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Is Your Dog Stressed?

By Luis Escobar
Updated: 2009-02-05 8:43 AM 2731 Views    Category: Health and Behavior
 
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In some cases stress can manifest itself as obsessive - compulsive behavior such as tail chasing or obsessive ball chasing. Some dogs express stress by continuously barking, other dogs mutilate themselves, chewing patches of fur or even skin.  The signs of stress are not always readily apparent but can show up as continuous skin problems often diagnosed as non-specific allergies or as digestive problems such as bouts of diarrhea or other eating problems.



Is Your Dog Stressed?

How can I tell if my dog is stressed?

If he's growling, snarling, being destructive or exhibiting other outward signs, it's fairly obvious. If he's not showing outward signs but repeated trips to your vet have not found the cause of his skin or digestive problems or if he's not sleeping through the night, but is up pacing around the house, there is a good chance he's feeling stressed. If your dog's behavior is causing you stress, there is a very good chance that he is also feeling stress. If you are yelling more than praising your dog, you both might be stressed.

What can I do to help my dog overcome stress?

The first step is to find out what is causing the stress. This may take some detective work as dogs can't usually tell us exactly what's causing them anxiety. By asking ourselves the who, what, when, and where questions we try to arrive at the why. Taking a holistic approach, looking at many aspects of our dog's life such as food, safety, shelter and entertainment, can also help determine the cause or causes of the stress. Once a determination of the cause is made then a program to deal with the situation can be developed. This program should take into account the family situation, the breed, age and temperament of the dog and any other circumstances unique to the situation. Here are some common causes of stress in dogs and tips on how to deal with them:

Separation: For some dogs, being separated from their owner can give them a great deal of anxiety. If this seems to be the case with your dog, try the following: Exercise your dog more often, a tired dog is usually less anxious.  Keep your departures and arrivals low-key (don't seem sorry to leave and don't make a big deal about being back).

New people: Having guests visiting your home can be a bit overwhelming for certain dogs. If your dog seems to get stressed out when you have people over, try the following over a period of several weeks: Start with inviting one person who the dog is fond of and have him/her give the dog a treat and a calm petting. Later bring in a group that the dog is familiar with plus one person the dog does not know, so he/she gets used to groups of people, all the while encouraging good behavior with petting and treats.  Children, with their high energy, can be particularly taxing on some dogs. Again, get the dog used to one child first and slowly over a period of time get him/her used to greater numbers.

Noise: Dogs have excellent hearing, therefore loud noises such as fireworks, the TV, construction, arguing, etc can be very stressful for dogs. If your dog becomes scared or anxious in the presence of loud noise, it is important that you don't try to comfort your dog, as that would confirm to the animal that there really is something to be scared of and how he/she is reacting is the desired response.

If you're not sure what is causing your dog's stress or you are not having success in relieving it, in-home training can help; by observing the situation and talking with the family, a trained therapist can help uncover the causes of stress and develop a program tailored to help alleviate the problems.
 

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Reprinted with permission of Pet Planet Magazine at http://www.petplanetmagazine.com/
 
 
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