Dogs live the good life. They get to sleep all day, take long walks, chow down on delicious food, and enjoy plenty of belly rubs. What's there to complain about? We humans may think their lives are pretty awesome, but turns out, there are plenty of things that can stress your pup out. Here are the top seven stressors for dogs, plus what you can do to avoid them.
1. Being punished for behaving like an animal
If your dog is like most, he enjoys barking at the mailman, chewing on stuff, sniffing smelly things and digging in the trash. These behaviors can be frustrating for humans but the truth is, your dog is just being...a dog. Of course, that doesn't mean they should have free reign to do whatever they want. But rather than yelling at your pup or taking her toys away, practice positive reinforcement and set her up to succeed (i.e., don't leave your favorite shoes out on the floor or the garbage can lid wide open). And remember, your dog isn't acting out of spite—these behaviors come naturally to her and may be reinforced by your response.
2. Not having a regular schedule
Dogs love a routine. If you're inconsistent, they don't understand and are less likely to listen to you. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Do not change the law of the land: If your dog isn’t allowed on the bed, do not change it up ever so often for “special occasions.” Commit and do not renege.
- Do not use a variety of verbal commands for a single behavior: Stick to using the same single-word commands repeatedly.
- Do not frequently change their food (or feeding time): This can be a source of stomach issues for dogs.
- Do not make drastic changes to the house: Moving your pup's litter box or crate, or even rearranging furniture can be a source of stress for your dog. Make changes slowly and allow lots of curious sniffing throughout the process.
3. Being hugged or smothered to death
After a long day at work, all you want is a big hug from your pup. Problem is, not all dogs like being hugged—in fact, the majority of vets and trainers say it’s contrary to their nature and can make them feel trapped and panicky (especially if the embrace is from a child or stranger). So while it's fine to snuggle, try to do it in a non-constraining way: Petting and brushing are usually a good way to go.
4. Getting scolded with a shaking a finger
You might be tempted to raise your voice and stand over your pup with a shaking finger, but this stance is more likely to stress them out than actually fix the behavioral issue. Rather than take a dominating stance, use positive reinforcement to teach your dog good behavior.
5. Not getting enough exercise
Just like humans, dogs need to blow off steam sometimes, and exercise is a great way to do that. Giving your pup a regular workout will keep them fit, both physically and mentally, and ultimately lead to lower stress levels.
6. Sharing food with other dogs
Even the most playful pups don't want to share at dinnertime: If you have more than one dog, be sure to give each dog their own bowl and feeding spot. It's also important for each dog to have their own sleep space.
7. Going to the vet
Let's face it: Taking your dog to the vet can be downright traumatic for everyone. To make it easier on your pup, familiarize her with the vet ahead of time. Pop in to say hi the next time you're on a walk—and take advantage of the free treats while you're there so your dog associates the visit with a positive experience. If vet bills are a concern, consider enrolling in pet insurance so you'll be prepared for unexpected accidents and illnesses.
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The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.