iron fist
According to a study, dogs that are raised in a hostile environment are more likely to suffer from stress. Frequent punishments, yelling, pulling the leash, or forcing them to sit down by pressing on their back can cause anxiety. It can also make your dog develop a bad temper and be reluctant to play with other dogs.
Instead of being too tough, try positive reinforcement. When the dog obeys an order, congratulate it, pet it, or give it a treat. If it doesn’t obey your order as you’d hoped, never hit them or yell at them. Just firmly say, “No,” and then ignore it. By repeating this, the dog will end up understanding what you want from it.
4. Pretending to throw the ball
here’s nothing that makes your dog happier than when you play with them. Playing together creates an emotional bond between you and your dog. But there are some kinds of games that are only fun for humans. For example, when you pretend to throw a ball for your friend to catch but actually just hide it behind you. At first, the dog will be happy to go get it. But if you do the same thing over and over, the dog will start feeling anxious and confused. Clearly, they will no longer find it fun. Little by little, this behavior will make your pet lose trust in you.
Research has shown that playing with your pet has an effect on their cortisol levels. Cortisol, by the way, is the hormone that regulates stress. So don’t pull pranks on your dog. Play with the dog, throw the ball, and let them pick it up. You can also use this time to teach them other tricks, such as pawing.