HELP! My dog is stressed what should I do?
You need to identify:
o When the dog is stressed?
o What are the causes (stressors / triggers)?
o What is the solution?
o Is the solution working?
First you are going to determine when your dog is stressed.
You may believe your dog is feeling stressed but dogs cannot directly tell us so we need to look for outward signs e.g.:
o Escape attempts
o Hackles up
Next you need to identify what is causing the stress; the stressors or triggers.
The dog’s genetics, early socialisation and subsequent learning may have played a part in his current stress; however the only thing you have some control over is the dog’s current environment e.g.
o The home of a newly rescued dog
o The home of a newly adopted puppy
o A strange place
o Being alone somewhere
o A vet
o A groomer
o A boarding kennel
o Travelling in the car
o Thunder or fireworks outside
o Strange people
o Strange dogs
o A stressed-out owner
Now for the solution
You are not going to focus on the outward signs of stress but instead look at why the dog is feeling stressed. You need to reduce the feeling of fear and anxiety which should result in less of the outward signs of stress. The accepted scientific solution is a gradual exposure to the stressor ideally whilst positive things happen. In technical terms this is known as systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning. This exposure needs to occur at a very low level that the dog can cope with without becoming stressed. The level of exposure can then be gradually increased over time therefore increasing the dog’s tolerance. In practical terms owners often will not have the skills or experience to put this in to practice and therefore should seek out a dog trainer with a sound understanding of dog behaviour.
Finally you need to determine if the solution is working.
This is more difficult than it may sound since you cannot ask the dog if he is feeling better. It is therefore time to look again at the outward signs. Have they reduced and only occur in more extreme situations? Then yes, it is working! It is likely that work is still needed to increase the dog’s tolerance and decrease his stress further.
What about drugs, holistic remedies, DAP etc?
Only a vet can prescribe drugs. You may however consider drugs which alter the brain chemistry of your dog to be a last resort.
Many people believe in holistic remedies but this is not backed up with a body of scientific evidence. Such remedies may help if the owner believes in them; reducing the owner’s stress and consequently the dog’s!
DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) products are a chemical copy of the pheromone that the mother secretes after giving birth to her puppies. This helps calm the puppy and strengthen attachment during this turbulent period of the puppy’s development. Numerous clinical trials have provided evidence that DAP can increase feelings of security. Many of the outward signs of stress are consequently reduced in puppies and adult dogs especially when DAP is used in conjunction with behaviour modification to reduce the feelings of stress.
DAP products are available as a plug-in for a specific environment or as a collar which is especially useful when the dog is outside of his comfort zone.
Please contact us today for help to reduce your dog’s stress.
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