How Can I Help My Dog With Stress & Anxiety?

How Can I Help My Dog With Stress & Anxiety?


It’s natural for dogs to experience occasional stress, but prolonged periods of it can lead to behavioural issues such as anxiety. Identifying and addressing stress in your dog is crucial for their well-being and can prevent future problems.

Stress in dogs can stem from various sources, including loud noises like fireworks, unfamiliar environments, and changes in routine. Recognising the signs of stress is the first step toward helping your dog feel more at ease.

Spotting the Signs of Stress

Understanding your dog's behaviour can help you identify signs of stress, both subtle and obvious. Subtle signs may include frequent yawning (outside of tiredness), panting with a curled tongue tip, pacing, lip licking, pinned-back ears, dilated pupils, and whites of the eyes showing (known as "whale eye"). Obvious signs can include loss of appetite, avoidance behaviour, tail tucking, cowering, diarrhoea, trembling, or shivering.

If you notice these signs, it's essential to consider potential health issues and consult with a veterinarian if needed.

Causes of Stress in Dogs

Dogs can experience stress due to boredom, frustration, fear, or anxiety. Additionally, they can pick up on the stress of their human family members which can be quite impactful.

Changes in routine, such as reduced exercise, new family people or exposure to new environments  can also contribute to stress. Recognising these factors can help you provide the support your dog needs to adapt.

Defensive Behaviours

When feeling threatened or anxious, dogs may exhibit defensive behaviours such as stiffening, staring, growling, showing teeth, snapping, or biting. Recognising early signs of stress is crucial in preventing these behaviours from escalating.

Calming Strategies

Once you've identified stress in your dog, there are several steps you can take to help them feel calmer:

  • Give Them Space: Create a quiet, comfortable area where your dog can retreat to when feeling stressed, away from noise and disturbances. Starting your dog with crate training at an early age can be very beneficial in giving your dog a safe space to take themselves. 
  • Regular Exercise: Maintain a consistent exercise routine to help your dog release pent-up energy and reduce stress.
  • Remain Calm: Dogs are sensitive to their owners' emotions, so staying calm and composed can help reassure them.
  • Provide Mental Stimulation: Engage your dog with interactive toys and games to keep their mind occupied and alleviate stress.
  • Avoid Punishment: Punishing a stressed dog can worsen their anxiety and lead to more severe behaviours. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and redirection.

Seeking Professional Help

It’s normal for your dog to feel stressed from time to time. But too much stress can lead to longer term problems with your dog’s behaviour, like anxiety.  

If your dog's stress leads to aggression or other problematic behaviours, consult with a veterinarian and consider seeking guidance from a professional animal behaviourist. They can help identify the underlying causes of stress and provide personalised strategies for management.

Adjusting to Changes

As lockdown restrictions ease and routines change, it's important to help your dog adapt gradually. Whether it's reintroducing them to public spaces or addressing separation anxiety, patience and consistency are key.

Understanding and addressing stress in dogs is vital for their well-being and the harmony of your household. By recognising the signs, identifying triggers, and implementing calming strategies, you can help your furry companion lead a happier, more relaxed life.

Remember, with patience and care, you can help your dog navigate life's challenges with confidence and resilience.

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