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Natural Awakenings Boston

Reducing Stress in Canine Friends

Jan 30, 2014 02:16AM ● By Vivian Zottola

Vivian Zottola & Coco

All animals depend heavily on their senses of smell, sight and hearing to keep them from danger, find food and comfort and navigate their way in the world. These same sensitivities can make pets even more susceptible to stressful events and triggers than the people that care for them. Learning about the differences in sense perception between canines and humans can make for more harmonious living.

The underlying reasons dogs may feel anxiety, frustration and fear include poor communication, the use of improper equipment, noise pollution, a poor diet or limited mental and physical exercise. Dogs can also learn or inherit genetic predispositions toward bad behavior. Regardless of the history, there is much that can be done to help ease a pet’s stress level based on observed behavior.

Education: First, consult with a qualified veterinarian to ensure that there are no medical problems causing your dog to be anxious. Next, put some time into learning more about the dog’s senses, fostering better communication through training and planning out some simple exercises.

Exercise: Plan daily exercise and relaxation opportunities for your pet. Exercise, fundamentally important to a healthy and wellbalanced dog, safely channels bottled up energy for pets kept indoors.

Brain Power: Studies show that it takes both physical and mental exercise to reduce anxiety and behavior problems in pets. To exercise your dog’s brain, try toys that dispense food, design foraging games, practice training, take a walk or throw a ball from your chair.

Home Management: Create a relaxing environment in your home. Research indicates that music therapy, particularly the psychoacoustics in certain kinds of classical music, calm the parasympathetic nervous system in both pets and people. A good choice is Through a Dogs Ear by Joshua Leeds and Susan Wagner.

Relax: Spend a few minutes messaging essential oils and flower remedies, such as Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets, onto your dog’s ears and throughout its coat. Studies show that massage and aromatherapy can calm animals as well as humans.

Practicing these simple techniques can help to reduce anxiety for both you and your pet and create a stronger bond. A calmer, well-behaved dog is a wonderful companion and great reminder to humans to be present and peaceful.

Vivian Zottola, CPDT-KA, is a certified professional dog trainer and owner of Boston K9 Concierge, located at 202 K St., South Boston. For more information, call 617-464-1005 or visit   

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