Stress management can teach your dog healthier ways to cope with stress, help him reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from spiraling out of control again in the future.
- Engage socially. Find a socialization class that actually teaches the dogs how to communicate, how to handle stress in a social situation, what coping behaviors to use when and how to properly say no to an interaction. There are many classes around that use whips and other punishment based methods of teaching dogs not to interact in negative ways but never teach how to do it right. Find one that teaches with the least stress, the least invasive methods and where the trainers know canine body language thoroughly. Remember always that socialization, whether it’s for puppies or troubled adult dogs should always be a positive, enriching experience. Punishment can set your dog up for associating punishment with other dogs and make a stressful response worse and create more intense aggressive behaviors.
- Teach your dog to think even though stressed, excited or aroused. There are many games that can help your dog with handling fast, stressful, arousing moments. This is where the need to chase moving objects happens; the dog has little impulse control and just lets the body and instinct take over. A dog that hump others incessantly, body slam other dogs as an invitation to play, leaps into an altercation or destroys the house when you leave, falls into the impulsive category. Self-control, true self-control not cued control, and teaching the dog that he can still think, reason and make choices while excited, stressed or aroused is what is needed.
- Get moving. Physical activity plays a key role in managing stress. Activities that require moving all four legs, the neck and face and jaw are particularly effective. Walking, running, swimming, tugging, and even agility are good choices. Focused movement helps to get the dog’s nervous system back into balance. Movement “unsticks” the stress response of immobilization.
- Challenge your dog. Create time for mentally challenging games and activities. Teach your dog that he can control his environment, make informed decisions and problem solve. Physical exercise is needed, but mental exercise does far more toward preventing and reducing stress.