If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a totally devoted doggie mom or dad. Furkids are amazing, aren’t they? They give you unconditional love, oodles of cuddles, and so many belly laughs. Their very presence makes life as a human being so much more enjoyable.
Because doggos seem so carefree, it can be easy to forget that they’re susceptible to the same kinds of issues we are. In other words, dogs get stressed out and sick, just like you or me! Unfortunately, they can’t talk about it, so they show their humans how they’re feeling in other ways.
But don’t worry! There are tools that can keep your precious pup happy, healthy, and relaxed. And, they deserve the very best, don’t they?!
How Stress Manifests Itself in Dogs
Your dog is a member of the family, but unlike everyone else, he or she can’t talk about what’s bothering them. Instead, they generally exhibit their issues in negative behavior or physical problems.
According to PetCareRx, anxiety can manifest itself both subtly and overtly in your canine best buddy. As far as subtle signs, your dog might hide, seek comfort from you, shake or pant, or engage in excessive licking. When it comes to more overt behavior, your dog might bark or howl, act aggressive, try to escape, display excess energy, go to the bathroom in the house, destroy things, or even have panic attacks (yes, dogs can have them too!).
Sometimes it can be tough to determine what might be causing these symptoms in your dog, but it’s worth doing some investigation to find out. Does your dog bark excessively when you turn on a certain appliance (the scary vacuum)? Does she pant like crazy on the Fourth of July (fireworks)? Does he hide under the bed when Aunt Judy comes to visit? Usually your dog’s behavior can give you clues about what’s stressing them out, and sometimes you can remove or lessen the stressor to make life easier on them (maybe it’s time to stop inviting Aunt Judy over).
If the stressor isn’t quite so easy to determine though, you might need to look elsewhere for the root of the problem.
Your Stress Levels Affect Them, Too
Dogs don’t have bills to pay or work stress to deal with, but they do pick up on what you’re going through. If you’re dealing with some nightmarish stuff at the office, it’s likely little Spot will absorb some of that energy.
Researchers in Austria recently determined that dogs get stressed by picking up anxiety and negativity from their owners. More than 100 dogs and their guardians underwent tests, including saliva samples to measure cortisol, the stress hormone. The owners were assessed for five major hallmarks of personality: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The dogs’ personalities were also assessed. One of the researchers, Dr. Iris Schoberl, of the University of Vienna, said both owners and dogs influenced each other’s coping mechanisms, with the human partner being more influential than the dog.
“Our results nicely fit to experience from practice: owners and dogs are social dyads [a group of two], and they influence each other’s stress coping,” she told BBC News. Overall they concluded that dogs are sensitive to their owners’ emotional states, and may even replicate those states!
And your dog picking up on human stress can have real consequences. Studies have even connected hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) — a serious stomach illness in dogs — to stress levels in their owners. And amazingly, one study showed that stress can even cause premature greying in dogs, just like in people!
Luckily, the symbiosis between you and your dog works both ways. If you know how to chill, your dog will pick up on that as well. In other words, strategies to help you decompress can also work for your furry friend; many dog owners today have found that meditation is as helpful for their dogs as it is for them.
How You Can Help
If you’re worried about your dog being stressed, there are lots of things you can do to help them relax. Here are a few ideas:
Learn how to Meditate together. Did you know that dogs can be incredibly effected by certain types of meditation?! SOS Method has a Happy Dog series designed specifically to help your four legged friend get to that warm, fuzzy place of calm and relaxation. And it works for you, too! Both you and your pooch can sit through the meditations together, with him or her sitting on your lap (depending on size!) or close by. Through specially formulated music and vocals, the meditations help your pet’s cortisol levels plummet. Dog owners are using this series to improve the quality of life for their beloved companions – and themselves. As one dog owner shared after doing the SOS, “My dog, Scooter, was constantly yapping, and jumping on people when I got him. But after listening to SOS Method meditations he began to be more calm. Everyone has noticed the change, even my trainer!”
Remember, the healing goes both ways! The natural body chemical, oxytocin is sparked in meditation. It has powerful effects in both our dog’s body and ours; it increases a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells. This predisposes us to an environment where we can be healthier. And, meditation is one super simple way to help us and our dogs get happier and healthier day by day.
Pet them. Think about how much you love a good massage … that’s what petting is to your canine companion! Stroke him or her gently on the neck, back, or tummy. Think of it as a mini massage for the sake of mental health. A soft touch can work wonders!
Try a holistic therapy. Lots of pet owners enjoy the many new things on the market today that help your dog get calmer; Nutri-Vet Pet Eze, Richard’s Organics Pet Calm, or Dr. Harvey’s Relax & Stress Herbal Dog Supplement. There are treats, wafers, drops, and supplements, all of which include natural ingredients like chamomile, ginger root, and tryptophan and promise to help your pup relax. See if any of the above work for you — just make sure to stick to formulas that are verified safe for use by doggos.
Go for a run. Sometimes the best way to get rid of anxious energy is to run it out! Take your pooch out for a quick jog around the block — or longer if he’s extra energetic! If you have a frail or older dog, you might want to stick to a fast walk. Either way, take in the neighborhood and let your dog pee on everything he sees. It’s his way of saying hi, after all.
After releasing excess negative energy, it’s a good time for a quick and soothing or inspiring meditation, to get back to that ongoing healing state of mind. How amazing that today we can find wellness benefits that support us and those we love most!