So Stressed!

Whining, panting, yawning and licking are some of the signs of a ‘stressed-out’ pup. Stress can come from fear or frustration or can simply be a sign of a challenge that the dog is facing. Reacting correctly to your pet’s stress is the key to helping him cope.

When you take your dog to class or to a new place, he may feel stress and exhibit a number of stress signs including:

  • Whining
  • Panting
  • Paw Sweating
  • Sniffing
  • Yawning
  • Licking
  • Shaking
  • Tail carriage down
  • Blinking
  • Barking
  • Excess movement

As soon as you are aware of your dog’s discomfort you should respond with some action to sooth or calm your pet.

What you should NOT do is to respond by hugging and comforting the dog with words like ‘It’s O.K. – You’ll be alright.’ Since dogs react ‘in the moment’ only, such reassurance is likely to be interpreted by the dog as his actions are correct – he SHOULD be anxious or afraid.

There are a variety of better responses to a stressed out pet. Different methods will work for different dogs on different occasions. Here are some things to try.

  1. Distance – Simply increase the distance from the dog to the stress producing object or activity. Then gradually work your way closer to the action.
  2. Distraction – Use food, a favorite toy or ball or a game of tug to distract your pet from the stress object and give him some time to get more comfortable and relaxed.
  3. An Alternate Activity – Choose a trick or series of behaviors that your dog likes and performs reliably or simply get him moving. The change in activity may be enough to change your pet thought patterns.
  4. Touch – For some dogs a firm but soothing massage of the neck, back or thighs may be enough to deflect his anxiety.

Remember, not all stress is bad or damaging. It may be a fleeting sign of your dog trying to master a new task or sort out the solution to a perceived problem. It is continued and clustered stress signs that should be responded to quickly.

Know your dog’s normal state. Watch for stress signs and respond to them quickly when you see them and your dog will learn to cope consistently with stress in a positive way.