Stress problems common
in dogs and puppies
STRESS can be almost anything that makes our puppies react to a physical, mental or emotional stimulus. What may seem just a small, trivial situation to us may be a very serious or fearful situation to our puppy.
|Give your dog places to explore in safety. He or she needs nosework and brainwork to be fully developed.
With our fast, modern, urban lifestyles (which are no longer very dog friendly), puppies have had to learn to cope with life and situations that are not natural to them. Puppies can adapt quite well to the routines of our lifestyle, however what one puppy may cope with, another puppy may not and many puppies will not cope well with a busy, fast lifestyle which may have adverse short-term or long-term consequences on their body.
Many people will understand what causes stress in their own lives, but not many of us really see what may be causing stress in the lives of our puppies. The adrenal glands are responsible for the hormones caused by stress. The adrenal medulla produces adrenalin and noradrenalin which is released if your puppy is stressed.
Short-term stress places the puppy’s body into a state of 'fight or flight' which is a heightened state of anxiety, fear and awareness. Longer-term stress causes the adrenal cortex to release the hormone cortisol which, when released over a long period of time, takes its toll on the puppy’s physical body and emotions which may cause the puppy’s body to react in many ways.
Symptoms of Stress:
- Unbalanced blood sugar levels
- Insulin resistance
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Lowered immunity
- Increased risk of diseases ending with 'itis' such as pancreatitis, colitis
- Infections, joint pain, headaches
- Muscle weakness
- Using a lot of calming signals, body language
- Red eyes, whites of eyes showing, weeping eyes, dilated pupils
- Fear of people, cowering
- Fear of other dogs or animals
- Destructive behaviour
- Biting or chewing a lot, ankle biting
- Licking paws
- Barking, whining
- Jumping up or pulling at people’s clothes
- Digging or scratching at things
- Bullying or possessiveness
- Growling, being grumpy, depressed
- Touch sensitive
- Shadow chasing
- Wanting to play continuously
- Cannot settle or sleep
- Fussy eating
- More than usual amount of hair falling out (alopecia)
- Mounting behaviour
- Pulling hard on lead
- Biting lead
- Won't take treats
- Dry, brittle or greasy coat
- Hiding or using barriers or escape routes to get away
- Jerky movements, pacing or quick-stepping
- Drinking more than usual
- Cannot think or learn properly
- Urinating or defecating more than usual
- High pulse rate, fast heart rate
- Rapid breathing, fast panting
- Hyperactive as more glucose is released into muscles
- Digestive system affected, diarrhoea
- Poor reproduction
- Poor problem solving ability
- Shut down
What might cause stress:
This is a difficult question to answer, as what might cause stress to one puppy may not cause stress to another. This list below is not a comprehensive list but lists just some of the issues that may cause your puppy stress.
|Your dog may love the challenge of agility, flyball or other group exercise, but watch carefully as such activities may be the cause of high stress levels. Tracking can be a more natural sport for a dog.
- Hunger, thirst
- Too hot, too cold
- Health problems, pain, skeletal
- Female in season
- New environment
- New owner, partner or baby
- Loss of friend, grief
- Family conflict
- Dog-dog conflict
- Meeting strange dogs or people
- Given too many commands
- Being shouted at
- Too much training, aversives used in training
- Visits to training centres, dog clubs, dog shows, sport events
- Too much exercise, activity, agility, racing, hunting
- Not enough exercise
- Lack of shelter
- Being trapped
- Left in crate for long periods
- Lack of relationship with owners
- Being left alone for long periods
- Lack of toilet opportunity
- New home, country
- Weather, thunder, lightning, storms, rain, wind, heat
- Busy traffic, busy streets
- Too many people or animals
- Visitors, postman, window cleaner
- Visits to veterinarian, vet nurse, therapist
- Too much noise
- Smells, air fresheners, incense, oils, perfume, DAP
- Children playing, running, screaming
- Playing active games, frisbee, balls, chase, rough and tumble
- Poor diet, incorrect diet
Don't be frightened by these lists. It may appear that everything in the puppy’s life may cause him stress. However only some of things listed may affect your puppy, just as only some of these things may also affect we humans. It depends on the puppy, breed and lifestyle, and it depends how you as the owner can help your puppy learn to cope with our lifetsyles.
There are many ways in which you can help your puppy to live a lifestyle that keeps his or her stress levels down and maintained at a low level a requirement to help your puppy cope better with life and avoid any health issues which may arise from a stressful lifestyle.
As your puppy develops more confidence, he will learn to cope better with life. Below is a list (not comprehensive) which may help to reduce or maintain lower stress levels as well as help with confidence building and better coping skills.
Stress reduction techniques:
- Provide basic needs of warmth, shelter, food, water, closeness, toilet opportunity
- Good relationship with your puppy, allowing him to be in the house with you as part of the family, not left alone outdoors
- Involve puppy in calm family activity, not highly active
- Allow your puppy to make his own choices
- Speaking calmly and use body language rather than saying NO, ie: walk between your puppy and an object causing stress or use other calming signals such as yawning
- Moving slowly and not fast
- Curve around your puppy when approaching and not directly into his space
- Allow puppy to approach you, rather than you approaching him
- Nose-work and brain-work games are essential to develop your puppy’s full potential
- Hide your puppy’s treats or meal around your yard or in your house for him to find. This way he uses scenting to find it
- Calm music if your puppy likes it
- Give your puppy blankets, toys or anything else he might likes to use for comfort or to play with.
- Plenty of rest and sleep during the day and at night
- Never waken your puppy from sleep, especially rem (dreaming) sleep, when you see jerky movements or even barking during sleep.
- Space - your puppy will need his own space
- Using calming signals to communicate with your puppy
- Using stuffed kongs daily or other types of chews, you can also provide your puppy’s meal in the kong provided the meal is moist.
- Walking on a long, loose lead
- Correct amount of exercise for puppy’s age and breed
- Daily short, calm slow walk, allowing puppy to sniff and explore away from other dogs or humans
- If you want your puppy to walk with other dogs, allow him to walk only with calm, mature dogs he is familiar with
- Avoid giving your puppy a high fat, high sugar diet which places strain on the adrenal glands
- Correct diet for you individual puppy, see veterinarian or canine nutritional therapist. They can also provide you with the correct supplementation for your puppy if need be.