Detecting and reducing stress in dogs

Our dogs accompany us every day on most of the things we do. They are exposed to countless situations, sounds and smells, some of which are unusual for them and can cause stress. In order for you and your dog to relax through life together, it is important to detect stress signals at an early stage.

What can cause stress in dogs?

Much of what we find to be completely normal can cause a dog to panic or get scared. Be it the loud TV with funny noises, the siren of an ambulance, the New Year’s Eve fireworks or a crowd of people in the pedestrian zone: the possible causes of stress are manifold and often not immediately comprehensible for people.

How can you tell if your dog is particularly tense? After all, he can’t tell you when he’s afraid of something. But if you watch your dog closely, you will find that it tells you very clearly what situations or circumstances are worrying him – through his behavior and his body language. For this reason, it is important to know the body language of the dog and to observe your animal in everyday life. This way, you also perceive less clear stress signals.

How do dogs show stress?

Just as the triggers for stress are varied and vary from dog to dog, so are the signs. Some animals are hyperactive, others tend to stomach upsets with strong mental and physical tension and others are nervous or constantly tired.

If you go to the vet because of a health problem with your four-legged friend and you cannot diagnose the disease after a thorough examination, you should also consider psychological problems such as stress factors.

Here are some of the following signs that may indicate stress in your animal:

  • Showing appeasement signals such as a retracted rod or turning the head away with a subsequent yawn
  • Recurring mules
  • Conspicuous barking, which occurs more frequently or barks over a longer period of time
  • Muscles
  • Unpleasant smell from the mouth
  • Increased saliva
  • Tremble
  • Setting up the tail and neck hairs
  • Recurring diarrhea
  • Frequent shaking

These signs are the most recognizable and common signals of stress in dogs. If you notice one or more symptoms in your dog, you should watch it closely and try to find out which triggers will get it off balance.

How does a dog relieve stress?

You can visit doctors, health professionals and for wellness solutions such as stress management, sleeping better, and getting a lot of variety in the diet. Just like humans, dogs also get stressed. Stress is in itself a normal response to an unknown or threatening situation. Adrenaline is released in the body, the body is tense and on alert. It only gets worse if the dog cannot cope with such tension alone or cannot develop coping strategies.

Well socialized dogs, who were already confronted with new stimuli and situations from the age of the puppy, can usually process unfamiliar experiences well. Other animals, however, need the help of their keeper to cope with anxiety-inducing situations or noises in such a way that they can relax again.

Some Games For Your Dogs

Dogs love to play! This is a real opportunity to strengthen your bond and is a healthy exercise for both. Play is an important part of a dog’s training and he can exercise his basic dog instincts with it. Here are some ideas to keep playing always interesting and fun for both. 

Play hide and seek
A person hides after first showing that he has the dog’s favorite toy or a treat. First, choose a shelter that the dog can find easily and have it look closely first. Encourage him to find the person who can return the toy or treat to him as a reward. After a while, you make the game more difficult. Distract your dog while the other player is hiding, use different hiding places and move around.

Find the candy
Tell your dog to “stay” and show him a treat or biscuit, which you will then clearly place under a pillow or behind a chair. Go back to your dog and give him the command “search”. With a little practice, you can pretend that you are hiding the object in a number of places in the room. Make the game more difficult by going over a number of rooms and keeping the dog out of the room while hiding the treat.

Scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt is great fun but requires a little practice. First, keep your dog on a long or flexible leash, with a fixed collar. Never use a choke band. Tell your dog to stay where he is while you stand back about 20 yards and display a toy or treat. Drag your feet to leave as much scent as possible and hold the treat close to the ground to let the dog search the ground. Leave the reward at the end of the track and then come back the same way. Give the command “follow the trail” and encourage your dog to sniff the trail where you walked until he finds the reward. Gradually you can make the track longer by walking in different directions and following different patterns.

Treasure hunt
Try this game when your dog has learned well to follow a track. When outside, drop a toy without your dog seeing it and keep walking for a few feet. Stop and then say “look back” to encourage him to retrace the route (most dogs are able to track your scent, even if they don’t know exactly which direction you went) until he finds the toy. You can use a long leash initially so you can keep the dog on the right track. Over time, you will lengthen the distance and make the object more difficult to find. Don’t throw the object too far from where you walked, or your dog won’t be able to find it without your scent.

To fetch
You can even teach your dog to go and retrieve an item without leaving your couch! You can also play computer games such as ‘zaros boosting‘ while your dog busy playing in your backyard. Offer your dog a toy and if he licks and smells it, say “search.” Once your dog has learned to touch the toy with his nose when you ask him to and you tell him to “fetch”, repeat the exercise several times and then reward him with praise or a treat. The next step is to teach him to put the toy in his mouth to retrieve it. By working very slowly and in stages, you should be able to get the dog to switch from smelling to taking the toy in its mouth at your command. Never proceed to the next step until the current step is 100% mastered. Once you have reached this stage, drop the toy and tell it “fetch”. When your dog starts to do this right, you can start throwing the toy a little further each time. Don’t reward your dog until he returns the toy. Of course, you are not obliged to play in your living room. Try to play on a walk or in the yard as soon as your dog gets the idea. And beware: a game of “fetch” can quickly turn into a “chase” or a “battle”. And it is far too easy for your dog to win these games.