Science has shown repeatedly that dogs help us deal with stress. Colleges such as Miami University offer pet therapy where students can play with dogs during stressful times like finals and presentations. The National Center for PTSD states that dog ownership can help lower your stress. The American Heart Association also found that petting dogs or even just being around them can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin (which plays a major role in the body's regulation of blood pressure, thirst, and urine output). Petting a dog (or simply looking at a dog) can help increase your oxytocin and dopamine levels, which all play a part in making you feel happier.
Additionally, similar to humans, dogs can experience a lot of stress in their daily lives. It is our job as pet parents to help them experience less stress and encourage them to learn how to deal with it in a better way. Ahead, find my tips to train your dog to make your life less stressful.
Use nonaversive, positive training methods.
A lot of training that involves harsh tools can make your dog feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. If you're constantly battling your dog for the "alpha" role during training, it can cause your dog to become more stressed, fearful, and/or aggressive. As a result, this can leave your dog feeling more scared and shut down around you. If your dog is feeling suppressed and afraid, you will not be able to train him properly, causing your own stress and frustration levels to rise — therefore creating a horrible circle of stress and negative energy.
Focus on the present.
When training your dog, don't focus so much on the outcome of the training. Some dogs take longer to learn, while others may be a little bit more nervous in the beginning. Remember it's important to be patient and take your time when training your pup. The process of learning can be mentally stimulating, which will eventually help decrease unwanted behaviors. If you are getting upset because your dog simply isn't sitting or lying down, try taking a break. I suggest trying a different approach; maybe look into other creative ways that you can train your furry friend or even find a different motivator. Training should be fun for you and your dog. It should not be just another chore that you must do that will make you and your dog more stressed out if it doesn't happen right away.
Change it up.
Daily activities such as walking should be a positive and fun experience for you and your furry friend, rather than a nerve-racking one. After a long day at work, walking your dog might be the last thing you want to do — especially if they refuse to walk. If your dog is constantly pulling on the leash and each walk is doing more harm than good, you will only experience more stress. Try using a no-pull harness or a harness with a front clip, as they can help with the pulling. Before going on the walk, allow your dog to run around in the backyard first and use up some of his energy. During the walk, encourage your furry friend to sniff his surroundings; this will burn a lot more energy. Try talking to your dog during your walk. You want to make sure the dog is enjoying the walk and is focusing his energy and attention on you, distracting him from wanting to pull back.
When you're away, your pup will play.
No one likes to come home to a messy house. Do you ever get stressed leaving your pup behind while you leave for work? Constantly worrying about whether he is making a mess? Did he get into the garbage again? While you're gone, your pet will seek out things to keep him occupied. Remember your furry friend is curious and as a pet owner, it is crucial to keep your pet away from dangerous items that he can tear up or get into. If your dog likes to tear open the garbage while you are gone, put the garbage somewhere he can't get into it. Does he love to scratch up the couch? Try providing plenty of stimulating toys for him to play with in your absence, or even try crate training. In addition, think about working with a trainer on separation anxiety if your pup hasn't warmed up to being alone. Mentally stimulating your furry friend while you are home with games like hiding his food or using an active feeder will help him stay entertained while you're gone.
Hire a dog walker.
Think about hiring a dog walker to come visit your dog throughout the day. This way they can help stimulate your dog and take him on a potty break. This will help reduce the stress on your end, as it won't be as urgent for your dog to go out the second you get home. This can also help you avoid having to clean up after your pet if he has an accident and goes potty in the house. Nothing like coming home from a long day at work to find out your carpet is stained!