What you might not know is that some dogs can suffer from anxiety.
Dog anxiety affects all breeds of dogs and can lead to serious behavioral problems if left untreated.
Luckily there are steps owners can take to help their dogs live with anxiety.
What Causes Dog anxiety?
Dog anxiety can have several causes. The Most common are:
Fear related anxiety can be caused by:
- Loud noises
- Strange people/animals
- Visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas
- New or strange environments
- Specific situations like the vets or car rides
- Surfaces like grass or wood floors
Dogs with Separation Anxiety are unable to find comfort when they are left alone or separated from their family members. This kind of anxiety often manifests itself in troublesome behaviors. Behaviors such as urinating and defecating in the house, destroying furniture and furnishings and non stop barking can be indicators of separation anxiety.
Aged-related Anxiety affects older dogs and can be associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). For dogs with CDS, memory learning, perception and awareness start to decline. This leads to anxiety in senior dogs.
Symptoms of Anxiety
There are several important symptoms to look for:
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
Aggression. The most dangerous symptom of dog anxiety is aggression. It can be targeted directly or indirectly. Direct aggression occurs when a dog acts aggressively towards people or other animals.
Indirect aggression can be equally dangerous. It often happens when a person comes between the dog and the source of the dog’s aggression like another dog. If it comes to the extent of growling or barking it can lead to dangerous situations for humans and dogs.
Urinating and defecating. Anxious dogs often work themselves up to the point that they pee or poop in the house, even if they are housebroken. This can cause damage to property and unpleasant cleanup.
Destructive behavior. It’s also common with separation anxiety. It usually happens about entry and exit points and attempts to break out of their crates, or windows. But dogs in a state of heightened anxiety are also at risk of harming themselves.
Treating Dog Anxiety
The best way to treat anxiety is to first talk with your veterinarian.
Your vet will help you come up with a treatment plan. The best way to treat anxiety is usually through a combination of training, preventative strategies and in some cases, medications.
Training and Counter-conditioning
One way to treat anxiety is counter-conditioning. The purpose of this is to change your dog’s response to the stimuli responsible for anxiety. You can do this by replacing the anxious or aggressive behavior with a more desirable behavior, like sitting or focusing on the owner. Another training strategy is desensitization. You can slowly introduce the dog to the source of anxiety. Preferably in small doses and at a decreased intensity as rewarding your dog with positive behavior can go a long way.
Preventing Dog Anxiety
One of the best things you can do is learn to read your dog’s body language. Knowing when it’s comfortable or scared can help you avoid negative experiences or use them as a positive training moment.
Proper socialization can prevent the development of anxiety. Introducing your dog to new people, dogs, animals, places and experiences can help can avoid an exaggerated response down the road.
Obedience training is an essential tool for preventing and managing anxiety. It lays the foundation of a healthy relationship and establishes trust. Obedience classes are a great place for dogs to meet other dogs in a controlled environment.
Exercise and Nutrition
Regular exercise and stimulation are crucial for a dog’s development, physical, and mental well-being. A good nutrition is equally important for your dog’s health. Making sure you take care of your dogs physical and mental needs can help you prevent any behavior problems that don’t stem from anxiety.
If your dog has been diagnosed with anxiety, you can also try to avoid or prevent situations that trigger your dog’s anxiety. Avoidance does not mean you need to put your life on hold, but it can reduce some of the stress on you and your dog.
Don’t let your dog’s anxiety take control of your life. With the right treatment strategy, you can help your dog overcome his anxiety and prevent dangerous and destructive situations from happening in the first place. If you think your dog might have anxiety, talk to your veterinarian today about a treatment plan that best fits your dog and your lifestyle