Sensitive by nature, pets, particularly dogs, can absorb the stress and tension around them. Stress in dogs is mainly the product of a change in the environment. Since your dog lives with you, and since your life will certainly not be free of change, she undoubtedly will experience stress sometime in her life.
While occasional stress is not a serious condition, excessive or prolonged stress can produce the same negative effects in dogs as it does in humans. Stress triggers your dog's internal defense mechanisms, making her heart pound and raising her energy level to full throttle so that she uses all her reserve strength just to cope. When those reserves are gone, she'll weaken. Her resistance to illness and disease may lower, and she may get sick.Canine Stress Reactions
What are the signs that your dog is experiencing stress? As in humans, personality is a major factor. More aggressive dogs may take out their stress on you and your home whereas more shy or nervous dogs may turn their stress inward and make themselves sick. Here are some symptoms of a "stressed out" dog:
If your dog's stress is caused by loneliness, boredom and separation anxiety, the best way to relieve it is to spend more time with her and increase her exercise. Dogs are social creatures and can therefore suffer from loneliness.
Time spent with your beloved dog is a win-win situation, because you will benefit as well. Medical studies are proving that people with pets live happier, healthier and longer lives. When you do spend time with your dog, play ball or Frisbee with her, increase her exercise and take her to the dog-park so she can socialize with other dogs.An Ounce of Prevention
Stop stress before it starts with clear consistent communication and training. Your dog will be happier, more secure and less prone to stress and behavioral problems. Start obedience training as early as possible. Puppies are more receptive to discipline, but older dogs can learn new tricks with consistent and prolonged training.
From the moment you walk through the door with your new dog, establish clear boundaries and set aside a safe environment for her. Here are some guidelines:
The worst thing you can do is punish your dog. You will only succeed in making her fear or resent you, and she will become even more stressed. Chances are she will wait until you are not around to act out the bad behaviors that are helping her cope. Fortunately, a dog's easily trainable nature is in your favor. You'll need to provide the three "Cs": control, consistency and companionship - and you'll need to do that as a matter of routine.Routine - More Than Just the Daily Grind
Routine is a key element in developing an obedient, stress-free dog. Your dog needs a structure and framework within which to feel secure and to behave appropriately. Simply knowing when she will be fed, walked and played with on a regular basis can go a long way to making her feel more relaxed and secure. Routine is rooted in regular companionship. Without it she will not adapt well to unavoidable life changes.
Here are some situations that could disrupt your dog's routine and cause her stress:
Here are some ways you can buffer her from stressful situations: