Dogs, like people, suffer from anxiety. It is quite normal despite the fact that it is unpleasant. Dog anxiety affects all breeds, yet it differs from one dog to the next. Although all dogs experience anxiety from time to time, if excessive levels of worry are not addressed, a dog might develop an anxiety disorder. Dog anxiety, if left untreated, can develop into behavioral and other problems.
How can you tell if your dog suffers from anxiety? What can you do to help a dog who is anxious? We're here to walk you through all you need to know about dog anxiety, including the most prevalent causes, symptoms, and treatments. We'll also go over some helpful tips for avoiding anxiousness. This way, if your dog does develop anxiety, you'll have all the information you need to help him.
It sometimes feels like there are two camps in the dog world: those dogs who "get" anxious and reactive and those who don't. What’s worse is that people who don't understand dog anxiety can be dismissive and cruel, not to mention making it harder for you and your dog to navigate the world by not respecting personal space. However, in recent years, people have realized that absolutely quiet, bombproof canines are more the exception than the rule. Many dogs have a weakness, whether it's alone time, thunderstorms, cats, or children.
Signs Of Dog Anxiety
- Excessive barking and howling
- Excessive whining
- Panting and drooling excessively
- Digging and scratching repeatedly
- Excessive licking
- Shaking or trembling
- Urinating or defecating in the house
When a dog is nervous or apprehensive, the distress typically appears in signs that resemble misbehaving.
Causes of Dog Anxiety
- Fear: This includes loud noises, unfamiliar persons or animals, visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, new or strange locations, specific scenarios — like the vet's office or car rides — or surfaces like grass or wood floors can all trigger fear-related anxiety. Although some dogs may simply have brief reactions to these stimuli, they may have a greater impact on stressed dogs.
- Separation: When dogs with separation anxiety are left alone or separated from their family, they are unable to find solace. Unwanted actions such as urinating and defecating in the house, destroying furniture and furnishings, and barking are common manifestations of anxiety.
- Aging: Dogs with CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome) experience memory, learning, perception, and awareness decline, similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Senior dogs are understandably confused and anxious as a result of this. Age-related anxiety affects older dogs too.
Tips On How To Reduce Dog Anxiety
- Seek out a positive reinforcement dog trainer: Modern dog trainers have discovered that the vast majority of dogs who lunge at, growl at, and fight with other dogs and humans aren't doing so because they want to be the "pack leader" or because they're "dominant." They're acting this way because they're afraid. Fearful dogs, especially those who believe they can't get away, often resort to aggression in order to "get him before he gets me."
We know to avoid trainers who "rehabilitate" violent dogs by dominating them once we understand that hostility is rooted in fear. Hurting an anxious dog doesn't make him/her stop being afraid; it just makes them shut down. Change the feeling, on the other hand, and the behavior will change. A dog that isn't afraid of other dogs won't bark or fight. You can achieve great results with the help of a professional dog trainer, ideally one that uses positive reinforcement techniques and is CPDT certified.
- Make the dog visible: This may seem like the last thing you want to do with an anxious dog— several people have certainly spent their fair share of time lurking around corners and not opening my door until the coast is clear—but bringing attention to your dog's uneasiness is an excellent method to warn others not to approach.
Muzzle the dog up: Most people still consider a muzzled dog to be a dangerous dog, which can be frustrating for the owner. But happily, initiatives like the Muzzle Up! Project are attempting to overcome this bias by spreading the message that a muzzle indicates a responsible owner and a safe dog. Muzzles allow both people and dogs to enjoy being outside more by making those with aggressive dogs feel safer.
- Learn your dog’s body language: Your dog expresses itself continuously, and the better you comprehend what he or she is saying, the easier it will be to avoid uncomfortable situations. Due to a phenomena known as trigger stacking, something that was OK for your buddy last week might be too much for them today (an increase in dog anxiety-related behaviors caused by them experiencing repeated stressful events without enough time in between for the associated stress hormones to leave the system). Keep an eye out for signals that indicate how your dog is feeling to avoid this.
- Find Shared Interest: It's quite acceptable to be disappointed when your dog refuses to go to the dog park, agility trails, or pavement cafés. Instead, concentrate on what you and your partner can accomplish together. Make indoor obstacle courses, enjoy calm wilderness excursions, enrol in nose-work classes, or simply relax at home. Don't try to make the dog you already have become the dog you desire. In the end, you are most likely to worsen the situation and disrupt your relationship.
- Know your limits: If your dog becomes a threat to you or your children, it’s okay to consider rehoming. Training and medications are expensive, and anxious dogs often require a lifetime commitment. In some circumstances, it’s safer for you and better for the dog to get a new home where she can get what she needs and also get the proper training.
Dog Anxiety: Prevention
It can be difficult to foresee what will make your dog uneasy, and it's even more difficult to tell if his/her worry will progress to a more serious disorder. There are, however, techniques to assist a dog or puppy to avoid anxiety-related issues.
- Body Language: Learning to read dog body language is one of the best things you can do. Knowing when your dog is nervous or terrified can help you avoid unpleasant situations or turn them into positive training opportunities. Body language can also indicate when a dog is becoming worried, which is particularly important if your dog has a history of anxiety related to violence.
- Socialization: Anxiety can be avoided by proper socialization. Introducing your dog to new people, dogs, animals, places, and experiences can help your dog become a well-adjusted canine citizen and forestall any overblown response down the line.
- Obedience: Dog obedience training is an important strategy for avoiding and controlling anxiety in dogs. It creates trust and lays the groundwork for a strong connection. Obedience classes are an excellent place for dogs to meet other dogs in a controlled atmosphere, and well-trained dogs are easier to socialize than dogs who haven't been trained.
- Exercise and Nutrition: For a dog's development, physical, and mental well-being, regular exercise and stimulation are essential. A stimulated dog is less likely to develop destructive tendencies, and proper nourishment is also essential for your dog's health. Taking care of your dog's physical and mental needs can help you avoid behavior problems that aren't caused by anxiety, as well as identify the areas where your dog requires the greatest assistance.
Situation Avoidance: You can also try to avoid or prevent circumstances that trigger your dog's anxiety if your dog has been diagnosed with anxiety concerns. If you know your dog becomes frightened around large groups of dogs, for example, you should avoid dog parks. Avoidance does not imply that you must put your life on hold, but it can help you and your dog cope with stress. If the source of the anxiety cannot be avoided, leashes, body harnesses, and, in certain cases, basket muzzles can be used to avoid harmful situations. You may plan ahead of time for these scenarios once you know your dog's triggers.
Many dogs, like humans, will suffer anxiety at some point in their lives. Although not all dogs may develop anxiety that can be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder, it's vital to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for dog anxiety. Understanding these crucial aspects can assist you in determining the best strategies to assist your dog during anxiety-inducing situations as an owner.