Like us, dogs throughout their lives, will experience anxiety. Whilst not all dogs will have anxiety that leads to a disorder it is important to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment options involved. Understanding these important facets can help you know the best way to help your dog in anxiety-inducing situations.
All breeds of dog can show anxiety and it will affect individual dogs in different ways. It is something that ALL dogs experience from time-to-time and, if it is not dealt with, your dog can develop an anxiety disorder which in turn leads to behavioural and other issues.
Your dog’s anxiety can be caused by fear which can be brought on by loud noises, strange environments, people or specific situations such as going to the vet. Some dogs have separation anxiety when they are left alone or separated from their family members. This anxiety often manifests itself in undesirable behaviours. So how can you tell if your dog has anxiety?
Here are a few symptoms to look out for:
- Destructive behaviour
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Excessive barking
- Licking excessively
- Tucking in their tails
- Shrinking away
So, what will help calm your anxious dog? First of all you need to understand what the triggers are that cause your dog to become anxious and if you see any of the above signs talk to your vet who will be able to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms and provide a treatment plan.
Anxiety is often caused for a variety of reasons and the best way to treat it is usually through a combination of training, preventive strategies and, in some cases, medications. One training method is de-sensitisation where you slowly introduce your dog to the source of anxiety, preferably in small doses and at a decreased intensity. Repeated exposure and rewarding positive behaviour can go a long way toward managing anxiety. A local professional dog trainer can help you choose the best approach for your dog.
If you have a busy lifestyle and have to be away from the home for long periods this can manifest in separation anxiety in some dogs. They may even get anxious as soon as you leave the house. Exercise can help relieve stress by producing beneficial endorphins so try and take your dog out for a long walk or play fetch in the back garden before leaving. You could leave them with a puzzle toy with treats in it which you take away when you get back home. Also leave the house calmly without too much chatter or petting so you don’t leave them in a hyper state. Also try this for the first few moments when you come home so they do not associate your coming and going with excitement.
It can be difficult to predict exactly what will make your dog anxious and even more difficult to determine if your dog’s anxiety will develop into a more serious disorder. If your dog develops a more serious anxiety disorder your vet may recommend medications to help support your dog in times of stress.
If your dog has ever experienced anxiety, what did you do to help calm them down? If you can share your stories in the comments below it can help dog owners reading this blog in the future.