Recognizing and Reducing Your Dog’s Holiday Stress


Recognizing and Reducing Your Dog’s Holiday Stress

Jackson StressThe holidays are often filled with lots of fun and excitement, but they can also be very hectic and chaotic, causing both humans and dogs to feel stressed.  Although anxious, fearful and reactive dogs often have the most difficult time, a well adjusted and confident dog can experience stress too. It’s important that we are able to identify stress cues.  Here are a few things to look for:

  • Changes in Body Language:  Dogs that are stressed and anxious will often have a tucked tail or will hold their tail tight to their body.  They might have pinned ears, dilated pupils, rapid blinking eyes, a lowered body stance (weight shifted to their hind legs), and tense muscles.
  • Bathroom Accidents: An anxious dog might have a sudden urge to go to the bathroom or have a loss of bladder or bowel function.

  • Vocalizations:  A dog that is stressed might bark more intensely than normal or whine.

  • Changes in Behavior:  Hyperactivity,  jumping, pacing, exhibiting aggressive behavior, such as growling or snapping, or trying to escape or hide can be other signs a dog is feeling stressed and anxious.

  • Avoidance or Displacement Behavior:  Often when dogs are stressed they will display avoidance behavior.  They will direct their attention to something else by turning their head away from the person or stimuli, sniffing the ground, licking their genitals, or scratching themselves.   If your dog avoids interacting with you, other people, or dogs give them some time and space and don’t force them to interact.

  • Excessive Shedding and/or Dandruff:  Sudden excessive shedding and/or dandruff are also signs a dog is feeling anxious.

  • Panting:  Panting is normal when a dog is hot or when being exercised, but can also be a sign that your dog is stressed out.

  • Yawning,  Drooling, Licking, and Shivering:  Like humans, dogs yawn when they are tired, but they also yawn when they are stressed.  They might also drool, lick excessively and shiver.

Here are a Few Ways to Help Reduce Your Dog’s Stress:

  • Routine:  Dogs love routine and often get anxious when things change.  During the holidays, try to keep your dog’s routine as normal as possible to help keep them calm.

  • Exercise and Mental Stimulation:  Dogs need daily exercise and mental stimulation to be happy, healthy and well behaved.  Walks, playtime, training, nose work and interactive toys can help reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Quiet Place to Escape:  Many dogs are sensitive to noise and get stressed and overwhelmed when they are around a lot of people and activity.   If you have gatherings at your home, be sure to have a quiet place that your dog can escape to.

  • Chew Toys and Stuffed Kongs:  Chewing and licking are calming activities for dogs.  If your dog is stressed, provide them with a chew toy, bully stick or stuffed kong to help calm them down.

  • Calming Aids:  Ask your veterinarian and/or local pet store about calming products and anxiety wraps, such as the Thundershirt and pheromone sprays and plugins, that could help your dog feel more secure and less anxious.