How to Reduce Stress in Dogs
When stress affects man's best friend a variety of physical changes will take place. Recognizing the cue signs of stress is very important for dog owners so they can intervene and take action in order to reduce such state of mind. Dogs can get stressed for a variety of reasons, the most common being moving to a new home, going to the vet, meeting new people and other dogs, being left alone, fearing thunder or loud noises, and so forth.
Dogs are ultimately instinctual animals, they will react to stress in a fight or flight mode. What this means is that when under stress their endocrine system will release adrenaline from the adrenal gland causing bodily changes to take place such as increased heart beat, increased breathing, high blood pressure, dilated pupils and an over all alert state of mind. Over time, the effects of prolonged stress in dogs may lower the immune system and cause disease.
There is no doubt therefore that stressed dogs need to be helped overcome their stress and fear. There are a variety of methods to help a stressed dog ranging from behavior modification techniques to medications in the most severe cases. Following are some tips on how to help a stressed dog lead a less stressful life.
How to Help Your Stressed Dog
Dogs live in the present, therefore they are able to easily overcome problems of their past if their owners are capable of using effective training methods. A dog behaviorist should be consulted in deep rooted problems where dogs are stressed because of abuse or lack of socialization. A veterinarian is also a good place to start so to exclude any possible health problems.
• Using Desensitation
Many times with a good desensitation program stress responses can be extinguished with time. For instance, dogs that get stressed by thunder storms benefit from listening to recordings of thunder. Such recordings are first played on a very low volume for brief periods watching for possible signs of stress. After some time, when stress responses are low, the volume will be increased gradually until the dog no longer pays attention to the noise. With lots of practice, eventually the fear will wean off thanks to this desensitization behavior modification technique.To master this technique, please read my article on dog desensitization.
• Engaging in Contrasting Behaviors
Dogs that are stressed may have a hard time engaging in other behaviors, since their mind is so concentrating in being alert. This can be used to a dog's advantage by engaging stressed dogs in activities that are in contrast with being stressed. Encouraging a stressed dog to play for instance, may help the dog overcome the stressful feelings because it cannot be stressed and play at the same time. To mater this technique read "the power of dog counterconditioning."
• Providing Ample Exercise
Exercise has a calming effect on dogs therefore it is a good idea to walk stressed dogs a lot if this does not constitute another source of stress. A game of fetch, hide and seek, or a romp at the dog park are good ways to release pent up energy and allow he dog to relax. Exercise indeed helps release endorphines which are hormones with a calming effect. For more on this read "the benefits of exercise for dogs"
• Music Therapy
Music does not benefit only humans but it affects animals as well. The soothing effects of music were studied by sound researcher Joshua Leeds, who co-authored with veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner, in the making of the book ''Through A Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Dog''. ''“When I witnessed the results of the calming music on my own canine patients and those of my colleagues, I knew this was breakthrough work in music therapy for dogs,” stated Wagner. We currently use music therapy at out boarding and training center to aid stressed dogs.
• Massage Therapy
Massages as well may prove beneficial to canines in need of some relief from the hustle and bustles of every day life. Owners can give a nice massage to their four legged friend and benefit as well from the effects since it is well known that dogs may provide health benefits as well. If unsure on how to proceed owners may resort to a professional. Indeed, there are professionals out there specialized in canine massages. Petplace.com offers an insight on some techniques. Learning T-touch is helpful. To give Acupressure a try invest in an Anxiety Wrap or you can try a Thundershirt for sustained pressure.
• Chewing Stress Away
Chewing is an activity that may help reduce stress in dogs. It is not surprising to see a dog gnaw on a bone and then fall asleep minutes later. Chewing can almost be compared to nail biting or smoking in humans, a habit that if directed to the right chew toys may benefit both dog and owners. It is known that beneficial endorphins are released when dogs chew.
• Pheromone Plug Ins
There are special plug in products that release pheromones, special hormones that the mother dog releases upon lactating to the litter.These are known as D.A.P. an abbreviation for dog appeasing pheromones. These pheromones help dogs calm down and can be found under the form of plug in diffusers or sprays. Many owners report a calmer state of mind.
• Bach Flowers
Dog owners looking for alternative remedies to traditional Western medications, may find that Bach flowers may even benefit man's best friend. Rescue Remedy is an alcohol free combination of extracts that may help dogs in stressful situations. These include visits to the vet, fear of loud noises, adaptation to new environments and separation anxiety.
As seen, there a variety of ways to make life easier on your four legged friend. With time, patience and determination, your dog may be able to relax and his great personality may finally have a chance to shine through.
For further reading
- Dog Anxiety Treatment: Dog Thundershirt
Treatment for anxious dogs A new product has been recently launched on the market in high hopes of helping thousands of anxious dogs. This product is known as ''Thundrshirt'' since it can be used to ease a dog's fear of thunder, and has so far had a.
- Understanding the Dog Fight or Flight Response
Understanding dog fight and flight response is important if you're planning on learning more about your dog behavior. Learn how fight & flight responses are important in changing dog behavior.
- The Effects of Prolonged Stress in Dogs
When dogs experience very intense, prolonged stress, this stress may have after effects that may last even after the direct cause of the stress has been removed. Learn how to help stressed dogs.
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