Dogs can become stressed for different reasons. They may be stressed due to pain or illness, unfamiliar situations, a change in routine or an environmental distraction, such as the addition of a new baby, another household pet or a child going off to college. You can help your dog reduce stress levels by intervening and looking for ways to make him more comfortable and content.
Dogs thrive on routine, and knowing what to expect and when to expect it can help to reduce stress. Crate training can be useful to establish a consistency in your dog's daily life. Your dog will come to expect regular sleep time, play time, eating schedules and interaction with his human companions. It also can give him a safe haven to retreat to when he’s feeling overstimulated or stressed.
While you might not be able to fully eliminate every potential dog stressor in your home, you can work to identify and to eradicate some of the more significant ones. For example, if you have a young neighbor child who regularly visits and scares your dog through lunging, grabbing and pulling, you might want to limit the interaction your dog has with the child until he grows up and is able to act appropriately around animals. If your dog seems stressed by loud noises, such as power tools, you might put him in an insulated inner room in your house or distract him with a treat or bone when tools are in use.
A dog who is regularly exercised, played with and engaged is less likely to be stressed and more likely to be a relaxed and confident member of your household. Helping your dog expend excess energy helps to alleviate stress, and the physical activity makes his body more physically relaxed as well. Having time to interact with his human pack will also build a level of trust and confidence that will help to decrease anxiety.
If you recently adopted or rescued a dog from an abusive situation, or experienced a major life upheaval such as a move or a death in the family, it will take time and attention for your dog to adjust. Be physically present for your dog to help him adapt to whatever the new situation is, using positive reinforcement and rewards to encourage engaged behaviors. If your dog continues to exhibit anxiety over several weeks, in spite of your intervention efforts, ask your vet about potential underlying health conditions and possible treatment options.
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