Like humans, dogs can get stressed. Just as an intense day at work, relationship troubles or an ever-expanding to-do list might stress us out, loud noises – like fireworks – or unfamiliar environments or people might trigger anxiety in dogs.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your pup after a stressful day. Certified dog trainer Julianna DeWillems who is the official owner and head trainer at JW Dog Training & Behavior, has a few tips on hand.
Check these out in her post below or continue reading for a summary of her expert advice...
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Firstly, DeWillems outlines what she describes as 'decompression activities' that help to calm dogs, and relieve built-up stress. They include chewing, sniffing, and licking. For this reason, one of the longest lasting dog chews may help, or a walk in a familiar area, where your pup can happily sniff as they go along.
Have you tried a sniffari with your pup before? It's a brain intensive activity that can also have calming effects on a dog. Don’t rush on the walk – it doesn’t have to be a long walk. Instead, try a shorter walk where you go at a leisurely pace to suit your dog.
Like with humans, sleep and rest are also good when a dog is stressed. She suggests allowing your pup to rest and sleep for as long as they need to – hopefully, they’ll be a lot less stressed when they wake up.
It might go without saying, but it’s best to avoid adding more stress to your dog. When a dog experiences multiple stressful events, it can lead to trigger stacking. This can make a dog act out of character. So, if they’ve already had a stressful day – perhaps a vet visit or an unpleasant car journey – it might be a good idea to skip the big social event you thought about taking them to, for example.
And, of course, it’s important to give your dog plenty of love and TLC. Let them curl up next to you for some affection and a fuss. Spending time with dogs can reduce stress in humans, too, so if you’ve both had stressful days some quality time together could be just what you both need!
However, it’s important to bear in mind that dogs can’t tell us if they’re feeling stressed – how can we detect if a dog is feeling stressed?
If your dog is pacing or shaking, it could be a sign that they’re feeling stressed – you might have seen your dog do a full-body shake after they’ve been examined by the vet, for example. Likewise, a long, intense yawn can be a sign of stress, as can your dog whining or barking more than usual. A dog shifting their weight to their rear legs can also be a sign of stress, as can pinned-back ears, wide-open eyes, and frequent blinking.
If your dog appears to be regularly stressed you might want to run this by a behaviorist. Or, your dog could be trying to tell you that they are ill - in that case it's best to check in with a vet and make sure their health is in check.
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Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.