5 Zen Ways To Manage Dog Stress
It may not seem like it, but a dog’s life can be pretty stressful. Not in the same way our lives are stressful – they don’t have deadlines, kids that need to get dropped off at soccer practice and a car to take in for servicing the shop. Dogs get stressed out for different reasons. These can include a change in schedule, being left at home alone for long periods of time, loud noises or new additions to the household. Your dog may not be able to take a “Mental Health Day,” but there are ways to manage dog stress.
These tips are for dogs that suffer from mild to moderate stress levels. If your dog is exhibiting extreme behaviors due to stress, you should talk to your veterinarian for the best course of action to take. This may include medication or advanced training techniques.
When dogs are stressed out, you’ll know. They hide and cower, and bark and whine. When you’re not there to soothe them, they will destroy household items and favorite shoes, scratch at the walls and doors, or leave puddles of pee as a message to you. Here are a few ways to manage dog stress and make your dog more comfortable.
- Keep to a regular routine: A regular routine gives dogs a sense of stability. When that’s thrown off, your dog gets stressed, wondering what could be going on. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do – life happens and you need to make adjustments, especially when you’re moving, bringing a new baby home or making other household changes. Get back to a schedule as soon as you can, and until you can, encourage good behavior with treats and praise. And a few extra belly rubs thrown in for good measure can’t hurt!
- Stay positive: Dog pick up on our vibes – good and bad. When you’re heading for a situation where you know your dog is going to be stressed, like a trip to the vet or an impending thunderstorm, stay calm and positive. Make a safe place for you dog to chill in and help him settle down. Lead by example with a soothing voice and demeanor, and your dog will pick up on the positive vibes, which will help calm him down.
- Go slow: Don’t expect changes to happen overnight. You may have to try different techniques to rid your dog of undesirable behaviors. When you leave for the day, leave gentle music or sounds on in the background, along with an article of your clothing and a treat ball to keep him occupied. If something doesn’t work, don’t be discouraged, just try another tactic. You may find that you’ll have to combine a few to get the results you want.
- Dog massage: We all love a good massage, and so do our dogs. Use gentle, circular motions with your fingers to ease your dog’s tension and get him into the Zen zone.
- Desensitization: This technique is used to slowly desensitize your dog to the problem that sets him off. Let’s just say that your dog doesn’t like thunderstorms. You would play a recording of a thunderstorm at soft levels for a short period of time. If he can focus and stay calm, you reward him with a treat. Over time, you would repeat the process, gradually raising the sound level of the recording and rewarding calm behavior. This way, your dog will learn to associate a thunderstorm with yummy treats.
How do you manage dog stress? Share your tips and tricks in the comment section below.
Amy Tokic, Editor of PetGuide.com, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).
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