When dogs are in a new environment or unfamiliar surroundings, it can be a stressful experience for them. As responsible pet owners, it can be beneficial for our pets, as well as our family, to know how to help a stressed dog. Whether you are taking your dog to work for the first time or traveling with your pets, certainly every encounter is a new experience for your best friends. Additionally, exposure to a new environment can certainly be challenging and result in unexpected behaviors from your pup. We sat down with our Trupanion team to learn more about how to help a stressed dog and best practices for future opportunities.
Stress in dogs: ways you can help a stressed dog
Each dog can react differently to new environments, situations, and meeting new pets and people. Additionally, when exposing your pet to a new environment or situation, take your time, and take into consideration your pup might not respond like you initially expected to the new experience. For example, it might take several trips to the airport to prepare your pet to travel.
The best way to approach if you see a stressed dog
With summer approaching, people are traveling more with their pets. Unfortunately, there is a chance you might encounter a pup unsure of their surroundings, or even potentially off-leash.
Trupanion on-site veterinary technician, Aubrey Halvorsen, weighs in on what to do if you see encounter a stressed dog –
“If you see a dog that may be shy, stressed, or reactive, the best way to approach would be cautiously and remember to communicate with the owner of the dog. Also, read the body language of the dog. Further, does the dog seem relaxed? Are the eyes open or mouth tensed? Are there hackles raised? Everything from loud noises to visual stimuli, such as children, boots, people in hats, could be a potential trigger for a dog.”
All of these could be a sign that something more is going on. Although your pup might be open to interaction and play with a new furry friend, it doesn’t mean that the other dog feels the same way. Always ask the owner before interacting with their dogs, or before introducing their pets to yours.
Signs of stress in dogs
It might be hard to detect if your new puppy or adult dog is experiencing the stress of a new situation. Also, if you are a new pet owner, you might still be learning your pup’s behaviors and cues. Consider the following signs of stress in dogs from Trupanion on-site animal behaviorist, Camille Barrios, U.W-A.A.B:
- Excessive self-licking and cleaning
- Wide eyes
- Avoidance/looking away
- Ear pinned back
- Lip licking
- Paw lifting
Barrios continues, “Slowly let them come to you and don’t force anything. Also, sit at their level, so you don’t appear to be a threat. Essentially, depending on the level of stress it may not be best to approach at all.” Take into consideration whether or not you’ve met this pet before, and use your best judgment.
How to calm a stressed dog
If you are introducing a new environment, or a new routine, consider making the experience as comfortable as possible. For example, “keep your pet distracted with physical and mental stimulation. This could include interactive playtime or enrichment toys, like puzzle games,” says Barrios. In addition, take your time, and know that this will take time for your pup to become accustomed to the new place, environment, or activity.
Further, if you are concerned with your dog’s stress level or behavior, seek medical care with your veterinarian. Naturally, under your veterinarian’s expertise and guidance, a treatment plan and regime can be put in place to help your pup through the stress. Consider the stressors and environments that your dog is reacting to, so you can fully discuss the anxiety and behaviors with your veterinarian.
Best practices to prevent stress in dogs
As a new pet owner, there is no way to predict what your dog will respond to or have a stressful reaction to. Fundamentally, “if you know that your dog is stressed or reactive in certain situations, try to avoid them,” states Halvorsen. Further, by checking in with your veterinarian and having a treatment plan in place, you can work as a team to help your dog’s stress. Certainly, seeing your dog stressed can be stressful for you and your family. Allow time and patience for everyone to adjust to new schedules and scenarios.
Help a stressed dog: relief for all parties
Every dog has a different response to a new experience, interaction, or environment. But by identifying your dog’s stressors, staying on your veterinarian’s treatment plan, and being aware of your dog’s behavior you and your pup are one step closer to relief, happiness, and tail wags.