The 9 Ways You Are Stressing Your Dog Out

Have you ever experienced stress? Of course you have!  We have all experienced stress!

The problem is that undue stress (the kind that is unpleasant and can’t be controlled) causes numerous health problems.

  • Change is sleep habits (loss of sleep, exhaustion)
  • Pain and aches
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin problems such as eczema
  • Heart disease
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Reproductive conditions
  • Indulging in alcohol, cigarettes, and/or drugs
  • Thinking and memory problems

Just because I know you are mentally focused on it, let’s quick talk about the positive form of stress.  This is the stress that we often choose: learning a new skill, playing a new game (yes, even video games cause some stress), or meeting a potential new significant other.

Minor stress, that we can control, is good for our psyche.

Just like minor stress, positively teaching your dog something new is good for your dog.

The problem is that the positive kinds of stress are so miniscule compared to the negative stress that we often can’t control.

These stresses are dangerous because they often slowly creep up on you and at some point even begin to feel normal, despite the damage they are doing to you mentally and physically.

Stress is actually dangerous to your dog, too. It can cause:

  • ulcers,
  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • behavior problems,
  • aggression
  • heart disease
  • skin problems and chewing

The 9 Ways You Are Stressing Your Dog Out

9. Telling him “Get Down”

Ohhhhhh my!!!  This one makes my eyes widen and twitch when I am working with a new client who is training their puppy.

You’ve heard it!

You’ve probably said it… “GET DOWN” when your dog jumps on the counter, furniture, or your unwitting neighbor.

And, the problem is not the words themselves; the problem is that 95% of the time the owner uses the same word or words to command the dog to lie down.

The problem?

I know a lot of people don’t see it right away.

But if “Get Down!” means get off the counter and “DOWN” means lay down on the ground on your belly… it is totally confusing for the dog.

Not only is the dog unlikely to get off of whatever he has jumped on or accosted, but he is even less likely to get off that person/object and lay with his belly on the ground.

In essence, you are ruining TWO commands and cues while almost promoting two bad behaviors (jumping and ignoring obedience commands).

So when I hear people using “GET DOWN”, I have them change the “lay down” command to “Drop” or something that sounds totally different.

And, when I am working with a new dog and person and the dog jumps, I prefer teaching the dog “OFF”.  Because “off” doesn’t really sound like anything else.

8. Saying “It’s Okay, It’s Okay”

No other phrase, in the history of dog training has conditioned more dogs to fear and panic.


I mean, you are just trying to comfort him, right?

dog aggression, puppy training, stress in dogs, punishment in dog training, dog growling, leash trainingThe problem is that those words mean something to us humans, but typically we use them in highly stressful situations with our dogs.

We take them to the vet and try and reassure him, “it’s okay, it’s okay”.

We take him to the groomer and leave him saying “it’s okay, it’s okay”.

All the while, the dog feels like he is NOT OKAY and he is distressed and panic.

So, essentially after a very short period of time, just this short phrase can bring on panic for your dog; even in normal happy situations.

He has been conditioned that those few words bring moments of stress and discomfort.

You are better off to not acknowledge your dog when he is stressed.

Or, better yet… give him something else to do (dog obedience) so that he can be distracted by something fun, he can be rewarded, and he can let go of his fearfulness.

Giving your dog an obedience command that he can successfully accomplish is a great way to help a stressed or fearful dog!

Watch This Video To Learn What To Do Instead

If you are looking for a simple exercise you can teach your dog for how to get him to start to listen to you in a way that DOESN’T stress him out…

Click here for a FREE Video Demonstration

7. Treating Him Like Royalty

If your dog is reading this, he may well be pushing your computer away right now, ha ha.

He wouldn’t want to admit it, because who doesn’t want to be treated like royalty occasionally. But, the more often you do this, the more it is causing him stress.

I mean, think about it.  It is nice to have someone cook your meals, or do your laundry or drive you places… but would you NEVER want to be able to do those things for yourself?  I think that would drive me crazy!

Dogs want confident and clear leaders and the rules and obedience that follows.

The average dog is not 100% confident in all situations.

However, if they don’t trust you as a leader (because you are so busy fawning all over him and giving him everything he needs) the feel as if they have to step up and be in charge.

This can cause defensive aggression and protective aggression when you are trying to meet someone new or invite people into your home.

This can also create possession aggression and regular dominance aggression because if you are rarely forced to share your resources and then someone has the gall to expect you to share, it can cause anger.

Your dog wants a leader.  A fair leader, but a leader that he can trust and defer to.

Sure, you can treat him like royalty occasionally, but don’t make it a habit.

6. Pulling Him Around On His Leash

I think 95% of people are guilty of this, at least at some point in time.

I mean, the whole point of having a dog on a leash is to be in control. dog aggression, puppy training, stress in dogs, punishment in dog training, dog growling, leash training

And, it is critical to use the leash for that purpose.

But so few people actually “teach” their dog to be on leash and train them how to act and react on leash.

So many people clip a leash on their dog and head out into the big bad world with little to no training.

Then they end up pulling or being pulled everywhere.

And, no one wants to be pulled around by their neck, especially toward things that make them uncomfortable.

The worst offenders, in my opinion, are small children and small dogs.

I have seen small dogs locked down on their belly, refusing to move, and small children dragging them around like dust mops.  Can you imagine the stress of that for the dog who has absolutely no control.

It isn’t hard to understand how some behaviors cause a dog to become aggressive.

5. Constantly Using “NO” or “BAD DOG”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again!  We are all too focused on pointing out the bad or the wrong that our dogs do and we are so infrequently telling them what they do that we actually like.

People are constantly saying NO, NO, no, no, no.

Everything that even resembles something that “could” be bad or go wrong is quickly followed with NO.

Ironically my dogs don’t even know “NO” for this reason.

It is too often abused.

They also don’t know “bad dog” unless I am following it with anecdote and kissing them on top of the head.

My opinion of dog training is to focus on all of the GOOD things my dog does and teaching him and rewarding him for what I like and only dealing with correcting bad behavior when I am forced to.

Which means, that after a few dog training sessions, my dog is choosing the behaviors that I want and extinguishing the behaviors that I don’t like!

Try it, it is amazing!

4.Yelling at Him

Yelling is a general, across species way of raising stress.

Want to stress your kids out?  Yell at them.

Want to stress out your co-workers?  Yell at them.

Want to lose your job?  Yell at your boss.

You get the idea.

dog aggression, puppy training, stress in dogs, punishment in dog training, dog growling, leash trainingRaising your voice in anger is never the way to prove a point.

And, even if you think the environment is loud, remember that your dog has impeccable hearing.  Don’t yell!

Colleagues of mine, who also compete in dog training sports often can be heard miles away shouting commands at their dogs.  Heck, my ex was one of them!

I, however, want a dog that is so in tuned with my training that he is listening for a whispered command.

I don’t need to shout.  Heck, I don’t want to shout.

And, if my dog and I are out on the field competing and I want to reiterate something that he seemingly didn’t hear or isn’t doing, I can quietly give him a second command!


3. Multiple Commands For A Single Behavior

We humans are notorious for this!

After all, we often have multiple words for the same object or thing.

Learning English, especially, must be incredibly confusing.

  • Hogie
  • Sub
  • Hero
  • Grinder
  • Po’Boy

All refer to the same kind of sandwich.

As humans we learn that the “ph” in phone makes a “f” sound.  We adjust to homographic words like tear and tear.  I mean, your eye can have a tear and your pants can have a tear but the word only changes in your mind as you read the sentence.

Dogs just don’t need to know these things.

They also don’t need or don’t want long strung out commands that mean the same to us but confuse the grey muzzle hairs out of them.

For instance say “Fetch” or “Take” don’t say “go get your ball, go grab your toy, bring me that…”

Keep it simple.

Use words that your dog knows and has a positive association with and you will lessen his stress.

2. Punishing Him

The key with punishment is that it comes AFTER the behavior.

Yes, there is positive punishment and even negative reinforcement, but the average person doesn’t have any desire to learn the intricacies of these dog training terms.

Punishment, most often, comes after a behavior… that is what makes it “punishment”.

And, you can make your 5 year old daughter feel bad and punish her for leaving her toys out by making her spend 30 minutes in her room to think about why what she did was wrong.

But, your dog doesn’t function this way.

His intelligence and understanding is not this complex.

We can’t send him to his crate and make him think about the wall that he just ate.

By punishing him after the fact, we are just creating stress and confusion that never even really gets solved.

He just thinks you lose your temper sometimes and he should be weary when you look and behave in a certain way!

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1. Hugging and Kissing

Nothing will get you bitten faster.

Like the video above so aptly demonstrates, dogs are not comfortable with human affection that goes against dog behavior.

You may see a naughty dog… I see an idiotic trainer that hasn’t accurately learned to read dog behavior.

You can see that the dog trainer in the video is happy and seemingly proud of the two dogs in the video and he must feel some kind of connection to the dog that he has on the leash.

However, the dog’s body language does not mimic the man’s feelings.

The dog looks a bit excited and tense.  After all, he is being restrained by the leash and kept from playing with the other dog and the ball.

Nothing about the dog’s body language or facial expressions say that it is seeking love and affection or restraint.

And, I want you to note that the dog DID warn first.  But it happens SO FAST.  Not all dogs growl, snap, snarl or make a huge display.  The dog showed his teeth, the guy didn’t let go (because of course he didn’t see it or I suppose feel it) and the dog corrected the trainer.   It can happen THAT FAST.  This is why I say a growl isn’t always a bad thing.

And, whether you like it or not, or realize it or not… hugging and kissing from a human to another species comes across as RESTRAINT and force.

Dogs don’t really restrain one another, unless they are mounting and mating.

So doing this to a dog that you don’t really know and don’t have that kind of relationship with opens you up for a bite like this one…or worse.

Yes! Yes, I know there are some of you who will fight tooth and nail that your dog likes to be hugged and kissed.

Heck, one of my dogs loves being hugged and kissed and she even presses her snout into my face and she curls her head into my shoulders.

The difference is that I have been loving on her like this since she was a wee puppy and I have TAUGHT her that this is how we show affection.

And, (this is a BIG ONE) she is also an affectionate dog.

Not all dogs like being petted. As a matter of fact, I have owned a few.  They would tolerate me showing them affection, but they would NEVER like or accept it from anyone else.

Do your dog a favor, keep your affection to things that he/she likes and don’t add stress by forcing a dog that doesn’t want this kind of affection to tolerate it!

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  1. Tracy says:

    always learn something new when I read your articles. They are clear and get the point across better than any thing I’ve come across. I thank you and my dogs thank you.


  2. Leigh-Ann Ford says:

    This was so informative! I’m guilty of more than a few.
    I will definitely change these behaviours.
    Thank you!


  3. Natalie widomski says:

    Great article and informative ! Thanks


  4. Wanda Rollison says:

    Great article. I will be changing my behavior.


  5. Bernadette says:

    Our dog gets into a habit of snapping or biting when I come close to pet him good bye. Wonder if he understands I am going out and it’s his way of telling me he doesn’t like me leaving the house?


    Minette Reply:

    I would stop, and listen to what he is trying to tell you.


  6. Catherine says:

    Well, some things we are guilty of, some not. We have been hugging & kissing our Chocolate Lab since we got him at 2 1/2 months. He’s 6 now. We are aware of when he is tolerating us and when he wants affection…that’s the way we understand our guy!


  7. Patricia says:

    My dog, A B.C. isn’t one for affection. She loves to have her belly rubbed, but affection, no thanks! And I respect that.
    Some very interesting ideas and notes in the article.


  8. Virginia says:

    Guilty of a few of these


  9. Norma says:

    Great article, but if your dog poops on your rug how can you let him know you are not happy. If you do not say anything, doesn’t he think it is okay to do it again.


    Minette Reply:

    It is about keeping it from happening not punishing after the fact or letting them know you are unhappy. Keep it from happening and you will both be happy


  10. Paul says:

    Is petting them or scratching behind the ear the best way to show affection?


    Minette Reply:

    Each dog is different, some would prefer neither.

    The most acceptable place to scratch is usually the chest area, but not all dogs like affection


  11. christine hickey says:

    most helpful article ever, am reading it over and over. so much to learn here.
    often have feelings hurt because adoptee shows no affection after a year of loving attention, will even sometimes duck when I go to stroke his back as he walks by. are there dogs that really dont feel affection, or am I missing his cues?
    ‘it’s ok’ – have said it to him countless times during the 4th of july period, hides and shakes for days. little did I know I was reinforcing his fear. how best to help him thru?


    Minette Reply:

    Try and give him a space of his own to be for thunder or loud fears like fireworks. Read this

    Not all dogs like “affection” some like games, some toys, some chewy things, others like their own space or other dogs. It is about finding what the dog likes and providing that.


  12. Dogs do not like you face near theirs ect. But I do it to my dog in case some child does to her. Children are not near my dog. I have had German shepherds who look so cuddly; first thing people do was cuddle her.. both my shepherds were great with that. The one thing children, do when young, is hold on and squeeze. Not so good!


  13. Norma says:

    Thank you for your response but what do you do when your dog does poop on your rugs when you’re sleeping or sneaks in another room when you are busy and not paying attention. Hard to just ignore it and not let him know it is wrong.


  14. Patti McGillivray says:

    Love your informative information. I am a dog walker and sitter. I find that most of the obedience classes I’ve taken our own or other dogs teach commands, but very little basic psychology.


    Minette Reply:

    Thank you 🙂 I appreciate your kind words. I can only hope to educate so that we can learn to live together more effectively.


  15. I learned so much from your e-mail. Thank heaven my wife and I seem to be doing the right think, at least most of the time.. Thanks again


  16. Awesome lesson as usual. Still have your CD set, need to listen again. Thanks for solid information and guidance.


  17. Judy says:

    I have dog who was pulling me around before in a leash. She got a throat infection which is when l started using a harness. Now she enjoys her walks more and l’m less stressed. A dog needs exercise or else it will inevitably make inside. If you can’t provide it with a walk or two each day, l say don’t get one.


  18. M says:

    Actually, my problem is that my smart Border Collie DOES understand Hogie, Sub, Hero, Grinder, Po’boy, as well as just about any other word for ‘making sandwiches’ you can imagine. In two languages!


  19. Linda says:

    Chet your articles are always so interesting and informative. I always learn something new from them. Keep them coming please


  20. Kay says:

    Some great information here! Good insight into dog behavior and the relationships we have with our dogs and vice a versa. Loved it!


  21. Helen Taliaferro says:

    This is an excellent article. I have picked up a lot of tips from your programs. Working on getting a terrier to stop barking at everyone and thing that goes by. My best results are coming from your suggestion of treating the other dogs when they don’t bark…a lab and daschound.


  22. Kathy says:

    Great article. My dog Charlie does NOT like to be hugged or kissed, but he will come up to me and give me “kisses” on my face. If I hold out my arms way open wide when we’re in the back yard, he’ll come over and throw his body into my arms and allow a brief (brief!) hug. That’s it. He doesn’t like to be touched, or hugged. And I give him that space. Some of my other dogs don’t mind hugging and snuggling, but not him.

    I will argue with you on one point: I’ve had two dogs who both know the lengthy command “Go get the ball and bring it to me”. LOL! They do it, every time! 🙂

    Thanks again for a great read!


  23. Tambra says:

    Thank you for the article. Sometimes I need reminders like these.


  24. sandy osburn says:

    Thanks for the great article. They are always informative. So much common sense but then that is what is lacking in society now.


  25. Sheila Lipsey says:

    I totally disagree with you regarding affection for my dog, and his affection for me. I am 77 and have a 6 year old rescued Cairn Terrier. I would get no enjoyment from feeding, watering, walking, tossing balls to him, etc. if he didn’t even want me to pet him or give him lap time. I don’t want a hunting dog, a show dog, a service dog etc. but I am a lonely widow and need an affectionate partner. He has a country home with my daughter and her grandchildren and a city home with me when I am healthy enough to give him the care he deserves. He loves and is loved at both homes.


  26. EVA Lacks says:

    The articles help us new owners learn how to teach
    Dogs and they teach us to be owners. Thanks


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