Can Your Dog Sense Your Stress?
2nd Oct 2020
Is it possible that your dog may be picking up on your stress and worry?
Dogs can be impressively adaptive to new environments, situations, and routines. But there are also plenty that find it difficult to adjust. Like their human counterparts, our furry family members can run the gamut as far as levels of stress and anxiousness.
Being stressed out makes life hard for both dog and owner, often leading to negative behavior. Reprimanding the behavior can often increase insecurities, making things worse for everyone involved.
With recent changes in many households, owners are spending more time at home. The kids are home as well and routines have shifted quite significantly. The vast majority of dogs are loving having their families around, but for some, the change can be a little overwhelming. This is especially true for those who were accustomed to five days a week in a dog-friendly office with plenty of coworkers, or those who enjoyed not having multiple rambunctious children invading their space.
Dogs can feel your stress
A study conducted by Linkoping University in Sweeden examined cortisol levels of dogs and their owners using hair samples. Cortisol is absorbed by hair follicles in response to stress. the patterns of cortisol levels in the hair of dog owners closely matched that found in their dogs in both winter and summer months, indicating their stress levels were in sync.
According to researcher Lina Roth of Linkoping University, “Depression, excessive physical exercise and unemployment are just a few examples of stress that can influence the amount of cortisol found in your hair.”
We’ve all heard the old wives tale (or is it?) that animals can tell when someone is sick or if they mean harm. The study implies that if you are stressed, there is a good chance that your dog is too. Many factors could contribute to these results including how much time you and your dog spend together. A Unversity of Nebraska study, found this to be evident in the relationship between competitive dogs and their handlers.
How can you tell if a dog is stressed?
If animals could talk, this would certainly be a lot easier. That is a statement made by countless owners, not to mention veterinarians and veterinary technicians. But instead, we have to play a little detective and read between the lines. That chewed up slipper could be the least of your problems.
A stressed dog may be jumpy or unable to settle, meaning they are highly reactive to sound and movement. An opening door or phone ringing could have them on edge much faster than normal when stressed.
Physical signs could include sweaty paws, salivating, dilated pupils, shaking, or being vocal. These indications could occur by themselves or as multiple signs, though it is important to note that these physical indicators could mean other things as well and are not exclusive to stress.
Self-calming actions such as sneezing, yawning, lip licking, excessive grooming or spinning could also be indicators. These are often considered nervous or anxious behaviors, which often imply stress.
Inappropriate Urination or Defecation
For owners, inappropriate urination or defecation is one of the worst outward expressions of stress in a dog. It is hard not to be frustrated at your pet for such behavior. Upset stomach and diarrhea could also be clues, though it is a good idea to double-check that your pet didn’t eat something one of the kids dropped on the floor.
Restlessness and Lethargy
Like their human counterparts, a sad, depressed or stressed dog may be restless and have a hard time sleeping. The could have lower energy, lack of appetite or no motivation to interact with people or other dogs.
Aggressive behavior could also be an indicator of stress. This is more than the average “bark at the intruder” kind of aggressive. Along with stress, rowling, snapping or biting without provocation or out of character can also be an indicator of pain.
Natural ways to reduce your dog’s stress
Before attempting to take matters into your own hand, it may be worth a visit to your veterinarian to make sure there is not an underlying medical condition. A dog is not always prone to showing pain or telling you where it hurts.
Identify the Problem
This certainly sounds easier than it is. Dogs have excellent hearing, so something as simple as a loud new neighbor could be causing stress. Do you your best to identify the stress. If it cannot be removed, look to compassionately desensitize your pet.
If your pet seems restless or jumpy, trying to wear off some of the nerves through exercise could be a great option. Taking a walk is usually an easy option, but even playing light fetch or something appropriate for your indoor space could make a difference.
Some studies have shown that pets react to scents similarly to humans, meaning that different smells could invoke calming responses. There are several products designed specifically for dogs (and cats) to put them at ease.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a hemp-derived compound that interacts with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Any animal with vertebrae (that includes you, your dog, and countless others) have a response system designed to receive CBD. This system helps to restore homeostasis in the body and can provide your pet with relief from daily stresses, naturally. Receptra Pet CBD comes in two concentrations, providing easy dosing solutions for your large and small pets.
Massage Therapy / Reiki
The calming effects of massage therapy and reiki have become more commonplace in holistic pet care in recent years. If you are unable to find one in your area or unable to make a visit, a good dose of belly rubs may be a good place to start.
Just relax. Your dog will thank you
There is really only so much you can control. Honestly, it is hard enough to keep yourself from being stressed, worried or anxious without concern about how man (or woman)’s best friend may respond. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and give them a little extra attention. The break may be good for both of you. There is a reason people have emotional support animals.