Dog anxiety can become a serious problem. It’s best to try to prevent it from developing in puppies or reverse it at the first signs of it beginning. That is not always possible when adopting, rescuing, or when something happens that triggers anxious behavior.
Anxiety can be very disruptive to a dog’s life, dangerous to their health, can cause destructive behaviors, and rob them of the doggy joys that well balanced dogs naturally enjoy.
Anxiety in dogs is common. In fact, according to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 28% of canines suffer from some form of anxiety. The most common triggers of dog anxiety include:
• Noise, fireworks, gunfire
Less common triggers of anxiety include:
• Meeting new pets and people
• Going to new places
• Experiencing an unpleasant place
• Noise sensitivity, sirens, vacuums, leaf blowers, trains, etc
Anxiety is chronic, meaning the dog suffers from it all the time. A onetime, fearful event that passes is not anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety include:
• Refuses eye contact
• Desire to escape from the situation
• Sticks close to the owner
• Low tail, tail between the legs
• Walks low
• Freezes, doesn’t explore new environment
• Barks, growls
• Over-grooming, self injuries licking
• Salivating, drooling
• Urinates, defecates
• Destroys things
How to Prevent Anxiety
When raising dogs, it’s important to socialize and train them to try to prevent anxiety. Avoiding the behavior from happening is much easier than curing a problem. Some of these things you can do to help include
• Making sure a puppy is never taken from its mother before 60 days
• Providing a safe, nurturing environment
• Building trust between you and your puppy
• Feeding a nutritious diet
• Providing exercise
• Establishing a routine
• Exposing the puppy to sights and sounds from a young age
• Not expecting more from a puppy than they are able to give
Help for Anxiety
If a dog suffers from severe anxiety, you may need professional help from a behaviorist, trainer, or vet. Make a video of your dog so they can see the nature of the problem. Some things you can do to help an anxious dog include:
1. If appropriate, consider getting a second dog so that your anxious pup always has company.
2. Creating a safe space for your pup to go to. All dogs should have a place of retreat where they can spend time resting or chilling out.
3. Diffusing dog pheromones using an eclectic diffuser can reduce anxiety. Pheromones are not the same as essential oils. Some popular options are Adaptil Calm, Sentry, Pet Remedy, and ThunderEase.
4. CBD oil has been proven to help reduce anxiety and calm anxious behavior in some dogs. Look for a THC free, high quality, tested, water soluble, hemp oil in capsules, treats, or oil. Find a company that batch tests and guarantees their oils for purity, such as Super Snouts.
5. Healthy food that nourishes the body is always beneficial.
6. Supplements can help improve overall health and wellbeing. Probiotics, digestive enzymes, and omega 3’s are beneficial to most dogs.
7. According to Veterinary Practice News, L-theanine (an amino acid found naturally in green tea and mushroom) can help dogs deal with separation anxiety and environmental stressors.
8. Colostrum, a calming milk supplement that can reduce anxious behavior.
9. Remove the dog from what is triggering the anxiety, if possible. Then start “systematic desensitization.” How this works is you expose the dog very mild versions of what they fear from a distance to help them overcome their fears. Then gradually increase the exposure, in such small increments that their fear threshold is never triggered.
10. Counter-conditioning is another way to desensitize a dog. In other words, try to change the way your pet views what they fear. For example, if your dog is scared of the vet, bring super treats and stop by the parking lot without an actual appointment so they eventually look forward to going. Work your way to the door, the lobby, and eventually to the next appointment.
11. Just like people, some dogs are truly suffering and need medication.
12. It doesn’t help to punish a dog for anxious behavior, so don’t do it. It will create more anxiety, stress, and fear. The emotion the dog is suffering from is not caused by “bad” behavior that can be corrected out of it. If you’re frustrated, it’s better to walk away until you are calm again.
Finally, dogs take their cues from their surroundings and people so try to be calm and in control of your anxious dog, get help if you need it. Punishments and harsh corrections will just create more fear and aggression and increase the cycle of anxiety.
If possible, remove the dog from the situation and create a fun distraction, such as treats and toys. Try to redirect their attention to something positive, which will also improve your bond and trust level with your dog.
Don’t set your dog up to fail by forcing unrealistic behaviors or expecting more from your dog that it can give. Dogs need age appropriate training, attention, exercise, food, fun, toys, clear guidance, boundaries, etc. Giving them this from a young age will help you raise an anxiety free dog.