Just like humans, dogs can also get stressed. Dog stress and anxiety can result in undesirable behavior and can lead to health issues. Here’s a compilation of tips that worked for my friends or me. Remember, your dog’s veterinarian should be your #1 resource for major dog stress issues.
Physical Exercise – If you’ve ever went for a walk when really stressed, this tip is obvious. Exercise is a great recipe for stress management for humans and pets. Take your pet for a walk, play ball or whatever your dog likes to do. Your tired dog will be less anxious, and exercise is good for you too!
Mental Exercise – Boredom can lead to bad behavior, so here’s a few ideas to keep your dog’s mind challenged.
- Toys, especially puzzle toys, can be very entertaining and mind-stimulating.
- Teaching him tricks makes him “work” and provides mental exercise that all dogs need.
- During our daily walk, I have a certain stretch that I refer to as Kobe’s “newspaper” area. He gets to sniff as much as he wants, during which time I think he’s discovering what has been happening in the neighborhood!
Play it Cool – When you return home, keep the event low-keyed and unexciting. If you get all excited and give your dog energetic attention when you arrive back home, he’ll quickly learn to get excited and ready for play every time you (and others) walk through that door. Try a calm hello with a pat on the head. Go about your business, and give him some more calm attention 10 minutes later.
Take it Gradually – If your dog experiences anxiety or gets stressed when you are gone, start by going outside where he cannot see you for 5 minutes. Don’t make an issue of walking out the door or coming back in. Gradually lengthen your absence.
Good-Bye Treat (or Not) – What works for my dog is to give him a treat every day when I leave for work. Although he’s about to be home alone for several hours, he gets excited because he knows he gets a treat. However, some owners find that it is better to stick with the play it cool approach, and not make an issue out of your departure. Experiment with dog treats and figure out if this type of ritual helps your dog.
Calming Products – The Comfort Zone Plug-in worked for my friend’s toy-breed dog who had anxiety issues. I have heard success stories with this product, but have not tried it myself. Many people successfully calm their pet using Rescue Remedy. I’ve heard of people both putting it in the dog’s water or giving it as directed.
Crates or Confinement versus “run of the house” – My last dog, Lucky, did great having the run of the house. He loved taking long naps in a quiet, peaceful house and actually got stressed when I confined him to one room. Kobe, my current dog, is just the opposite. He feels safe and secure in his crate, and anxious if he’s home alone with no space limitations. Kobe happily goes in his crate.
Tryout some of these ideas, and you’ll discover what works best for you and your dog. If your dog has severe anxiety issues, talk to your veterinarian to see if a prescription anti-anxiety medication might be helpful.