1. Try Activity. When your dog has absorbed more stress than he can handle, and doesn’t that happen to all of us, anything active will help. If you’re a runner, running with your dog can be a shared stress buster. Running will make you both feel happier and closer without a word being said. If you are lucky enough to live near a pond, there’s nothing like a swim to relax body and mind. The chance to race and play with other dogs will also make your dog feel great. And no matter if you’re in the city or the country, a good, long hike will make everything look rosier.
2. Have a trick or two up your sleeve. Games and tricks require your full concentration, even if you’re the dog. As it turns out, paying full attention to one thing empties the mind of all other things. Like t’ai chi, game playing and performing tricks can be meditation in motion, great for dog and human alike.
3. Use what your dog knows. One of the ways for dogs to alleviate tension is to give them the opportunity to do something they already know, something safe, something they do well which makes them feel proud. The basic obedience commands, executed in a bright, quick, snappy way with lots of turns and surprises can make a dog forget all else. Also, try adding something new to something old. Let your dog heel carrying an empty water bottle, a rubber duck, his favorite ball. Or work off leash, tossing a ball as a reward. Ten minutes and your dog will be new again!
4. Teach Something New. Again, thinking can be hard work and thinking about something new and challenging can empty the mind of all else. Does your dog retrieve and drop the ball at your feet. Pat your hand and tell him to put the ball there. Does your dog love to bark? Have him bark on command. Or add two and two. (You can “help” him get the right answer by praising after four barks.) If you’re out on a hike, teach him to jump up on a low wall or crawl under a bench. Anything that captures his mind will lower stress.
5. Take a break. When you see your dog is on overload or heading in that direction, stop whatever you are doing and do something else. If you are inside, go out for a walk. If you are out, go back in. If you are in a crowd, find a quieter place. If you are alone, take him out where there are people and other dogs. A change of venue can do the trick.
6. Make him a cave. Sometimes what stress calls for is an old-fashioned solution. If you’re home, toss a big towel over your dog’s crate. If you’re out, toss your coat over a chair. For the tense and tired, nothing beats a nice dark cave.
Modern dogs can be as stressed out as modern humans. Using stress busting exercises will help both you and your dog stretch out tense muscles, improve respiration, release endorphins and get you both ready for the next round of life in the fast lane.