Stress and Moving
Recently, I have been asked to write an article to help those of you who are having problems with adult dogs after a major stressful event or a move. Depression, potty accidents, chewing, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns are common.
Understanding Dog Psychology
Dogs feel stress just like humans do, however what we see as a normal event dogs often perceive as stressful.
- Something as simple as children going back to school is enough to cause depression and a change in behavior for your furry friend.
- Moving, boarding, or changing normal surroundings is highly stressful for your pet.
When faced with stress or change, dogs often revert back to what they know best, which are often behaviors which were imprinted when they were puppies.
- Although accidents, chewing, and other changes to their behavior are hard for us to understand, they are natural and normal behaviors for your dog when they feel stressed. These were often things that once alleviated stress.
- Does stress ever make you feel like you need a breakdown? Do you ever want to hide or do something childish? This is how your dog is feeling. He may not know how to deal with the stress from his environment.
Dogs do not perceive a normal event or environment to be the same as like events or like environments.
- Your dog does not see your house and your friend’s house, or his new house the same. Dogs see these as totally different environments. He may be potty trained at your house, but not at friends or family member’s home.
- This is why dogs often need to be taught the same behavior in many different locations. Your dog may be able to heel at home or in obedience class, but in a whole new neighborhood you will have trouble gaining the same control, because your dog does not perceive it to be the same.
- I often had to teach my Service Dogs how to retrieve first at home, then outside, and then again out in a public environment (like the mall). Although I was asking my dog to perform the same command on the same items, I had to go back to square one and TEACH my dog that retrieving was the same in every enviornment.
Helping Your Dog
Put yourself in his paws:
- Try to understand how he is feeling, from his perspective. Understand that he may be perceiving this event as a trauma. You may understand that your child has to go back to school or you have to go to work, but he is mourning the loss of his best friend.
Keep things as close to normal as possible:
- If a change must be made, try to keep all other schedules the same.
- If you move try to feed him, walk him and do the same things you use to at the same times.
- Make time for him! Spend quality time together!
- Meditate With Your Dog
- Exercise is imperative! Exercise help not only humans with depression, it can also assist a mourning canine.
- Exercise will help make him tired, so that he is less likely to concern himself with the changes he is experiencing.
- If you add morning and evening walks to your routine you will both benefit.
Go back to square one:
- Even if your dog is now an adult, go back to how you taught him when he was a puppy.
- Restrict access to the house if he is soiling the house
- Keep feedings on a schedule and go outside to make sure he has relieved himself
- Keep him on a leash or with you in the house until he is comfortable and settled
- Provide him with appropriate things to chew on and toys
- Stimulate him mentally with training and games to help whittle away the time
- Leave the radio on when you leave so that he is not alone in a barren environment
- Go back to crate training to keep him safe and help him acclimate for a short time if you used a crate when he was a puppy
Be contentious with your dog’s feelings and understand that when they are faced with extreme stress, or what they perceive to be extreme stress they often have a break down. Whatever you do, do not add more stress to the equation by yelling at or chastising your furry family member.
Go back to square one and help to relieve his anxieties by adding treats, toys, praise, fun and normalcy to your routine and you will see your furry friend bounce back to his normal self quickly!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.