Your dog is your best friend. Your partner in crime. Your go-to companion for every adventure. Your sidekick. Your family.
And when something is bothering them, you can tell, even if your dog can't tell you in so many words.
Whether you've got a stressed dog who's afraid of fireworks or an anxious dog who ties himself in knots, here's what you need to know to identify stress in dogs and help calm your dog down..
Signs of Stress in Dogs
First, it's important to recognize the signs of stress in dogs. You know your pet, but all dogs show stress differently. Plus, dogs communicate through body language.
A few subtle signs of stress include:
Yawning (if your dog isn't tired)
Panting (with a curled tip of the tongue)
Showing the whites of their eyes
More obvious signs of stress include:
Loss of appetite
Shivering (when they're not cold or excited)
Shrinking down or crouching
In the worst case, where your stressed pet feels like they have to be defensive, they may show their teeth, snap, or bite.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Shredded pillows. Strewn trash. Gnawed furniture. Incessant howling or crying.
One of the most common complaints for pet parents is separation anxiety, and it shows up in a number of ways.
Common examples of separation anxiety:
- Chewing (not on toys)
- Destructive behavior
- Trying to escape
- Urinating or defecating in the house
If you have a new puppy who you're still house-training, the easiest way to tell if using the bathroom indoors is a sign of separation anxiety is whether or not your puppy does it around you. If it happens around you, it probably isn't the result of separation anxiety.
How to Relax Your Dog
Do you see your stressed pup in those descriptions?
Here's the good news: your dog isn't trying to be deliberately destructive. If you give them a constructive outlet for their anxiety, they'll use it--and both of you will be happier and healthier for it.
Here are a few ideas to give your dog some much-needed stress relief.
1. Make a Safe Space
Do you have a spot where you curl up when you've had a bad day? A favorite t-shirt you don when you need to feel better about life? A favorite TV show you watch with your favorite four-legged Netflix buddy?
These are all components of a safe space. And just like your safe space helps you, a safe space can help your dog too. It just looks a bit different.
The most straightforward way to give your dog a safe space is crate training. This isn't imprisoning your dog--dogs are den animals, and small, enclosed spaces make them feel safe.
The key is having the right mindset--if your dog sees that you're calm when they go in the crate, they'll associate it with calm. Start by putting your dog in for ten minutes at a time, then build up from there and reward them with praise and the occasional treat afterward.
You know that relaxed feeling you get after a great workout, or even after you take a short walk around the block? That's from a release of endorphins, and your dog gets the same effect after exercise.
Notice we said exercise, not a walk. It could be a walk--if that's your dog's happy place, then give your dog some joy. But if your dog isn't much for walks, there are plenty of other ways to exercise, including:
Playing fetch in the yard
Playing tug-of-war with a stick
Going for a swim
Quality time at the dog park
You can also bring your dog along to your exercise routine. If you're a runner, take your dog with you. If you do yoga, encourage your dog to participate.
If your dog has a favorite game that keeps them active, then schedule playtime on the calendar every day. It gives your pup something to look forward to (playtime with their favorite person!) and a healthy way to work out that nervous energy.
3. Give Them Something Else to Think About
If you have a dog who's stressed out by a specific situation, the best spot-remedy is to give them something else to think about.
In this case, toys are a great investment. The type of soothing toy depends on your dog. Vets all over the world love the KONG!, a puzzle feeding toy that can also double as a chew toy.
If your dog is a snuggle bunny, give them something to cuddle with. This works even better if you leave it in some dirty laundry for a while--then it smells like you when you're not there. Plus, it keeps your dog from shopping in your underwear or dirty socks.
This trick also works for puppies newly separated from their litter--leave a bear overnight with the litter. It might be in tatters by the next morning, but it smells like siblings. Don't be surprised if a bear remains your puppy's favorite toy from then on!
More Tips and Tools for a Stressed Dog
Soothing a stressed dog is a lot like soothing a stressed person--you have to redirect their energy and give them something to help settle them down. But for long-term, sustainable stress relief, good health is key to everything.
Our idea is simple: pets deserve food with made with the same love and care your grandma would put into your favorite dinner. After all, when you're feeding a family member, you can taste the difference.
If you're looking to take care of your pup's health the same way you take care of your own, make sure to check out our dog food recipes, all , approved, and adored by dogs.