What kind of things can cause stress in a dog and why?
We began to welcome dogs into our lives and homes because it wan mutually beneficial to both of us.  Like us, wild dogs (likely wolves) live in family social groups and were adept at group and cooperative living.  They helped us be safe by warning us when intruders were nearby and they helped us secure food.  But they lived a very active and outdoor live.  Over time we began to use our canine companions for many other tasks: herding, hunting, taking care of rodents and other pests, protection and of course companionship.  Still they often lived outdoors, where they were active and had more control over their life.
Now our dogs live in housed and apartments that limit their ability to run, chase and work.  Very few dogs have jobs at all.  While they live longer, healthier and safer lives they have less control over where they go, who they associate with both people and other animals.  They often are in situations they cannot escape or make them anxious, stressed and frightened.  And, being social animals that bond to people, they often spend time alone.
What are the behavioral signs of stress and anxiety?
When they are stressed dogs may change their eating habits, eating faster or perhaps not eating at all.  This is often evident by poor body condition.  Stressed or anxious dogs may
  • be destructive when left home alone
  • eliminate indoors when home alone or during frightening events
  • excessively lick body parts causing sores
  • pant, pace, tremble and hide
  • react easily to noises or new things with barking and excitement

What are the medical signs of stress?

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Change in body condition (obesity or thinness)
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite
  • Skin lesions from licking
What can be done to help diminish stress and anxiety in a dog?
  • Create an environment that allows your dog to have predictability and control
  • Have one food bowl per dog and feed them in separate rooms
  • Have several resting places throughout the house so all dogs can have safe and quiet resting area
  • Provide your dog with an enriched environment to keep them mentally stimulated
  • Strive to have at least 10-15 minute “sniff” walks of your property 3 times per week
  • Teach your dog tricks or have fun positive training sessions
  • If dogs will not fight over food, provide your dog with food dispensing toys
  • Set aside time every day to be with your dog for play, petting and just being nearby
  • Use pheromones to decrease anxiety associated with being alone and with reactions to noises and storms, and other anxiety events.  See Adaptil.com
Create the perfect “puppy bedroom”
  • Choose a warm and comfortable sleeping space for your puppy with a bed or a blanket
  • Place one of your old shirts in his bed to help comfort him 
  • Use calming relaxing pheromone products
Prepare for bedtime
  • Don't feed right before bedtime
  • Play a couple house before bed time, one last potty right before going to bed
  • Encourage your puppy being calm the closer it gets to bedtime 
What NOT to do
  • If your puppy cries, wait to see if he settles on his own. If you go to pet your puppy, this may encourage your puppy to cry more to get attention. 
  • Never use your puppy’s crate as a punishment. This could create stress at bedtime.
Preparation for being home alone
  • Provide a comfortable and safe place where your puppy can stay alone. Pick up items that should not be chewed on
  • Give him lots of chew toys. You can play classical music to provide extra calming 
  • Use calming relaxing pheromone products
Departure and homecoming
  • Don’t make a big deal when you are leaving, this could increase his anxiety once you are gone
  • When you return, wait until your puppy calm down before interacting with him
  • Never punish your puppy for any destruction, barking or mess in your absence. This would simply increase his worries and make it more likely to happen again
Scary stuff
  • Give your puppy treats when he sees or investigates “scary” things (vacuum cleaner, washing machine, phone)
  • Distract with toys and reward calmness
  • Be patient
  • Use calming relaxing pheromone products
The big bang
  • If your puppy reacts to loud noises, provide a crate or place to hide.
  • You can play recordings of storms or fireworks very softly and give your puppy treats to show him that good things happen when he hears the noise. Try to mask the noise by closing curtains and turning the TV/radio on.  Try - Nature DVD - Thunder Storms with Nature and Thunder Sounds for Relaxation
Create a safe space in your home
  • Fill your dog's favorite space with comfortable blankets and bedding to ensure they feel safe and secure
  • Make your dog’s space comfortable by including their favorite toys or other distractions 
  • Use calming relaxing pheromone products
Prevent escapes
  • Secure your dog in an internal room so they cannot escape if they are scared
  • Ensure all fences are secure
  • Make sure your dog has an updated name tag on a properly fitting collar so you can quickly be reunited with your dog if it escapes
  • Update your contact information in the microchip database
In the car
  • Consider using a carrier or a car harness - Safer and more reassuring for your dog to be restrained
  • Use calming relaxing pheromone products
During the ride
  • Try and stop every 2 hours for exercise and bathroom breaks
  • To help prevent nausea or vomiting you may withhold food for 6-8 hours prior to travel. Do not limit water
  • Keep the car well ventilated and NEVER leave your dog unattended in the car
Identify the triggers
  • First try to answer these 2 questions:
    • What is your dog afraid of?
    • How much can he tolerate?
  • It can be traffic, unfamiliar situations, visitors coming to your house, a certain kind of people in the streets, other dogs...
Don't force the situation 
  • Don’t force your dog to stay too close to the source of fear
  • Do NOT punish your dog if he barks or shakes. This will only make your dog more distressed
Mild and positive exposure
  • Your dog can learn over time that there is nothing to be afraid of
  • Go slowly in exposure: approach first the fearful thing from a good distance
  • Reward when you dog calms down
  • Use calming relaxing pheromone products
If these do not help your pet, please let us know so we can give further advice.
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