Veterinarians share 11 ways you could be stressing out your dog without realizing it

sad bored dog lab
Some common habits may cause your dog stress.Shutterstock
  • Everyday activities pet owners do may unknowingly cause their dogs stress.

  • Wearing sunglasses and hats around your dog can make them feel uneasy.

  • Give your dog attention, but staring at them or hugging them too tightly can be stressful.

Wearing sunglasses or hats can stress out your dog.

Sunglasses and hats obstruct your dog's view of your face.bruev/iStock

Veterinarian Gerardo Perez-Camargo, vice president of research and development at Freshpet, told Business Insider that wearing sunglasses or a hat can actually bother your dog.

"Dogs rely on seeing people's eyes to understand what they're going to do and what they're focusing their attention on," said Perez-Camargo. "Covering your face can make a dog uncertain of what is going on."

Though you may not be able to ditch sunglasses and hats entirely, try lavishing your dog with positive attention while wearing shades to reassure them that everything is OK.

Moving furniture can confuse and worry some dogs.

Dog furniture
Dogs rely on their sense of smell and memory to navigate your home.The Washington Post/Getty Images

Veterinarian Mary Gardner, cofounder of veterinary hospice Lap of Love, told BI that for some dogs, especially older or visually impaired dogs, moving furniture around the house can cause stress.

"Dogs use their memory and smell to get around the house; they have usually built a map of the space in their heads," said Gardner. "Moving furniture around can cause them anxiety because they don't know where things are."

If you have an older dog or a dog that dislikes changes in their environment, try moving furniture gradually and one item at a time.

Staring at your dog may make them nervous.

Cavalier King Charles spaniel dog sleeping on sofa
But you should still pay attention to your pup during playtime.Shutterstock

Sara Ochoa, veterinarian and veterinary consultant for DogLab, told BI that gazing at your beloved pup may actually stress them out.

"Dogs do not like to be constantly watched. Even if you're staring at them because they're acting cute, your dog will likely think that they're doing something wrong," said Ochoa.

Though you should definitely pay attention to your dog while playing, try not to stare too much while they're lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed.

Tight hugs may be stressful for dogs.

woman dog cuddling
Make sure to hold your pets gently.Johannes Simon/Stringer/Getty Images

It can be hard to resist locking your dog in a loving embrace, but holding on too tightly can make dogs anxious.

"Dogs like to snuggle, but they don't like to be held very tightly. Feeling as if they cannot get free can be stressful for them," said Ochoa.

When cuddling your dog, make sure to be gentle and leave enough wiggle room.

Loud music can make dogs uncomfortable.

hot car dog inside
When driving with your furry friend, make sure to keep your car's radio volume low.Olena Serzhanova/Shutterstock

Veterinarian Jessica Kirk told BI that loud music or electronics can overwhelm dogs and interfere with their hearing.

"Loud noises can be very unpleasant for dogs' sensitive ears, causing many of them to become stressed and uncomfortable," said Kirk.

Keep the radio volume low when your dog is in the car, and make sure your pet has a quiet place to relax during loud events such as parties or family gatherings.

Pet clothes may look cute, but many dogs don't enjoy playing dress-up.

dog costume superhero
Dogs don't like to feel constricted.Sandy Huffaker / Stringer / Getty Images

Your dog may look adorable in a sweater vest, but Kirk said even the cutest pet outfits can stress dogs out.

"Many dogs don't like wearing clothing, as it may feel unnatural or constricting to them. Even items like jackets and snow booties may make them uncomfortable," said Kirk.

Pet owners should be particularly wary of any clothing that prevents a dog from relieving themselves, constricts their tails, or overheats them.

The smell and feeling of fireworks can be stressful for dogs.

Australian shepherd puppy dog outside
Dogs are sensitive to more than just the sound of fireworks.Shutterstock

Most dog owners are aware that the sound of fireworks can be upsetting to pets; however, fireworks can offend a dog's other senses as well.

"Not only are fireworks loud, but the feeling, smell, and sight of them can also be terrifying to dogs," said Kirk.

If possible, allow your pet to stay home with a trusted human when you go out to watch the fireworks. Your vet can also suggest medication that may help keep your dog calm.

A new kind of treat or food can upset your dog's digestion.

dog bone
It's good to test how your dog tolerates a new food by first feeding them a small portion.Shutterstock

Dog owners who try to spoil their pets with a new type of fancy dog treat or food might inadvertently cause them to experience some stressful digestive issues.

"A dog with an upset stomach or itchy skin issue due to a diet change will definitely be stressing from the inside out," said Kirk. "Switching food or treats should be done gradually over a long stretch of time."

If you want to treat your dog to a one-time special treat, try feeding them a small amount first and waiting to see if they tolerate it before serving them the full portion.

Smoking near your dog can stress them out.

Exposing your dog to cigarette smoke may cause infections and cancer.Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Smoking around your dog can make them unhappy and may lead to medical problems.

"Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, and what may be a mild smell for us becomes a much stronger and unpleasant sensation for them," said Perez-Camargo.

Perez-Camargo added that prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke can lead to health problems in dogs, such as respiratory and nasal infections and even cancer.

Travel can be overwhelming for some dogs.

maltese puppy dog in suitcase packing
Make sure to pack your dog's food and toys for the road.Shutterstock

You may love the idea of seeing the world with your fluffy friend at your side, but travel can be nerve-racking for pets.

"For many dogs, traveling is stressful," Kirk told BI. "They have to deal with new smells, new sights, and new environments. Just because you are there with them does not mean that your canine is not worried."

If you need to travel with your dog, allow them to grow accustomed to being inside a car or crate before the big trip. Be sure to pack plenty of their usual food and toys to keep them comfortable on the road and at your destination.

Older dogs may not like being petted unexpectedly.

Dogs losing their hearing and eyesight are easier to startle.Shutterstock

An unexpected cuddle can actually be stressful for older pets.

"When a pet is losing their eyesight or hearing as they get older, they can become easily startled," Gardner told BI. "Even the sweetest dog can snap when someone pets them unexpectedly."

If you have an older dog, make sure they can see or hear that you're nearby before petting them, and avoid touching any parts of their body that may be arthritic, such as their paws or joints.

  • This story was originally published on October 13, 2020, and most recently updated on January 19. 2024.

Read the original article on Business Insider