Cortisol, that hormone that floods our body any time we’re under stress, is a reality of adult life.

Busy commuter journeys, long office hours and piling commitments can send us into a heightened state of fight-or-flight.

But, did you know that dogs get stressed as well? They too have cortisol to contend with. And what’s more, our furry friends tend to mirror the stress we’re feeling after a day’s work.

In other words, if you’re coming home in a blind panic, your dog is going to respond in kind.

What’s happening?
A study in Nature shows there’s a correlation between heightened human neuroticism and higher concentrations of cortisol in a dog’s body. Because dogs have evolved surrounded by humans, they’re naturally adapted to mimic the way we feel. They have, in a sense, empathy. Stress can easily be passed between the same species (human and human) but the fact that dogs are attuned to our emotions so intensely is amazing.

The first step, then, to keeping your dog happy is to make sure you’re creating a calm and peaceful environment. That you’re not arriving home and unduly panicking your animal. But there are other things you can look to do as well:

● Do not leave your dog for extended periods of time alone (bring them to work if you can, because loneliness is a sure-fire stressor)
● Make sure they’ve got a stable routine
● Ensure they have regular bouts of exercise to enjoy
● Introduce structure – mealtimes at the same time every day, etc
● Give them a playmate (i.e., another dog to bounce off of)

What are the signs of stress in a dog?
Dogs that are stressed will commonly:

● Bark and whine
● Pace the room
● Shed their fur
● Yawn for longer than normal, or start drooling or licking
● Pin their ears back, or wear a startled expression on their face

How do I calm a stressed dog?
Often, what you think is going to work doesn’t. It’d make sense to comfort your dog when he’s not at ease. But in reality, that only confirms to the animal that he’s right to be upset.

Take him to a safe, quiet place and ask him to respond to a command (i.e., “sit”). Once he’s done this successfully, give him a treat to restore a sense of normalcy. Dogs like successfully performing actions (and being rewarded for it), so this will distract him from the situation that’s bothering him.

Why do dogs shed when stressed?
Noticed that your dog sheds a lot of fur when he’s feeling under the pump? You wouldn’t be wrong. While all dogs shed some fur, a stressed dog will shed a lot of it, and it’s all down to the surging levels of adrenaline in his body which trigger the response.

Does stress relief spray work?
There are some suggestions that calming spray or stress spray does indeed work. These products mimic the smell that a mother gives off when she’s reassuring her pup. If you’re worried that stress is impacting your dog’s life, and you’ve tried the tips above without success, give a spray a try.

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