When stress affects man's best friend a variety of physical changes will take place. Recognizing the cue signs of stress is very important for dog owners so they can intervene and take action in order to reduce such state of mind. Dogs can get stressed for a variety of reasons, the most common being moving to a new home, going to the vet, meeting new people and other dogs, being left alone, fearing thunder or loud noises, and so forth.
Dogs are ultimately instinctual animals, they will react to stress in a fight or flight mode. What this means is that when under stress their endocrine system will release adrenaline from the adrenal gland causing bodily changes to take place such as increased heart beat, increased breathing, high blood pressure, dilated pupils and an over all alert state of mind. Over time, the effects of prolonged stress in dogs may lower the immune system and cause disease.
There is no doubt therefore that stressed dogs need to be helped overcome their stress and fear. There are a variety of methods to help a stressed dog ranging from behavior modification techniques to medications in the most severe cases. Following are some tips on how to help a stressed dog lead a less stressful life.
How to Help Your Stressed Dog
Dogs live in the present, therefore they are able to easily overcome problems of their past if their owners are capable of using effective training methods. A dog behaviorist should be consulted in deep rooted problems where dogs are stressed because of abuse or lack of socialization. A veterinarian is also a good place to start so to exclude any possible health problems.
• Using Desensitation
Many times with a good desensitation program stress responses can be extinguished with time. For instance, dogs that get stressed by thunder storms benefit from listening to recordings of thunder. Such recordings are first played on a very low volume for brief periods watching for possible signs of stress. After some time, when stress responses are low, the volume will be increased gradually until the dog no longer pays attention to the noise. With lots of practice, eventually the fear will wean off thanks to this desensitization behavior modification technique.To master this technique, please read my article on dog desensitization.
• Engaging in Contrasting Behaviors
Dogs that are stressed may have a hard time engaging in other behaviors, since their mind is so concentrating in being alert. This can be used to a dog's advantage by engaging stressed dogs in activities that are in contrast with being stressed. Encouraging a stressed dog to play for instance, may help the dog overcome the stressful feelings because it cannot be stressed and play at the same time. To mater this technique read "the power of dog counterconditioning."
• Providing Ample Exercise
Exercise has a calming effect on dogs therefore it is a good idea to walk stressed dogs a lot if this does not constitute another source of stress. A game of fetch, hide and seek, or a romp at the dog park are good ways to release pent up energy and allow he dog to relax. Exercise indeed helps release endorphines which are hormones with a calming effect. For more on this read "the benefits of exercise for dogs"
• Music Therapy
Music does not benefit only humans but it affects animals as well. The soothing effects of music were studied by sound researcher Joshua Leeds, who co-authored with veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner, in the making of the book ''Through A Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Dog''. ''“When I witnessed the results of the calming music on my own canine patients and those of my colleagues, I knew this was breakthrough work in music therapy for dogs,” stated Wagner. We currently use music therapy at out boarding and training center to aid stressed dogs.
• Massage Therapy
Massages as well may prove beneficial to canines in need of some relief from the hustle and bustles of every day life. Owners can give a nice massage to their four legged friend and benefit as well from the effects since it is well known that dogs may provide health benefits as well. If unsure on how to proceed owners may resort to a professional. Indeed, there are professionals out there specialized in canine massages. Petplace.com offers an insight on some techniques. Learning T-touch is helpful. To give Acupressure a try invest in an Anxiety Wrap or you can try a Thundershirt for sustained pressure.
• Chewing Stress Away
Chewing is an activity that may help reduce stress in dogs. It is not surprising to see a dog gnaw on a bone and then fall asleep minutes later. Chewing can almost be compared to nail biting or smoking in humans, a habit that if directed to the right chew toys may benefit both dog and owners. It is known that beneficial endorphins are released when dogs chew.
• Pheromone Plug Ins
There are special plug in products that release pheromones, special hormones that the mother dog releases upon lactating to the litter.These are known as D.A.P. an abbreviation for dog appeasing pheromones. These pheromones help dogs calm down and can be found under the form of plug in diffusers or sprays. Many owners report a calmer state of mind.
• Bach Flowers
Dog owners looking for alternative remedies to traditional Western medications, may find that Bach flowers may even benefit man's best friend. Rescue Remedy is an alcohol free combination of extracts that may help dogs in stressful situations. These include visits to the vet, fear of loud noises, adaptation to new environments and separation anxiety.
As seen, there a variety of ways to make life easier on your four legged friend. With time, patience and determination, your dog may be able to relax and his great personality may finally have a chance to shine through.
For further reading
- Dog Anxiety Treatment: Dog Thundershirt
Treatment for anxious dogs A new product has been recently launched on the market in high hopes of helping thousands of anxious dogs. This product is known as ''Thundrshirt'' since it can be used to ease a dog's fear of thunder, and has so far had a.
- Understanding the Dog Fight or Flight Response
Understanding dog fight and flight response is important if you're planning on learning more about your dog behavior. Learn how fight & flight responses are important in changing dog behavior.
- The Effects of Prolonged Stress in Dogs
When dogs experience very intense, prolonged stress, this stress may have after effects that may last even after the direct cause of the stress has been removed. Learn how to help stressed dogs.
- Why is my dog licking its paws?
It is a very frustrating scenario to watch, when your dog starts licking incessantly its paws, especially when your dog loses interest in its surroundings. Yet, dogs, more often than not, have a specific...
- How to relax anxious dogs
After working with animals for quite some years, I have learned to identify quickly dogs that are particularly tense by simply observing their body posture and facial expressions. Nervous dogs exhibit a...
- How to Treat Anxious Dogs
The everyday hustle and bustle of modern day life has begun to affect many furry friends as well. While dogs do not go through stressful events such as filing for divorce or reporting bankruptcy, they still...
How to train your dog to play the piano
Did you know you can train your pooch to play you some tunes? Read and watch how to train a dog to play the piano!
The power of music! Music therapy for dogs!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 17, 2013:
OK, thank you for the update and for bringing this to my attention. It looks the xylitol is found in the "Rescue Pastille". This forum discusses your same concerns:
adw7677 from Las Vegas, Nevada on June 17, 2013:
Alexadry, the one I got was different from the one you posted in the link. It was Rescue Remedy, not specifically for pets, and was little chewy things. The site that I bought it from said "safe for the whole family, even children and pets." It had lots of positive reviews from people that used it for themselves and their dogs. The first time I gave it to my dog, it did relax her. She fell right to sleep within minutes. I left a positive review on Amazon. A few days later (the same day that she had a bad reaction) another Amazonian commented on my review, stating they were not safe for pets. I contacted Bach and they told me that the formulation (of the product I purchased) had recently changed - it was Xylitol that had been added. The website where I made my purchase hadn't received the information so they hadn't yet removed "even children and pets" from that safety line. Knowing what I know now, they ought to give these things different names to avoid the confusion.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 17, 2013:
Can you please provide me with a link stating the new formulation is toxic please? I know many holistic vets still prescribing this and other professionals, and they always thought it was safe. Did you dilute it correctly? Did you report this to the company? What artificial sweetener is now on the label? I hope it's not xylitol or aspartame but see no reason why they would have to add an artificial sweetener in the first place! If you look at the latest reviews of the product, dogs and cats are using it with no problems. Worst case looks like it doesn't work in some cases. Could it be something went wrong in the batch you got? I would get the bottle and call the company and make the vet aware of this. http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Pet-Rescue-Remedy-1-Cou...
adw7677 from Las Vegas, Nevada on June 17, 2013:
Bach's Rescue Remedy formulation has been changed (now contains artificial sweeteners) and is EXTREMELY TOXIC for dogs. My 70-pound dog was quite messed up from the smallest dose. I don't want to think what would happen to a smaller animal.
pheromones on June 01, 2010:
I suggest DAP or dog appeasing pheromones also. They work very well against most mood swings on my dogs especially against erratic behaviors and aggressive tendencies.
screaming frog from Australia on April 12, 2010:
This is such a great hub, thanks, i am also a fellow dog lover! and believe its important to recognize signs of distress in dogs. Dogs are so rewarding when you do the right thing by them :)
AARON99 on April 06, 2010:
An excellent knowledgalbe hub on reducing stress in dogs, especially for dog owners. Well done. Enjoy.
Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on April 05, 2010:
My dog goes into fear if I am not in her sight, she panics when you visit people thinking I am going to leave her. I had to go to the hospital one for a week and that is when it started about 5 years ago. I take her everywhere with me. Great hub, and thanks....
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on April 05, 2010:
good to hear that exercise is a treatment for dogs as well when it comes to stress.
sarikgp on April 04, 2010:
lisadpreston from Columbus, Ohio on April 03, 2010:
The picture of the doggy is sooooooooooo adorable.
Michael Shane from Gadsden, Alabama on April 03, 2010:
Silver Poet from the computer of a midwestern American writer on April 03, 2010:
Excellent hub. I know the music therapy works, because I have a certain CD I play for my dog every time she is afraid of storms, and it calms her.
Varenya on April 03, 2010:
A lot of useful informations, great work!