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Even pets may experience holiday stress

The holiday season is a stressful time for everyone. With lots of food to prepare, gifts to buy and guests to entertain, it seems like the holiday preparations are endless.

Although our dogs don't have the same list of to-do's, they are likely the family members that find the holidays the most stressful.Whether it's a tree that has made its new home in the living room or a house full of loud, extended family members and friends, this season is the time you need to pay close attention to your furry friend to ensure he/she feels comfortable and safe.Here are some tips from Camp Bow Wow's training and behavioral expert Erin Askeland on how to identify if your dog is exhibiting signs of stress and what to do to comfort it.Signs pets are experiencing stress• Lip licking and yawning: Both are indicators of a stressed dog. It is important to always assess the exact situation. If a dog is lying on the couch by itself and licks its lips or yawns, it is most likely not stressed. If a dog is being hugged, tugged on, etc., and begins to emit warning signs, this is a clear indicator that it is now anxious.• Wide eyes and averting gaze: Wide eyes and showing the whites of the eye both indicate that a dog is stressed out. Often dogs with this expression avoid your gaze as well.• Hackling (spiking of the fur along the spine): For a dog, this is an involuntary response to his environment and can mean the dog is nervous and anxious.• Growling and snapping: Never try to get a dog to stop growling; we want it to growl, as it lets us know that it is uncomfortable. If a dog gets in trouble for growling, it will stop and can immediately go to biting.• Stiff wagging tail: A dog that is experiencing stress (and may bite) will wag its tail in a stiff manner. Look out for a tail that is pointed high and moves even more quickly back and forth.• Shivering or shaking: A stressed dog may shiver or shake and appear to be cold. This is typically not due to being cold, but due to being nervous and anxious. Again, you must look at the whole situation to determine the cause.• Cowering or tail tucking: This behavior indicates that a dog is fearful. It doesn't mean the dog will bite, but could if the dog's fear continues to increase.• Backing away or hiding: Whether the dog backs itself into a corner or tries to hide (under a chair, table, bed, crate, etc.), this is a clear sign that the dog is uncomfortable and trying to escape. It is important to leave these dogs alone. Allow it to come to you.• Pacing and inability to settle down: A dog that is stressed may also pace around an area and not be able to relax into one spot.How to offer relief to our furry friends• Provide a safe space like a crate, separate room, bed, or other escape where the pet can lie down and not be bothered. It's important to ensure those around the pet leave it alone when it goes to its safe space.• If a pet is stressed in a particular setting, the best thing you can do for yourself and your pet is to remove it from the situation entirely. Forcing a pet to be in a scary situation that causes it stress can make it worse and increases the risk of the pet injuring someone out of fear. Contact a rewards-based trainer to discuss helping your dog through these types of situations.• A little extra exercise and access to treats that take time to go through can help take the pet's mind off its stress and relax. A long-lasting bone or chew paired with its safe space can provide relief.• There are also calming aids available like slow-paced, classical music, natural calming sprays, thundershirts, and pet rescue remedy that could help take the edge off your pet. These may not work for every pet, and if the pet's stress levels consistently get worse, it may be time to talk to a rewards-based trainer and veterinarian.