Like us, dogs can feel stressed by the pressures of unfamiliar situations. By learning to recognise your dog’s stress, you can help them cope and become more confident.
New situations, such as going to the vet or moving house can make your dog feel stressed. You may notice they pant, shed lots of hair or sweat from their paw pads. Using a positive voice to reassure them, and giving enthusiastic rewards for responding to commands, can help to calm them down in new environment.
Strangers can also be stressful for your dog. Your dog may react by closing their mouth, looking away, and lowering their tail and ears. To help your dog relax, stand next to the stranger and hold out a treat to your dog. Move towards your dog with the stranger, letting them take the treat – then move away again. After a few repetitions your dog should start to relax.
In a very stressful situation – like being confronted by a much bigger dog – your dog may put their tail between their legs, squeal, urinate or try to hide. You can gradually increase your dog’s confidence by allowing them to meet as many new dogs as possible. Early socialisation helps with this, too.
If your dog continues to suffer from uncontrollable stress, you can get help from a professional trainer.