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Top 10 signs your doggo is stressed – and how to help them!

In a world where all of our stress levels continue to increase, a study (Scientific Reports (nature.com)) has found that ‘Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners’ - shocking right! Dogs not only have the ability to ‘catch’ our stressed vibes, but on top of this they have their own issues to deal with!

Just as much as we can get overwhelmed with feelings of angst - our beloved fur-friends can also experience discomfort in this way.

Unlike us our best buddies don’t always have the means to deal with these feelings so it is important to recognise when our buddy is feeling stress and anxiety and also know how best to help them in these situations.
The signs of stress and anxiety in our dogs can be categorised into a number of different types as explained by animal behaviourist Kate Mornement and vet Sandra Nguyen for ABC (Signs your dog has anxiety and how to treat it - ABC Everyday).

1. Separation Anxiety

Many doggos associate the fun of games, food and company with us humans. So this is often the biggest form of anxiety they can experience. Working with our buddy’s from a young age is the best way to distance them from this association and assist them in being comfortable alone, without the constant need for human interaction.

2. Fear of loud noises

As we all know dogs are sensitive to loud noises, things like fireworks, and thunder can trigger feelings of anxiety. Therefore inducing a feeling of such an anxious attack at even the sight of a flash in the sky.

3. Changes in environment

Small changes in environment can also trigger anxious reactions e.g. travelling in the car may bring on angst associated with a vet visit.

4. Resource guarding

This is explained by Dr Eleanor Parker of Adelaide Veterinary Behaviour Services (resource-guarding.pdf (dogsnsw.org.au)) as occurring when an ‘affected dog uses aggression to communicate that they are uncomfortable and anxious about being approached when they are in possession of this valued resource.’ This could be anything from ‘food, water, shelter, toys, bedding, attention from and interaction with people and other dogs or even space’.

Its important to be able to identify when your doggo may start to experience stress or anxiety as a result of any of the above situations. This enables us to better be able to assist them. 

Top 10 signs of stress in your buddy!

1. Pacing – walking back and forward

2. Excessive panting – without any strenuous exercise

3. Shaking – and trembling mixed with whimpering, or as if to dry themselves even though they are not wet.

4. Changes in posture – tail between legs or hunching over

5. Excessive licking & yawning

6. Changes in behaviour – regular urinating/lack of appetite

7. Changes in ears/eyes – dilated pupils and ears pinned back

8. Aggression – through resource guarding or acting out

9. Avoidance – and isolation

 10. Destructive behaviour – dogs often act out when anxiety levels increase.

How can we help?

Greencross Vets animal behavioural expert and veterinary director Dr Cathy Lau (news.com.au) states that “While dogs experiencing a small amount of anxiety every so often is completely normal, when it arises frequently in a safe environment, it’s considered a mental illness.”

 Hence why it is so important for us to identify these signs early in order to treat them.

1. Identify the signs early – and act: dogs show their feelings through their actions, it up to us to identify these and act. Find out what the triggers are for your dog and try and eliminate them early on before it becomes an ongoing issue.
2. Exercise and play – these can help overcome separation anxiety by either undertaking prior to leaving your dog alone- to help tire them out! Or simply by leaving them enrichment toys – things like Kong toys that you can stuff treats or peanut butter into and keep them busy for hours! 

3. Comfort your doggo – dogs just like us like to feel loved and cared for. Pats and cuddles can often help our buddies feel loved, safe and secure which can help them overcome their own fears and insecurities.
4. Routine, routine, routine – this makes dogs comfortable – if you have an anxious doggo try and stick to the same time of feeding time each day, the same exercise route, the same wake up/bed time. Predictability often overcomes feelings of angst around the unknown in anxious pups.
5. Behavioural training – do loud triggers set your anxious buddy off? Try implementing small training acts to help assist them, it could be as simple as treating them while on a walk when a loud bus goes past – before they have the chance to stress.
6. Crate training – from an early age this can provide your dog with a safe haven for them to feel secure in instances when they may be overwhelmed.

7. Diet – there are a number of foods, treats and supplements which have proven effective in reducing anxiety in dogs.
8. Remain calm – being a calm influence on your dog can often prove all the difference in a stressful situation.
9. Accessories – there are a number of products on the market which have shown to reduce anxiety levels through bedding, blankets, collars and vests.
10. Medical treatment – for the more serious cases consult your veterinarian for tailored treatment for your pooch.

Stress is a normal part of life for all of us, but by employing some very simple steps we can all live healthier and happier stress-free lives – your doggo included!

This article has been reviewed by a Vet.