Got a nervous fur-baby at home? Dogs and cats are prone to stress and anxiety just like humans – and just like us, when stress stacks up over time, it can affect your pet’s quality of life and long-term health.
Since our fur-babies can’t tell us when they’re feeling anxious, it’s up to us to learn how to recognize the signs of stress in pets and set them up for success with healthy habits, positive training, and a supportive environment.
At JM Pet Resort, our mission is to support 360° of Happy Health® for your fur-baby by caring for all aspects of their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. The good news is, there are many different approaches you can take to help alleviate stress for your pet. Here are six ways you can help lower your pet’s stress levels to support their health and happiness.
1. Daily Exercise
Exercise is one of the best forms of stress relief – for both humans and pets! Giving your fur-baby consistent daily exercise not only burns off some energy, but also releases endorphins which can lower their stress and boost their mood.
For many dogs, a daily walk, jog, or hike is a perfect way to keep a consistent exercise routine. If you can’t fit in daily walks, provide playtime through games of fetch or chase. When the weather isn’t nice for playing outdoors, give your fur-baby some indoor exercise with games like search-and-find games, where you hide treats throughout the house for your pet to search out.
For cats, provide them with climbing structures in the house and engage them with toys like mouse toys or wands so you can get your fur-baby moving!
2. Safe Spaces
Dogs and cats both instinctively like to have a den to call their own; a sanctuary they can retreat to when they are feeling scared, stressed, overwhelmed, or when they simply need a little “me time.”
For dogs, crate training is one of the best things you can do to set your pooch up for success. When used properly, a crate is your dog’s personal safe space. When you’re not actively using the crate, it should always be open and accessible for her to go into whenever she pleases.
For cats, providing a cozy bed in a quiet part of the house serves the same purpose. Many cats also enjoy having elevated spaces where they can perch, as this helps them to feel secure and allows them to survey things from afar without feeling overwhelmed.
Pets don’t just need physical exercise, they need mental exercise too! Boredom can lead to feelings of restlessness and anxiety, which often leads to misdirected behaviors like chewing on shoes or furniture, rummaging through the garbage can, or urinating in inappropriate areas.
Give your fur-baby mental stimulation with enrichment activities like snuffle mats, puzzles, Kongs, slow feeders, and lick mats. Both dogs and cats benefit from enrichment activities to reduce stress, burn off restless energy, and increase their confidence and openness to new experiences. Any toy or game that challenges your pet to use their brain for a reward counts as enrichment and can help them become a healthier, happier version of themselves!
4. CBD-Infused Supplements
CBD made from hemp has been shown to be a safe and gentle way to help reduce stress, calm nerves, and promote relaxation in dogs and cats. There are a variety of CBD-infused treats and chews, oils, and balms on the market to help pets with anxiety, joint pain, skin irritations, and promoting healthy bones.
CBD can help soothe pets who feel anxiety in specific situations, such as when visiting the vet or groomer, going on car rides, or during thunderstorms. It can also work as a long-term supplement, given in daily doses to support pets with chronic anxiety and mellow their nerves. Speak to your veterinarian or pet care expert about whether CBD is right for your fur-baby, and how to determine the right dosage for their needs.
5. Behavior Modification
Positive, motivational-based training techniques can go a long way to reducing your pet’s anxiety around specific triggers. If your fur-baby gets stressed whenever they see the nail trimmers, hear you grab your keys to leave, or pass by another dog on a walk, the right training approach can make all the difference.
Motivational training techniques are key to transforming behaviors. Why? Because this approach teaches, supports, and motivates your pet without using fear or intimidation. It’s all about building your pet’s confidence, changing the way they respond to triggers or unfamiliar situations, and strengthening the bond between the two of you. Our professional motivational trainers are here to support your lifelong harmonious relationship with your pet through group classes, private lessons, and Day School lessons during daycare.
6. Lead By Example
Pets pick up on our emotions. If you get stressed when you notice that your fur-baby seems nervous, you may inadvertently be adding to their anxiety. Refrain from the desire to cuddle or hug your fur-baby, give them food, or use a sweet “baby voice” to soothe them. These actions can make animals feel more nervous – or even lead them to associate anxiety with getting a reward (such as food or attention!).
So, what should you do when your fur-baby is scared? The best thing you can do is to remain calm, using slow and relaxed movements and a steady voice. If you’re not feeling calm on the inside, that’s okay – this is a case of fake it ‘til you make it! Try running through some normal commands, such as having them ‘sit’ for a treat. Doing things that feel routine can be extremely comforting for pets. Seeing you acting in a calm or ‘normal’ manner is far more soothing to your fur-baby than being babied.