Let’s face it, most of us treat our dogs like family members. In fact, much of the time we forget they are not human. I mean, how often do you find yourself having a full blown conversation with your pooch? I know I do. However, by treating our dogs like hoomans, we may be unintentionally causing our dogs stress.
Here are a few common things humans do that may be stressing our dogs out. And don’t worry, these are things we all do. (You’re definitely not alone.) But if you have noticed your dog is stressed, you may be able to tweak your behaviour to help relieve some of his or her anxiety.
1. Getting Angry When Dogs Behave Like Dogs
Naturally, dogs bark, chew, sniff, and play with anything that is within their snout’s reach. They do not understand the value of your favorite pair of shoes or socks. However, this does not mean that your dog should do whatever he feels like
Instead of punishing your dog when they do these things, you need to re-direct them. This takes a lot of patience! You can alternatively give your dog chewers to chew and play with. Also, you can teach your dog to use his ‘inside voice.’
2. Use More Words Than Body Language
We are vocal species and use words more than body language to communicate. Most people love to hold conversations with their pets, but most of the time cannot understand what they are saying.
Dogs might understand a few words like walk, treat, in, and maybe learn a hundred more with time. But they cannot understand the human language. They rely mostly on the human body language to figure what we mean.
Naturally, dogs are experts in learning and interpreting body language. They know what we are feeling or thinking before we even realize we are thinking and feeling it. You can send mixed signals when you pay attention more to what your mouth is saying other than body language.
For example, when you talk to a dog while doing a different body language will confuse them more, trying to figure out what you wanted of them. Like for instance, when you are telling your dog to ‘stay’ while you are leaning forward and holding your hand just like a traffic officer. Doing this shows that you are inviting the dog towards you, while still instructing them to stay.
3. Have Inconsistent Rules and Boundaries
A dogs behavior is based on consistency and routine, and that is what they take comfort in. You cannot allow your dog on the couch today, but tomorrow you will be shouting and scolding her. After such an incidence, your dog will become confused and stressed, not knowing what is required of her. Well, you need to create boundaries and stick to them!
4. Point Our Fingers
When you point a finger at your dog, it automatically stresses her. Pointing a finger at them is usually accompanied with an angry gesture and a stern tone.
Most of the time, your dog may not remember what she did unless she is doing it. Therefore, if you want to stop your dog when she is doing a certain action, do it when they are already doing the act.
5. Give Tight Hugs
You might love wrapping your arms around your canine friend, but the truth is dog hate hugs. We humans think hugging is a way to express love, joy, or support. On the other hand, dogs feel trapped and nervous when wrapped in a human’s arms.
Please note that there is a difference between hugs and cuddling. A dog may love cuddling to hugging because they don’t feel restrained. Every dog is different and has a different comfort threshold. Therefore, it is essential to respect your dog’s boundaries.
6. Stare at a Dog You Don’t Know
First, you need to understand there is a difference between the loving gazes between a dog and her family member, and a dog being stared by a stranger. When you meet a new dog, avoid direct eye contact as he is trying to know you. Most dogs will consider extended eye contact from a stranger, and this might stress them out, making them respond aggressively – seen this with my pup.
7. Fail to Provide Enough Exercise
Just like humans, dogs get bored when they do not get enough mental and physical stimulation. Dogs that do not have enough exercise start digging and becoming destructive. If your dog has been chewing your couch, they may be lacking enough exercise in their life.
Remember, you cannot entertain your dog by watching television. They depend on you 100% to stay healthy physically and mentally.
Can my Stress Really Affect my Dog?
Dogs detect human feelings fast. They may not detect what we are saying but read our body language and tone when communicating. They can tell when we change our movement, posture, or facial expression. Dogs are observant especially to humans they are close to and love. Therefore, they know exactly when we are in a bad mood or stressed.
Also, dogs can detect when we change our tones and raise our voice. They have a better hearing sense than we do. Chances are they will notice quickly when we are angry, happy, sad or anxious.
In this way, they can quickly know we are about to react to anger or when you are about to reward them because you are happy. They can gauge the level of your anxiety by the sound of your voice.
Dogs can sense the levels of anxiety by their sense of smell. They can detect changes in subtle chemicals in our body with their most powerful sense of their body. They can detect sweat that we produce after being anxious – this the reason dogs smell fear.
Also, the ability of dogs to detect the chemical changes in our body is the reason why people use them to detect when someone is about to get a seizure.
What Causes Stress in Dogs?
Many situations can stress a dog. One of the common ones is when they are left at home for a long period. Naturally, dogs are social beings, and when left alone for a long period, they feel lonely and scared.
Change of residence is another reason that stresses dogs. It doesn’t matter if you are moving into a new home, or introducing a kennel in their life, new places make them freak out. Dogs recognize members of your family as members of their pack. So when one member leaves or dies, it really stresses them out.
Traveling in a car really stresses dogs out unless they are used to it from a tender age. Also, loud sounds and music are not dogs favorite.
How Can You Relieve Stress in Dogs?
You can help your dog calm down when they are stressed. The first and the most important thing is to avoid any stressful situations and not to push your dog in doing something they don’t like. For example, if they don’t like water, don’t push them to enter the pool. This can be so stressful for them.
We have already seen that dogs are social, and therefore, if you do not have time with your dog, it is recommended to hire someone who loves dogs. They can spend a few hours with them to help them not get stressed from being left alone in the house. Always make sure they have enough exercise to keep them relaxed.
Another important thing is to try and be calm regardless of the situation. We have seen that dogs can get stressed if we are stressed too. In case your dog is frequently stressed with no apparent reason, it would be great to take him to a vet for a check-up.
It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure their pets are living a healthy and happy life. Therefore, pay attention and make sure your dog is living the best life.
Have you found that you have unintentionally caused your dog stress? Share your stories in the comments below.
The information we offer is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Our recommendation is to always do your research.
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