Reducing Your Dog's Stress

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Review Assessing Your Dog's Stress for behavioral and body language indicators of stress. You can help your dog by modifying the environment slightly and the way you and others behave around them to help them cope with stress.

Do's

  • Create a 'safe zone' for your dog, which is a quiet area in the home where they can rest without being bothered by people, pets or loud noises (e.g., a spare room with the door shut or blocked by a gate or their own crate).
  • Create a regular schedule or routine, helping your dog to feel safe, by creating predictable situations.
  • Stay calm when you get ready to leave your dog alone and when you come home afterward. Excited or worried comings and goings can create anxiety and/or over-excitement for your dog.
  • Give your dog chews and food toys as outlets for energy and enrichment. (e.g., bully sticks, stuffed Kong® toys and Busy Buddy® Kibble Nibble™ toys.
  • Ease your dog into new situations slowly while observing behavior. For example, stay close to home at first and walk down quieter streets. If your dog is doing well, go further away from home after a few days.
  • Introduce your dog to people and friendly dogs slowly, one at a time.
  • Spend time with your dog, as most dogs need social time with us. Play is good for some dogs; for others a walk and a cuddle are nice. Shy and fearful dogs may need more time to warm up to you.
  • Exercise and play with your dog. Boredom and excess energy can cause stress.
  • Train using humane methods and rewards (begin with just one easy training cue such as sit; even training can cause stress for dogs).
  • Make sure your dog has been to a veterinarian recently. Medical problems can cause stress.
  • Observe your dog's body language for stress indicators. More information on identifying the body language of stressed dogs

Don'ts

  • Don't force your dog into something they don't want to do.
  • Don't use punishments and corrections; this can create fear and stress for your dog.
  • Don't expose your dog to loud, crowded places or to noises that aren't appropriate for dogs. (e.g., parades, parties, fireworks).
  • Don't leave your dog alone for long periods without breaks and entertainment. Leave them with a stuffed food toy like a Kong® and/or have a dog walker visit when you'll be gone for a long time.
  • Don't expose your dog to an overcrowded and rowdy dog park. If your dog is dog friendly, start off with one-on-one play dates with friendly dogs.

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