Everything You Need To Know About Dog Anxiety
Don’t you just love it when you come home from somewhere and your dog bounds happily towards you to welcome you back?
They look at you with their cute, puppy dog eyes, anxiously waiting to be shown some attention.
You fondly lean down to pet them vigorously, or you scoop them into your arms and hug them like a long-lost child.
They respond with just as much affection. And when you two bond, everything feels right with the world.
What you may not know though, is although your dog may look and act fine on the surface, there may be times when they are suffering from dog anxiety.
Dog anxiety usually results in bodily reactions which are normally associated with fear. So it’s best to know everything you can about it in order to prevent or treat it. Because if these behaviours remain unchecked, your pooch may develop an anxiety disorder which may lead to other issues.
What causes a dog to be anxious?
Fear. This can be brought about by loud noises, strange people or other animals. New environments and situations like a vet’s office or riding in a car may also cause this, as well as visual stimuli like hats, umbrellas, and even surfaces like grass or wooden floors.
Separation. Around 14% of dogs are known to suffer from this. It happens when they are left alone or separated from family members. This usually manifests itself in undesirable behaviour like barking, urinating and defecating inside the house, and destroying things.
Age. As a dog gets older, their anxiety can also be caused by a Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or CDS. This is when memory, learning, perception and awareness start to decline. This would naturally lead to confusion and anxiety in older dogs.
Dog Anxiety can manifest itself in many forms:
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Destructive behaviour
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviour
These symptoms may happen occasionally, due to some anxiety-causing event. But if any of these symptoms become recurrent, then they could lead to a more serious anxiety problem. The most dangerous symptom to watch out for here is aggression. Aggressive behaviour includes harming both people and other animals.
Treating Dog Anxiety
Dog anxiety is treatable. Here are some things you can do to get it under control.
Talk to your vet. They can help you identify the possible causes and triggers as well as the type of anxiety your dog is suffering from. They can also tell if the anxiety is situational or becoming a serious issue. And they can rule out any medical conditions which could be causing the symptoms and come up with a treatment plan.
Counterconditioning and Training. Counterconditioning involves changing your dog’s response to the triggers that cause anxiety, by replacing the anxious or aggressive behaviour with a more desirable behaviour like sitting or focusing on the owner.
Training, on the other hand, requires a lot of time and patience. To help you choose the best approach for your dog, you may have to contact a professional dog trainer to guide you.
Desensitisation. This is done by slowly introducing your dog to the source of anxiety. Do this in small doses and with less intensity. Doing this often and rewarding their positive behaviour will help them adjust and get used to the triggers, thus helping them manage their anxiety better.
- Medication. Antidepressants may be prescribed for dogs who have a serious anxiety disorder. Natural therapies and products may also be prescribed, alongside other medications, depending on your dog’s case. These use pheromones and aromatherapy to reduce anxiety.
Preventing Dog Anxiety
Prevention is still always better than the cure, even when it comes to a dog’s anxiety. Some ways to avoid it altogether include:
Read your dog’s body language. Knowing when your dog is uncomfortable, scared or getting anxious can help you avoid those negative triggers and instead turn them into a teaching moment.
Let them socialise more. Introduce your dog to new people, fellow dogs, animals, places and experiences. This will help them avoid an exaggerated response over time. And they will also become more well-adjusted.
Obedience training. This lays the foundations for a healthy relationship and it establishes trust. A well-trained dog will have an easier time socialising with other dogs, and going to obedience school will allow them to meet other dogs in a controlled environment.
Exercise and Nutrition. These are crucial to a dog’s well-being and their overall development. A dog who is alert and stimulated is less likely to pick up destructive behaviours. When it comes to nutrition, cutting down on protein reduces serotonin production, giving a calming effect.
- Situation avoidance. Avoid or prevent situations that trigger your dog’s anxiety. If your dog hates the sound of the vacuum then do it when the dog is out or keep them away from the sound. If the trigger can’t be avoided, it’s better to act normal, upbeat and relaxed. Expressing concern will reinforce the dog’s belief that the noise can cause harm.
A lot of dog owners have been using calming dog beds like the Pupnaps Pet Calming Bed as a way to reduce their dog’s anxiety. It serves as a safe, soothing space where they can calm down and feel comfortable and secure. It provides comfort by resetting the dog’s nervous system, helping them calm down faster. The design and soft material also emulates the way a pup would curl up against their mother, providing the same warmth and security they need.
A Pupnaps Pet Calming Bed is also a place where your dog can settle down and wait for you comfortably when you leave the house. It becomes their place of refuge during an anxiety attack. And unsurprisingly, it becomes their favourite place to take a nap!
Aside from the simple and easy solution to relieve your dog’s anxiety, a Pupnaps Pet Calming Bed has extra filling as well as a removable, machine-washable cover and a waterproof bottom. All this could save you a lot of anxiety on how to get the calming bed clean!
In conclusion, dogs are just like humans, that’s why we love them. And like humans, they will experience anxiety at some point in their lives.
Although it may not always be an anxiety disorder, it’s better to be aware of the symptoms, causes and treatments involved. Understanding these can help you, as a dog owner, decide how to treat and relieve your best friend’s anxiety.
After all, because of your dog’s very nature - their love, trust and loyalty - they would surely do no less for you.