It’s no secret that our dogs are members of the family. We love them, teach them, and care for them just like our children. Like humans, dogs can sometimes face negative and traumatic experiences that could potentially mark them for life. Perhaps your pet faced an attack from a bigger dog in the street or he went through a difficult illness or was a victim of abuse from a previous owner. Before giving your dog any kind of medical dog care, it’s important that you learn to notice emotional wounds in your dog and act quickly to help them heal.
Signs of Emotional Trauma in Dogs
Dogs might not have a voice and communicate their emotional feelings, but that doesn’t mean that nothing gets to them. When a dog experiences a very intense situation, sometimes their behavior or personality can change completely and become unrecognizable. Other times the signs might be so subtle you wouldn’t identify them easily. If you’ve just adopted a dog and don’t really know them much already, you should be even more alert to their dog behavior. Although each dog is different and has their own personality, here are some main things you should look out for if your dog experiences a traumatic event:
As the name suggests, fear aggression happens when your dog is experiencing a crippling fear of a person, object, or situation so they act out by being overly and unnecessary aggressive. Fear aggression is more noticeable when you try to take your dog out of its hiding spot, when you try to put a leash on them, or, in more extreme cases, when you come close to try to pet them. Even though it might look like your dog is mad, it’s actually acting out of fear and insecurity so you should be patient in this case.
This is probably one of the most common dog behaviors to find when you adopt a dog that went through intense emotional wounds. If your puppy never faced involuntary urination and never had accidents inside the house but started doing it after a traumatic incident, it might be a sign of fear. Fear urination usually happens whenever your dog is close or in contact with the person/object/situation that caused the traumatic wound so you should pay close attention so you can learn whenever to remove him from the situation.
A dog that suddenly becomes hypervigilant might be facing emotional wounds and you didn’t even notice it. If your dog is suddenly on guard position several times a day for long periods of time such as if they don’t want to leave a window or door as if they’re watching out or if they’re very cautious about who gets near them, they might be acting with hypervigilance.
Trembling or Tremors
Another sign a dog is dealing with emotional wounds is when they tremble all the time. This could happen for long periods of time when they come in close contact with whatever causes them stress . It can happen even while they’re sleeping. The tremors can also be partial – their tails, ears, or legs, or they can happen all over their body.
6 Useful Ways to Help Your Dog Recover from Emotional Wounds
If your dog is experiencing one or more of these signs, you should pay careful attention to the evolution of their emotional wounds. A dog that’s facing trauma could have episodes of anxiety for a few weeks, but if this situation is not treated correctly, it could become a serious issue that alters your pet’s behavior for life. Here are some useful tips you can do to help your dog recover from their emotional wounds.
Spend More Time With Them
When your pet experiences a frightening situation, probably the thing that would help them the most is for you to keep them company. Emotional trauma can lead to dogs feeling insecure about their place in the house (especially if they were recently adopted) and your loyalty towards them, so a great way to heal emotional wounds is to be beside them as much as you can. Hang out with your dog, keep them in the house during the day, or even let them sleep inside the house.
Reduce Stress in Their Environment
Eliminating all sources of stress around your dog is another great way of helping them heal emotional wounds and trauma. You can start by identifying which is your dog’s safe space and helping them make it comfortable. If they like to hide in the closet, make room for their bed and add some dog toys. If they like to go under the bed, clear out everything else so they can lounge comfortably under there. But most of all, make sure to remove from your house any sources of stress like loud noises or scary objects.
Related: 7 Ways to Comfort your Sick Dog
Desensitize Your Dog to Whatever They Fear
There is a practice known as desensitization counterconditioning where the owner trains their dog to help them be more comfortable around the source of their trauma. This technique starts by getting your dog used to the “trauma source” from afar. Once they’re okay with seeing it from a distance, you can get your dog closer to the source gradually until they are completely desensitized from the trauma and can move on with their lives.
- Play Therapy
Animal behaviorists suggest extended periods of play as a way of helping your dog cope with emotional trauma. After all, playing is very effective for releasing “feel-good” hormones and forgetting all about stress. Let loose and play fetch with your dog, throw the frisbee, or run around with them for a while. Playing with some dog toys is also a good idea.
Set a Strict Routine For Them
When your dog experiences trauma, he suddenly feels shaken and insecure about everything that surrounds them. If you want them to get back on their feet and feel perky and happy again, you must set up a very strict routine so they know their world can be ordered and reliable. Set hours to feed them, walk them, and play with them. Incorporate new activities slowly as they feel more comfortable with them.
Set an Example With Your Attitude
Last but not least, you should always set the example when it comes to your pet. After your dog experiences a traumatic incident, you might feel worried and in need of finding the right way to help them. It’s very important that you don’t succumb to stress and keep calm so you can be there for them. Dogs not only sense their owner’s emotions but they can also absorb them and replicate them.
Remember that your dog loves you even more than you love them. They fully trust you and all they want is to have a happy life with you. It’s your job as an owner to reassure them that they can be safe with you and that they’ll find only love. Only then can your beloved dog overcome their emotional wounds. This is one of the most important dog care tips.