Your canine companions experience stress, just as you do, which can lead to behavioral problems and even health issues if the stressful situations continue over time. Many things can cause stress in a dog, even things that you might consider trivial like a change to his daily routine. By carefully watching your pup for signs of stress, you can take steps to calm him and put your pup's mind at ease.
Signs of Stress
Dogs express their feelings primarily through body language. Observe your dog's behavior and physical posture for signs of stress. A stressed pup may become tense, pant, lick his lips, squint his eyes, whine or bark excessively, sniff, dig and circle or have dilated pupils. If you notice these behaviors, get Fido away from whatever's triggering his upset. Over time, if the stress your pup is experiencing becomes chronic, he may develop more serious behavioral and medical issues, including inappropriate elimination, indigestion, failure to eat, aggression and destructive chewing.
Response to Stress
Many things can cause stress, including moving to a new home, changes in your dog's regular routine, a stranger in the home, time in a dog shelter, confinement in a crate for long periods of time or even the discomfort of an illness. When Fido becomes stressed-out, his adrenal glands release a hormone known as cortisol. This glucocorticosteroid puts the dog in a state of hyperawareness, getting him ready to escape or resist the stressful situation he's dealing with. If he can't, your dog will become exhausted and over time develop a weakened immune system or psychological issues. This is why stress is so harmful to Fido.
If you suspect Fido is stressed-out, bring him to the vet for a checkup to determine if an illness could be the cause. Once an illness is ruled out, other triggers like separation anxiety, a lack of exercise or boredom could be to blame. Establishing a consistent feeding, potty and exercise schedule for Fido that you follow every day can help to calm your pup and provide him with a sense of security. Daily exercise and interaction with you for at least 30 minutes, especially before you leave for the day, can also reduce your pup's stress level.
Part of keeping your pup healthy and well-adjusted is providing him with a stress-free environment. Try to keep calm around your pup because he can pick up on your emotions, becoming as stressed-out as you are. While some stressful situations are unavoidable, such as a trip to the vet or a move to a new home, others like boredom can be avoided with plenty of toys to keep Fido busy during the day. Puzzle toys filled with treats occupy your pup's time, keeping him calm by engaging his mind. Other remedies like synthetic dog pheromone sprays or diffusers can also help to relieve any stress Fido is experiencing.