We all have plenty of stressors in our lives. I bet you could quickly name ten things that cause you stress without even hesitating.
Can you name ten things that stress your dog?
We often tend to think that our dogs have it easy. If I could have my dog’s life, I would have no stress! While our dogs might not have the same worries we do, there are plenty of stressors for them as well.
Anything we can do to reduce our own stress, makes our lives better. Anything we can do to relieve our dogs’ stressors, makes their lives better.
Let’s look at some of the possible causes of stress in your dogs’ lives:
- Lack of predictability. One of the greatest stressors for living creatures is lack of predictability. If you don’t know when your next meal is coming, if you are bounced around from home to home, if there is no consistency to what happens and when, life is stressful. While many of our homes provide predictable lives for our dogs, many dogs do not live with that same predictability.
- Lack of consistency. One day your dog gets a walk. One day he doesn’t. One day he is allowed to pull on the leash. The next day we get upset and punish him for pulling. One day we allow our dog to snuggle on the couch with us. The next day we say it’s off limits. We should be clear and consistent. If we are not, it adds stress to your dog’s life.
- Not enough appropriate outlets for a dog’s energy level. If you have a high energy dog and you are not giving him outlets for that energy, you add stress. He has to find ways to burn that energy, and it often comes out in inappropriate ways if we don’t give them the right outlets. Then you get stressed and further stress your dog.
- Lack of mental stimulation. If you have a smart dog, he needs outlets for his brain not just his physical energy. Dogs who are not given outlets to use their brains find ways, just as they do with physical energy. One way or another they are going to burn off that energy. By not providing good outlets, we add further stress.
- Scolding or punishing your dog for something they did “wrong” that they do not know is wrong. Yelling at, scolding, hitting, yanking, or other confrontations aimed at your dog for things you think are wrong but have never explained to your dog adds further stress. Help your dog understand what TO DO and what you consider the “right” thing before you assume they know what the “wrong” thing is. We add stress by scolding a dog for something they have no way of knowing they were not supposed to do.
- Inability to be a dog. Many behaviors we consider unacceptable, wrong, inappropriate, etc. are very natural dog behaviors. Barking, digging, jumping, nipping, running, chasing, chewing. . . Many of the behaviors that irritate us are perfectly natural to them. If you try to eliminate all of them, you are not allowing your dog to be a dog. Find ways to allow your dog outlets to just be a dog and do what comes naturally. Within reason, of course!
- No safe space. Does your dog have a safe space where he can have some alone time? Does he have a space where no one can bug him when he needs some time to himself? Everyone should have a space they can go to just have some quiet time. Uninterrupted nap time is crucial for dogs. We all do better when we get adequate rest.
- Expect your dog to know something you have not taught him yet. Don’t keep saying Heel or Come or Stay if you have not taught your dog what those things mean. By simply repeating things over and over again, your dog will not likely learn what those things mean. If you want a dog who responds reliably, you first need to define your Cue, then be sure to convey that meaning to your dog step by step. It’s stressful having someone expect you to know something but never take the time to explain it to you in the first place.
- Leave your dog fend for himself. Is another dog bullying your dog? Is a person being inappropriate to your dog? Is someone greeting in a rude manner? Is someone teasing or taunting your dog? Do not allow it! And certainly never do it yourself. Do not expect your dog to handle things on his own. You are responsible for looking out for your dog. If someone is being inappropriate, step in and help out. Let your dog know you have his back.
- Not enough quality time with his favorite human. Do you spend enough quality time with your dog? Our lives get busy. We start a new job. We move to a new location. We get married. We have kids. We get involved in new activities. Our time gets spread thin, and that leaves less time for our dogs. Your dog does not understand that, and if he always comes in last, that adds stress. Make sure if you have a dog that you have time for a dog. It will reduce both of your stress levels if you assure quality time for the both of you.