Once upon a time it would have seemed ludicrous to propose that dogs had ‘real’ feelings. Any suggestion that they had thoughts or desires anything like our own would have been met with rolled eyes and laughter. But growing evidence proves that dogs do indeed have powerful feelings, and even anxiety. And while that news may not really surprise the true dog lovers amongst us (we always knew our dog had feelings!) it may surprise you to know just how much your dog’s stress has to do with your own.
In fact, researchers believe that dogs are undergoing their own mental health crisis – mirroring that of their human owners. Yes, just like us, dogs are feeling as stressed and anxious about modern life as we are – only they don’t have a therapist they can call to help them work through it!
The fact that dogs’ mental health seems to be declining at least at pace with our own is testament to how entwined the lives of dogs and humans really are. A study showed that dogs pick up on their owner’s stress and anxiety levels by having correspondingly high cortisol levels. Another interesting study revealed that dogs have evolved more expressive eye muscles to better communicate their feelings to us! One could argue they have been trying to tell us something ever since we domesticated them over 33,000 years ago!
So what is it they’re trying to say? That they may be picking up on your stress levels or need more exercise, attention or companionship.The things that make us humans feel good are often clues to what might make our pooch perk up. For, just like us, dogs need to release energy, be with friends and socialise. They need to be allowed to express their deepest doggie desires, be that sniffing every inch of grass or bounding across acres of land.
Not sure if your dog is stressed? Here are some signs to look for:
“If your dog is stressed, first remove him from the stressor.”
Tip:If your dog is stressed, first remove him/her from the stressor. Find a quiet place for him/her to regroup. Resist the urge to overly comfort. This will only confirm that his fears are justified and may make him/her less confident in the future. If you want to pamper him/her with petting or treats, make him/her earn them first by performing a routing activity, i.e. sitting. Responding to routine commands distracts the dog and provides a sense of normalcy. It’s amazing how comforting sit, down, and heel can be to a worried dog.
In most cases, what your pet consumes is a reflection of how they feel.
Let’s give them a lift!