Pet Ways to Ease Stress

My name is Sparky. It’s an honor to launch this new blog, Pet Ways to Ease Stress, which features prominent members of the pet community offering their insights on how to ease stress. Each week, pet colleagues from households, zoos and parks will share their stories of coping with life challenges related to work, health and the most difficult stressor – dealing with humans!

Many humans think that animals, at least domesticated ones, have no stress. Ha! Every day, I battle Fido and Ralph to keep their noses out of my food dish. The nerve – they think they are entitled to anything in the house. Afterward, I must play several rounds of fetch and beg to score a measly dog biscuit. Who do you think my owners call to scare potential prowlers away?

Although very rewarding, the pet life poses challenges. Most vets will tell you that dogs get stressed out, just as humans do. Read this article for common signs of dog stress, and how owners can help their dogs. However, devised my own methods for easing my stress, especially when my owner drags me to the vet.

Like most animals, I rely heavily on my senses, especially the ones that are very well developed. In this first blog post, I describe how I ease stress by engaging my five senses in a positive way. My pet sitters, a clinical psychologist and a freelance writer, translated my growls, whimpers and barks into words that humans can understand.

How Sparky Uses Common Senses to Ease Stress

  1. Scents: Because my sense of smell is extremely acute, I happily sniff anyone or anything, whether you humans like it or not. Don’t think you hide your stress from me. Although my owner uses aromatherapy scents such as lavender to calm stress, my favorite aromatherapy scent is bacon!
  2. Sounds: The engaging sound of my owner grabbing my leash to go for a walk melts my stress like magic. I also like to listen to birds chirping and children laughing in the local dog park. Just keep me away from noisy crowds and scary sounds like thunder and fireworks!
  3. Sensations: Stretching out on a comfy couch or comforter is the ultimate de-stress experience for me. Of course, I adore being petted, especially on my tummy. This relieves my owners’ stress as well as my own. It also helps me to feel more connected to them. Deep breathing is okay too, except when I must pant to cool off.
  4. Sights: Nothing soothes my stress more than the sight of a fire hydrant. After I finish that business, I love to watch my animal friends play in the yard amid the grass and the trees. Since I don’t discern colors very well, I watch mindfully, studying every detail in shade, shape and movement. Of course, I get a little distracted when an unwelcome critter invades my space. Then I bark and chase. Once I put that intruder in his place, I gently bring my attention back to the beautiful scenery found in nature.
  5. Tastes: Although a nice T-bone steak is my favorite taste, dog bones, biscuits and treats will never be turned down. Honestly, I’m not too picky. I’ll even eat that soggy kale that Junior slides under the dinner table, so he won’t have to eat it. And forget about practicing mindfulness by slowly savoring each bite. That’s for the birds. I gobble my food with gusto!

I hope my favorite strategies to keep calm, alert and centered help you. Of course, it never hurts to ease stress by getting into a little mischief. Woof! Gotta go. I just noticed a slipper that I haven’t gnawed on yet.

Pet Ways to Ease Stress is a blog listed on PsychCentral.com. It is co-authored by Jessica Loftus, a licensed clinical psychologist, and Jack Murray.

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