STRESS AND CANINES
By Pete Eromenok
Have you ever been around someone who is stressed? Sometimes they can be short or irritable. Sometimes you can even end up in a conflict with someone if you don’t realize that they are stressed out. There are many things that can cause stress for humans, and there are many different ways that people show each other that they are stressed. Often, good communication simply requires reading the signs and acting accordingly.
Dogs are like that- they exhibit signs of stress in many different ways. If you have ever witnessed your dog drooling while going for a ride in the car it is most likely that the motion stresses him out. Some dogs are sensitive to motion. Others take it one step further and may get sick. Some dogs will drool the first day or so when boarded. They may even skip a few meals. This is common and nothing to be concerned about. Dogs that have never been crated may also drool until they get used to the idea of being confined. Once conditioned to the crate they actually start to like it and it is no longer a stressfull event. The separation from its pack members is probably the most common cause of stress. Some dogs will get quite anxious when the family is out working during the day or when they are boarded while the family takes a vacation. Dogs left home alone every day get conditioned to that happening so the level of stress is almost nonexistent. If you have a drooling breed then you can look for other signs of stress.
Another sign of stress is eating grass, but just because your dog eats grass doesn’t mean it’s stressed. Performance dogs will often eat grass while they are waiting their turn to perform. The anticipation to perform (which they easily recognize) coupled with the dos and don’ts of training can be a stressful situation.
Yawning is another sign that the dog is under stress. They yawn to release the stress. Sometimes dogs yawn when they are trying to diffuse potential conflict, which I suppose can be looked at as stress. Dogs often yawn while training. Learning is often stressful however the more training the dog receives the less stressed about training they become, and it makes them able to work longer without stress.
Accelerated panting is another sign of stress. Dogs tend to stress quite easily. Any change in routine or unfamiliarity can cause these signals. Soon after an unwanted behavior is extinguished, a dog may start panting. Just the act of choosing not to perform an unwanted behavior can stress a dog out
Everyday occurrences which stress a dog are not harmful. They are actually healthy for the dog. As they build resistance to stress they are able to handle new situations with confidence.