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No matter how easy it is to treat a dog as one of the family, we can’t expect it to communicate stress in the same way the rest of us do. Dogs may use more than 30 different ways to avoid stressful situations, but they rely on us to interpret what they cannot communicate in words. Look out for these six common signs of stress in your dog’s body language and follow a few simple tips to calm down a dog that is anxious.
When a normally docile dog suddenly starts shaking or pacing, it is a reliable indicator that something is wrong. Most dogs will periodically ”shake out” their stress and resume normal activity, but if the shaking is prolonged, there may be a more-serious issue. Cold temperatures are rarely the cause unless your dog is a short-haired breed that has been exposed to excessive cold. Certain breeds of small dogs are prone to White Shaker Syndrome, a curious condition that causes frequent tremors. If your dog is one of the most commonly affected breeds, follow the advice of your veterinarian. Ironically, a trip to the vet for any dog is often a key stressor. It is common for dogs to shake or pace around the waiting room. Once the consultation is over, the symptoms should stop.
Any dog owner will be familiar with the regular barking of the family dog, but this usually occurs at predictable times. Whining, whimpering or growling are less common, however, and might indicate that the dog is in pain or under stress. Learn to distinguish between unusual sounds accompanied by usual excitable behavior, and unfamiliar sounds that complement withdrawn or subdued behavior. If it’s the latter, the dog is trying to communicate stress.
Without a rich vocabulary to use, your dog cannot convey the nuances of its moods. For that reason, be prepared to interpret any behavior that is not consistent with the norm. If your dog noticeably starts to yawn or lick its lips more often, and there is no clear context for doing so, you would be perfectly justified in seeing this as a sign of discomfort or anxiety.
If your dog assumes a cowering posture or is hiding, look for the immediate threat (and resolve it), such as another dog, person or loud noise, because it means the dog is in a heightened state of anxiety.
Look for other common signs of stress, paying particular attention to the ears and tail. Both are reliable signals of an unhappy dog. If the ears are pinned back and the tail tucked between the legs, the dog is ill at ease. The eyes are also easy to read — a dog that avoids eye contact or shows the wider whites of its eyes is highly likely to be stressed.
Not only humans are vulnerable to winter depression or SAD. The long, dark months can make dogs sad or depressed, as can changes in the regular environment or bereavement. If your dog loses its normal appetite, is less boisterous and energetic than normal, or cannot seem to settle down, there is an issue to address.
If there is a clear source of stress that doesn’t normally belong in the environment, it should be fairly straightforward to identify it. Either remove the stressor or take the dog somewhere more relaxing. As hard as it may be, avoid over-comforting an anxious dog because that might reinforce the intensity of a perceived threat.
Purity Preferred Calming CBD may help promote relaxation in your stressed dog. The drops come in four formulas for your dog: 100 mg for dogs between 21 and 40 pounds, 600 mg for dogs between 41 and 60 pounds, and 900 mg for dogs larger than 60 pounds.
Take a proactive approach to stress by anticipating these common triggers:
Always analyze your dog’s behavior in context and against a baseline of normal behavior. Exhibiting the behaviors described here may not indicate stress if all other signs are normal, but it is always worth taking action if there is more out of the ordinary than not.
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