Do Dogs Feel Our Stress? The Number One Cause of Dog Stress

Any loving dog owner gets concerned about the factors that cause dog stress. After all, we just want the best for our pets, from their physical to mental health.

You can attribute the cause of dog stress to multiple factors: unhealthy upbringing, violent history, a chaotic environment, and strained relationships with owners and other dogs.

But what most dog owners usually overlook is a stress trigger that affects more dogs than we know it: dog owner stress.

Yes, you read that right: your stress as a dog owner affects the stress levels of your dogs.

And although it is quite heartbreaking to know that dogs can absorb our stress, there’s a bright side: it is also YOU that can make it better for your beloved dogs.

This is what I’m going to share with you today. Read on to learn more.

What Research Says About Dog Owner Stress Being a Cause of Dog Stress

A research found out that dog owners’ acute and long-term stress has a direct impact on their dog’s stress levels known as cortisol.

In one of the studies published in the Scientific Report where a team studied 58 dog owners and their pets, it was discovered that stress are synchronized between dogs and the ones caring for them.

Whenever dog owners get elevated stress, dogs exhibited a spike in cortisol as well.

It also indicated that the closer the bond and the stronger the reliance, the more susceptible dogs are to absorbing their owner’s stress and emotions.

The senior zoologist conducting the research, Lina Roth, emphasized that dogs truly understand their owners, especially in the emotional aspect.

“Dogs are quite good at understanding humans,” Roth added.

Hearing this can make a dog owner go “Awww…” but this sweet fact comes with a downside: when we’re sad and stressed, our dogs feel it, too.

Your Dog Feels Emotions Rather Than Hear Words, And That’s One Thing That Causes Dog Stress

I always say this: your dog can’t always hear what you say because your actions and emotions are louder than your words.

When you communicate with a dog, they assess your body language and tone of voice to make sense of your words.

You might say “I always tell my dog to calm down, Dan. I encourage them to not go crazy with stress!”

But here’s a dog trainer insight: no matter how much you assure your dog, if your stress levels are through the roof, they will know.

“Calm down” is just a phrase if your dog can see the worried, nervous, or annoyed energy behind your words.

Your dog can go “Wait, why are they worried? Why do I sense panic? Should I worry? My owner looks worried so I think I should be, too!”

And the cycle goes on and on: you’re wondering why your dog can’t seem to understand your request, while your dog can’t stop picking up the panic and frustration in your voice.

As a top dog trainer that has seen this scenario play out thousands of times, here’s a simple rule I always encourage dog owners to remember: your dog is your mirror.

Before they do anything, they must first see it in you.

Your Dog Is Your Mirror: A Chill Dog Owner = A Chill Dog

I have seen a real life example of a dog owner directly affecting the personality and energy levels of their pets.

One day, while I was on my way to a consultation, I saw an interesting sight: a dog owner walking oh-so-calmly with his dog.

From the get go, it would sound like nothing out of the ordinary. But the dog in this story is a pitbull.

A dog that is so notorious, so scary, and always exuding boss energy!

But on that day, I was totally taken by surprise at how calm the dog was. So calm, they follow their dog owner wherever he goes.

The dog had no leash, and showed zen-like calmness.

It only took one look for me to know why.

His dog owner was absolutely chill. No worried stance, steps light and easy, and it looked like he was having a great time in their outdoor stroll.

It confirmed to me: yes, indeed, the pitbull was chill because his owner was absolutely chill.

Why Dog Owners Cause Dog Stress: Top 3 Reasons from a Top Dog Trainer

If the man in my story can influence his dog to be relaxed and diffuse agitated energy, imagine the opposite: what will happen to our dogs if we perpetually show stress.

“But why are dogs influenced by our stress, Doggy Dan?”

The moment these dogs come into our home, they become our companions. When it comes to reacting, perceiving danger, and socializing they will be looking up to you as their example. Whatever you do, they will do.

But it does not stop there.

Whatever you feel, they also feel.

So if you’re wondering why dog owners cause dog stress, here are the reasons.

Dog Owners Don’t Understand That They Cause Dog Stress

I totally know the look on your face right now. It’s the same look I usually get when I tell dog owners that they unintentionally cause dog stress.

But before you feel guilty, I want you to know that you’re not alone on this boat.

Even the most loving, most protective owner can make dogs feel stressed even without meaning to.

For example:

  • Reacting in a worried tone all the time tells your dog they should always be on the lookout for danger.
  • Pacing back and forth with agitated energy confuses dogs into thinking there’s something bad they should worry about.
  • If we’re always angry, always shouty, always wired up, our dogs will act the same!

These actions are easy to overlook as stressors for dogs, but they are. Being aware that our reactions and emotions cause our dogs stress can be the first step to change.

Dogs Absorb Energy, and the Energy They Absorb The Most is From Us

Our dogs are highly attuned to our emotions. They sense energy, and they take on the energy they’re exposed to.

Because dogs spend most of the day with us, the chances of them absorbing our energy is high.

So when we constantly carry a heavy, stressed energy, it won’t be a surprise if our dogs will start to show signs of stress as well.

They Feel Our Emotions More Than They Hear Our Words

Ever had a dog that seems to be constantly scared despite your constant reassurance?

It’s great if you can take a step back and ask: am I also scared? Is my dog picking up the energy of fear from me?

Remember: dogs feel what you feel. Dogs tend to feel and act like their owners, so if you want them to be more confident, you should start by showing them you’re calm, sure, and confident yourself.

5 Ways You Can Reduce Your Dog’s Stress

Keep Your Energy in Check

Be mindful of your own energy and emotions around your dog.

Because we’re dog owners, we have to remember that dogs are quietly observing us and absorbing whatever energy we radiate.

Try to maintain a calm and positive demeanor, as this can have a soothing effect on your dog.

For example:

  • Instead of reacting in an angry voice, take a few seconds to regulate your emotions by breathing in and out.
  • If we do need to release emotions, we have to be careful not to let it out on our dogs.
  • We have to ensure that we take time to let release stress so dogs won’t have to deal with the consequences of our pent-up stress.

Always Spend Some Quiet Time with Dogs

Dogs, like humans, need downtime.

Spend quality, quiet time with your dog where you engage in gentle activities like petting, cuddling, or simply being together in a calm environment.

In my previous blog, I shared the Three-Minute Quiet Time to help calm dogs down.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Every morning, start your day with a quiet, calm energy. Sit in silence for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
  • Quietly observe how this change in energy affects your dog. Are they calmer? Are they more relaxed?
  • Once you feel that both you and your dog are calm, call them. You will see how relaxed and receptive they are.

Provide a Safe Space for Your Dog

Ensure your dog has a designated safe and comfortable space, like a crate or a cozy corner.

This little corner should be designed as a place they can retreat when they need a break from stimulation or social interaction.

Make this safe space off limits from kids or other dogs so your dog can let off steam and diffuse stress without any distraction.

Be Mindful of Your Actions

Having a dog also means being responsible not only with how we react, but how we act as well.

Stomping our feet because we’re angry causes stress. Banging on doors causes stress. Even dropping stuff forcefully because of irritation causes stress.

And our stressed-induced actions can turn our calm dog into one that’s also on the edge.

Use the Doggy Dan Dog Calming Code Program

At the heart of the Doggy Dan Dog Calming Code™️ Program is this: dog owners who become calm and confident leaders raise calm and confident dogs.

Unregulated stress can cause a strain in your relationship and training with your dog (which can even cause more stress!).

The Dog Calming Code helps with that by teaching YOU how to be the pack leader that sets the rules, takes charge, and knows how to help dogs become calmer.

(And when you do set rules and take charge, it takes a chunk of stress of your dog’s mind!)

Your dog is your mirror; if they see you as the leader they can trust, they will learn how to switch off from stress.

Stop Causing Your Dog Stress, Let the Dog Calming Code Help You

We know that dog owners cause dog stress, but it’s time to break the cycle!

The Dog Calming Code is a roadmap that helps dog owners raise and train dogs in a way that:

  • Doesn’t involve casual shouting, hitting, or using intimidation
  • Minimizes dog training stress to dog owners
  • Is built on the foundation of calmness, gentleness, and love
  • Is understood by dogs
  • Helps dog owners know how to calm dogs down
  • Helps dog owners connect with their dogs
  • And so much more!

This program is all about teaching dog owners to manage their emotions while raising and training their dogs. With over 88,000 satisfied dog owners already, it's a proven way to help both dogs and owners behave in a calmer, less stressful way!

Get the Dog Calming Code today and say goodbye to dog stress and hello to a happier, calmer dog training experience with your dog.

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

1 Response

  1. I purchased the dog calming code but having changed my phone I now seem unable to access it and unable to find or install your App.

    Can you advice please.
    Sheila Kendall

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