10 Ways You Might Be Unknowingly Stressing Your Pet Out

Nobody wants to see their pet in distress, and we’ll go to great lengths to keep it from happening. The reality is we can’t always avoid it. But what if you found out that something as innocuous as looking at them or feeding them something new was causing them stress? You’d want to stop it immediately, wouldn’t you?

Well, hold onto your hat because you might be blown away by some of the fears Fido could be harboring and the triggers that set them off. Recently, a group of animal experts spoke with Insider to discuss all of the ways we can unwittingly stress our fur babies out, and the answers will surprise a lot of people.

So, without further ado . . .

1. Excess Attention

This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who’s witnessed an overattentive or overanxious human interacting with their pets. Constant fussing can make the best of us feel wired for sound after awhile, so why should pets be any different? While it may seem like showering your dog with constant attention is a good thing, vets say otherwise. A recent study even pointed to neurotic pet owners reporting neurotic cats. Who’d have thunk it?

Photo: Pixabay/macdeedle

2. Dressing Your Pets Up

This will certainly be a bone of contention for some readers, but the truth is most pets don’t just dislike being made to play dress up, they absolutely loath it. It’s not natural for them to wear outfits and accessories, like hats and sunglasses, and they want these foreign objects to go, end of discussion. BTW, a sweater or jacket for warmth is not the same thing, but even these can distress some animals.

3. Hats & Sunglasses

And speaking of chapeaus and eyewear, some dogs will become anxious when meeting people wearing them. According to Gerardo Perez-Camargo, vice president of research and development at Freshpet, these items can stress dogs out because they “rely on seeing people’s eyes to understand what they’re going to do and what they’re focusing their attention on,” adding that “covering your face can make a dog uncertain of what is going on.” 

4. Staring Too Long

Veterinarian Sara Ochoa noted that having too much prolonged direct eye contact can have a negative impact because they might think they did something wrong. “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,” she explained. In other words, you can make them nervous without meaning to.

dog hug
Photo: Pixabay/benega

5. Bear Hugs

This is another one many of us have seen: a dog or cat initially enjoying a hug until it goes on too long or the grip gets too tight. They get a wild look of panic in their eyes as they struggle to break free. This often happens when someone’s had one too many cocktails or when overexcited kids latch on. Know and respect your pets’ comfort zones and respect their space.

6. Loud Music

Loud noises, including music blaring at home or in cars, can unsettle human nerves, so why not pets? Their hearing is far more sensitive than ours. If you’re throwing a party and the volume is bound to get turned up, find a quiet spot for your pets to take refuge if they’re prone to agitation in connection to noise.

dog on couch
Photo: Pixabay/Pexels

7. Rearranging Furniture

Yup, you read that right. Apparently, making major changes to your living space can leave pets unhappy. According to veterinarian Mary Gardner, moving furniture around can confuse them, so she suggests doing it gradually. “Dogs use their memory and smell to get around the house. They have usually built a map of the space in their heads. Moving furniture around can cause them anxiety because they don’t know where things are.” Makes sense, especially for the visually impaired.

8. Unexpected Gestures

Gardner also says canines, especially those that are losing their eyesight or hearing, can startle easily if you start petting them without warning. “Even the sweetest dog can snap when someone pets them unexpectedly,” she added.

scared dog
Photo: Pixabay/NataliyaD

9. Road Trips

As much as our pets hate being separated from us, not all of them are good travelers. Just like people, some are prone to being homebodies where they take reassurance from everyday routines. “For many dogs, traveling is stressful,” veterinarian Jessica Kirk warned. “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.” She recommends packing familiar items and favorite toys or anything else you can think of within reason to make them more comfortable. 

10. Smoking

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

For the complete rundown, you can check out the full story here.

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