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How to Deal with a Stressed Out Dog

By Linda Cole

We don't always stop to consider how our dogs feel when they're left home alone. Since we aren't there to supervise what's happening in their lives, “things” may happen while we're at work that can cause your canine friend to feel stressed out.

Dogs do like routine, but doing the same thing day after day can be boring. Before you can help your dog, you need to first recognize why he's feeling stressed and then deal with what's bothering him.

As dog owners, we need to take a look at how our pets see life through their eyes. We leave home and may leave our pets alone for hours. If there are multiple pets in the home, they may be able to keep each other company, as long as they get along. But sometimes when a dog feels trapped inside or becomes bored, stress can cause him to misbehave; however, those aren't the only reasons why your dog may be stressing out.

Below are some of the things that can cause stress in dogs, and what you can do to help.

Change in a routine. Even though dogs enjoy spontaneous playtime, walks or an afternoon at the beach or park, they want to know “what's next” in their daily routine. When you wake up in the morning and begin your day, your dog knows exactly what's going to happen and when it's going to happen each day. You can keep your dog on his regular schedule and spice up his life by spending some additional time with him doing things he enjoys.

Being restrained or confined. Chained dogs deal with a lot of stress when they only have the length of their chain where they can roam. Living on a chain can cause a dog to become stressed out and more aggressive. A sturdy dog pen, on the other hand, gives a dog the freedom to investigate his surroundings safely. Make sure he has a proper shelter with plenty of fresh water, and take him on walks to help him get rid of extra energy. If you have to leave your dog confined in a crate while you're away, let him out as soon as you get home and make sure he gets plenty of playtime and exercise. Being locked up in a crate can cause a lot of stress.

Separation anxiety can be a serious problem for dogs that freak out when they are left home alone. Because dogs are social animals with the pack instinct, some dogs show bad behavior like barking, howling and chewing on furniture or clothing. They may try to escape through a window or chew through a door. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety can become depressed and have a loss of appetite. Separation anxiety can be difficult to deal with, and it's important to seek advice from your vet or an animal behaviorist if you have no idea how to handle your dog's anxiety.

Medical conditions or injuries. Dogs will instinctively try to hide an injury or illness. If you aren't paying attention to them, it's easy to miss early signs of medical conditions. Injuries can also cause stress if your pet is in pain. Even a trip to the vet for an exam causes some dogs to become stressed out.

Other pets, animals or people. Shortly after buying my home, I built a pen for my dog, Jack, so he could stay outside when the weather was nice. He had access to the basement so I knew he had shelter and fresh water. At the time, one of my neighbor's had a young child who I thought adored my dog. He liked to come over and play with Jack. One day, Jack growled at him and I didn't understand why because they had been getting along fine. I finally figured it out when I saw the kid riding his bike at full speed up to Jack's pen, taunting him and throwing rocks. I stopped leaving Jack outside when I was gone, and supervised him when I was home. People, wild animals, outside cats, and even other pets in the home may be why your dog is feeling stressed, especially if they spend time outside when you're gone.

Signs of stress can include: unusual behavior, aggression, lip licking, whining, hiding, yawning, drooling, dilated pupils, repetitive behavior, accidents in the house, overeating or a loss of appetite.

Like humans, dogs enjoy some variety in their lives. It could be an extra walk, a game of tug a war, or just some special cuddle time. Even training sessions with some CANIDAE dog treats can help relieve stress! Your furry best friend won't care what activity it is, as long as it's with the one they love.

Photo by Nina Hale

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