Understanding Your Dog's Anxiety
Anxiety in dogs can be a serious issue that can cause your pet to act out and engage in destructive behaviors. Fortunately, there are many ways you can help reduce your pup's anxiety and get him or her back on track.
Dogs Suffer From Anxiety Too!
Dogs suffer from anxiety just like humans do. They can also develop many of the same symptoms that you experience when you’re anxious but for dogs most notably they experience—trouble sleeping, excessive pacing and panting, barking, or whining at nothing in particular. Just like you have your language for describing your feelings and experiences (e.g., “I feel anxious right now”), dogs have their ways of communicating their emotional state too.
Signs of anxiety in Dogs
When a dog exhibits signs of anxiety, it can be difficult to know whether the behavior is simply a byproduct of the environment (example, living in an apartment with thin walls and they hear things that make them bark), or if there is something more going on.
Some dogs become more anxious after being taken for walks on busy streets (motorcycles or cars make loud noises) or encountering strangers. Others may demonstrate anxiety when their owners are gone for long periods, even if they enjoy their time when they are together.
Common Causes of Dog Anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Predisposition (some breeds are more prone to anxiety than others)
- Being introduced to new people or dogs
- A change in routine or environment
- Being left alone for long periods
- Fear of storms (thunder & lightning)
- Lack of socialization
- Loud sounds (storms, motorcycles, fireworks)
Some breeds are more prone to certain types of anxiety than others. For example, retrievers and terriers often suffer from separation anxiety because their instinct is to follow their owners around all day long. Some bull terriers also have this problem because their owners tend to spoil them with treats and affection when they're young, but then get tired of them when they get older (which happens with most bull terriers).
The Cause of Your Dog's Anxiety Could be a Medical Issue
If your dog is anxious, it's important to rule out any medical causes to ensure that they are getting the treatment they need. Anxiety can be caused by a medical condition, but it can also be caused by something that's not as obvious. It's also possible that anxiety is a result of some combination of factors.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, don't wait to see if they go away on their own; visit your vet immediately:
- Excessive panting or rapid breathing
- Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Clammy skin
Dogs who have arthritis or other physical problems can also develop anxiety about going outside and doing normal activities, like taking walks or playing with other dogs in the park because it is not enjoyable, they are in pain.
Start With a Visit to the Vet
If you're worried about your dog's behavior, the first place to start is either with your veterinarian or a pet behaviorist. Your vet can help you figure out the cause of your dog's anxiety, recommend treatment and medication (if needed), decide if your dog should see a behaviorist, and give you advice on how to manage your dog's anxiety.
Your Vet May Prescribe Medication
If your dog is on prescription medication, it's important to consult with your vet before discontinuing it. Medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can be addictive and dangerous if taken in the wrong doses or for too long. They can also have side effects that are dangerous to dogs, such as an increased heart rate or tremors. Additionally, many types of these medications may not be covered by insurance so you'll have to pay full price out of pocket if you stop taking them suddenly.
What Can You Do To Help Your Dog?
- The first step in helping an anxious dog is to rule out any medical causes for his behavior. Once you have done this and determined that your dog does not have a physical problem causing his anxiety, you can begin addressing the issue using the following guidelines:
- Identify triggers for your dog's anxiety. Some dogs are more reactive than others to certain stimuli; for example, some may be bothered by specific sounds or smells while others react only in certain situations (e.g., when taken to the vet). Your veterinarian can help identify these triggers so that you can take steps to avoid them where possible.
- Reduce stressors in your home environment. Try to make changes in your daily routine that will reduce stress levels for both humans and dogs.
For example, if you go running every morning before work, take your dog along for exercise and companionship. Don't leave your dog home alone all day with nothing else to do besides waiting for you to return home from work at night.
- Increase the amount of exercise they get when you are home. Exercising increases their heart rate and releases endorphins that may you feel good. This helps your dog too.
- Use natural calming products that contain soothing essential oils such as K9 Comfort Spray’s Calm Tranquility or for extreme anxiety K9 Comfort Sprays Earmuffs Spray.
Crate Training May Help
Crate training helps alleviate separation anxiety in dogs because it gives them a safe place where they can go to feel comfortable. And even if your dog doesn't have separation anxiety, having a designated space for her to relax (rather than sleeping on the couch or under the bed) is important for helping her feel secure in your home.
When you crate train your puppy, you're teaching her that when she's in the crate, it's time to relax and "do nothing" — and when she's out of the crate, it's time to play, explore and interact with people. It is one of the best things you can do for your dog's emotional health. Make the crate a calming place, using calming sprays inside before putting your dog inside.
- Crate training can help your anxious dog feel safe and secure.
- Obedience training is another way to help you communicate with your dog better.
If you have an anxious dog, you may need to train them to be more comfortable around people. If this is the case for yours, obedience training can make all the difference in the world!
When done correctly (and in conjunction with other techniques), it can give both of you confidence that even when it seems like things are getting out of control or that “something bad is going to happen” - they won't.
When you're trying to help your dog overcome anxiety, it's important to remember that it takes time. Don't give up! You'll find that there are many ways you can do this, including crate training and obedience training, making some changes at home, and talking with your vet about medications or other treatments.
Be patient with your pet as he learns new skills like being left alone in a room without chewing everything in sight. And don't forget: the more you know about what triggers these behaviors in different dogs (like separation anxiety), the better equipped you'll be to help them feel calmer when things get tough!
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