Training For Anxious Dogs
Behavioral training is one of the best tools at your disposaland for seriously anxious dogs, nothing else will do. Other tools can help, but this ones a must when it comes to addressing and managing anxiety successfully.
Scolding an anxious dog can just make the problem worse, so use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage dogs to replicate desired behaviors. Your dogs calm depends on your ability to stay cool yourself.
What Breeds Are Prone To Anxiety
Dog anxiety is not unique to any particular breed, but there may be some breeds that are more prone to it. Any dog can develop anxiety, says Dr. Burch, who adds that dogs who are highly active, and/or working dogs that do not have a job may be particularly prone to developing anxiety. Examples of breeds that could fit into these categories include:
- German shepherd
Dogs of any breed can experience anxiety. As Bernal points out, A study conducted in Finland analyzing 264 breeds found that pet parents thought more than 70% displayed some form of anxiety. With anxiety being such a common issue for dogs, a multifaceted approach to treat it may be best.
Clinical Signs Of Dog Anxiety And Fear
The clinical signs will vary depending on the severity of the fear or anxiety that the dog is suffering from. Here are some of the most common clinical signs:
Mild fears: signs may include trembling, tail-tucking, hiding, reduced activity and passive escape behaviors
Panic: signs may include panting, pacing, active escape behavior and increased out-of-context, potentially injurious motor activity
Sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, including diarrhea
Lesions secondary to licking and biting their own body
Tail-chasing and circling
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House Soiling Learning And Memory
One of the more frustrating symptoms of cognitive decline for owners is house soiling. Dogs that are housebroken often start to have accidents without any medical cause, which creates a mess for you and anxiety for your dog. Symptoms include a decrease or loss of signaling to go out, decreased response to learned commands , and difficulty in getting your dogs attention.
A Calming Pheromone Collar To Help Relax A Dog On The Go
Adaptil Calming Adjustable Dog Collar, available at Chewy and , from $13.38
Like the diffuser, the Adaptil collar emits DAP. Unlike the diffuser, the collar is useful for dogs who get anxious outside the home. Sueda suggests using it for dogs that get anxious on walks or when they will be exposed to situations that may be overwhelming.
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Canine Anxiety: The Causes And Symptoms
Anxiety in dogs is a problem as old as time.
Just like their human counterparts, dogs can sometimes suffer the painful and even debilitating symptoms of anxiety but unlike humans, who can immediately turn to things like talk therapy and other helpful methods to help soothe their symptoms, dogs sometimes act out instead, often behaving in an odd and sometimes destructive manner as a way to cope with their symptomsways their human owner probably does not appreciate or encourage.
So what exactly is canine anxiety?
What causes it? And how do you spot it in your pet?
These are the questions we will address briefly in this section.
Physical Contact And Touch
Probably one of the simplest ways to calm your dog is to pet him when hes feeling anxious. Touching your dog in the right spots using a non-threatening approach can alleviate mild anxiety. The reason being is that petting your dog, considered a bonding moment, can release the hormone oxytocin, also known as the love hormone.Most dogs are comfortable being pet on the shoulder, chest, and base of the tail. Other areas like the muzzle, top of head, and belly may make some dogs feel uneasy. Keep in mind, if your dog is super stressed out, this could make it worse.
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Canine Anxiety: How To Calm A Nervous Dog
Your dog is in distress, and you dont know why. Theyre barking, pacing, or being destructive every time you leave the house or whenever you turn on the vacuum cleaner, but why? They seem physically healthy and their routine hasnt changed, so why all of a sudden are they beginning to act differently?
You notice that these strange behaviors are being brought on by specific triggers. If you can pinpoint the exact source of when your dog develops these odd actions, it could mean they are suffering from some form of anxiety.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer the same perils of anxiety, but unfortunately for them, they are unable to communicate their distress verbally. So how else are they supposed to signal to their guardians that they are feeling panicked?
You notice that they are acting in a strange manner, but the signs seem insignificant, and you dont raise much concern. But did you know that dogs who are looking for a way to reveal their internal conflict begin to develop behavioral issues or strange actions in order to signal to their owner that something is wrong?
Everyone has seen it. A dog enters into a barking frenzy as soon as their owner leaves the house, or maybe they decide to chew up the living room couch and wreak havoc on the home decor once they are finally alone. Your dog isnt maliciously trying to upset you or is not trained enough to know right from wrong, they a suffering from a more significant issue and need your help.
Symptoms Of Canine Anxiety
The symptoms of canine anxiety can be wide and varied.
They tend to depend on the trigger that is causing the stress or anxiety in the first place.
Dogs afraid of thunder, for example, may whimper and hide during a storm while dogs with separation anxiety may chew up your sofa and everything around it while you are away.
There are, however, certain symptoms that seem to crop up more than others when the family dog is anxious or nervous.
Some of these symptoms may appear very low-keyso subtle that you may not even pick up on themwhile others are much more explicit and out in the open.
Here are some symptoms that fit into each of these categories:
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Creating A Safe Environment
Another tip from Bernal involves creating a safe space for your pet such as a small room located far from the main entrance of a space and filling it with comforting items like a familiar toy and of course, plenty of food, water, and treats. This space will serve as a place to retreat when anxiety starts to take over, she explains. Offer your pet treats in this area or store his favorite toys here when theres no stressful activity happening to help build a positive association with the space.
You may also want to play some calming music for your pet. I have dogs respond well to classical music being played, especially when left at home alone, Dr. Burch says. Certain songs are scientifically proven to decrease anxiety in your dog and create a calming environment.
Help Them Face Their Fears
Lets say a dog has a fear of men. Canine behaviorists might use desensitization and counterconditioning, to help your dog overcome it. Desensitization means exposing the dog to the very thing they fear at lows levels initially but increasing them slowly over time until they become more accepting of it. Counter conditioning involves pairing the fearful situation at low levels with something a dog really digs, like his all-time favorite treats. The treats not only help in how to calm an anxious dog but could help them actually enjoy it. For example, if a dog is fearful of men, you could first expose them to a man standing at a distance where the dog is only slightly concerned and does not overreact , while you feed the dog delicious treats . When the dog no longer shows any concern, you slightly reduce the distance and repeat the exercise.
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Help Dogs Keep Calm And Feel Safe: Management Can Be A Crucial Tool
It may sound counter-intuitive to say that if your dogs are frightened of other dogs you shouldnt have any contact with them. How can you help your dogs to get over their fear if you never expose them to what triggers it, right?
We dont mean that you should ensure your dog avoids other dogs for the rest of their life. Not only would that be pretty difficult to manage, but it would mean some major, often impractical changes in lifestyle that are not necessarily good for you or your dog. We just mean that, until you have the tools to start working on modifying your dogs fear reaction, and whilst you are working on it, you want to control how and when your dog is exposed to these triggers. Perhaps walk a quieter route, or at a quieter time of the day.
If you do meet another dog on your walk, be proactive to calm your anxious dog. Perhaps cross over to the other side of the street, let the other person know your dog needs space or turn and walk in the opposite direction.
If you keep just taking them out, exposing them to lots of dogs and allowing them to react as they always have everytime they pass these dogs, not only is it more likely that a full-blown dog fight will occur, but it also means that you could be increasing your dogs anxiety and you are not helping them to feel safe.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety
A dog who has it shows a lot of stress when they are alone. They might:
- Howl, bark, or whine to excess
- Have indoor “accidents” even though they are housebroken
- Chew things up, dig holes, scratch at windows and doors
- Drool, pant, or salivate way more than usual
- Pace, often in an obsessive pattern
They likely won’t do any of these things to an extreme while youâre around. A normal dog might do some of these things once in a while, but one with separation anxiety will do them almost all the time.
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Seek Out A Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainer
In recent years, modern trainers have learned that an overwhelming majority of dogs who lunge at, bark at and fight with other dogs and humans arenât doing so because theyâre âdominantâ or because they want to be âpack leader.â Theyâre doing it because theyâre scared. A frightened dog, especially one who feels like they canât escape, will turn to aggression to âget him before he gets me.â Once we know that aggression is rooted in fear, we know to avoid trainers who ârehabilitateâ aggressive dogs by dominating them.
Hurting a dog with anxiety doesnât stop them from being scared, it just makes them shut down. Change the emotion, on the other hand, and youâll change the behavior. A dog who isnât scared of other dogs has no need to bark or fight. Find a good dog trainer, ideally one who follows positive reinforcement principles and is certified by CCPDT, and you can work wonders together.
A Remote Training Machine To Help Build A Dog’s Resilience
Petsafe Treat and Train Remote Dog Trainer, available at Chewy and , $141.33
This battery-operated training toy can be used to teach a dog all sorts of skills without relying on humans to make good things happen. “I’m a big fan of all the toys that are of the Manners Minder type,” says DeMartini-Price. “Sometimes I think it’s really valuable for the dog’s learning to go away from us to receive reinforcement.” Sueda agrees, adding that it can help dogs learn how to cope.
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Try Activities That Involve Your Dog’s Sense Of Smell
A dogs nose is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than a humans nose. This is because dogs have significantly more scent receptors than humans. Exercising this portion of your dogs brain gives them plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
Try hiding pieces of kibble around the house, and encourage your dog to sniff and find them. This activity engages both mind and body.
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Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Dogs Anxiety
Once you learn how to detect when your dog is anxious, you can begin to identify the triggers that are causing the anxiety. Write down the signs that you see and describe the situations and circumstances when your dog showed these signs. Then schedule an appointment with your vet so they can rule out underlying medical issues,and help you get the right treatment for your dog.
Anytime a behavior change is noted in a pet, medical problems in other areas of the body could be at play. Your veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests to confirm that your pet is otherwise healthy.
In all cases, its best to seek the help of your veterinarian to make sure you are doing everything you can for your dog. When no other cause is found, your veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication if needed, and/or recommend a veterinary behaviorist.
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A White Noise Machine To Block Out Sounds That May Scare Your Dog
LectroFan White Noise Machine, available at Walmart and , $49.95
For dogs who are sound sensitive, DeMartini-Price recommends white noise. Unlike music, radio, or television, white noise machines “can create sort of a blanket of noise protection because is not so variable,” she says. A dog who is unable to hear distracting or frightening noises is more likely to relax.
What Is Anxiety In Dogs
Anxiety in dogs is the anticipation of imagined or unknown potential dangers. This can trigger many bodily reactions that are typically related to fear, such as shaking, pacing, barking, and excessive drooling and panting.
The most common causes of anxiety in dogs are:
- Fear-related anxiety: This can be caused by strangers, loud noises, new environments, or specific scenarios, such as a trip to the vets or a car ride.
- Age-related anxiety: Senior dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome can experience a decline in their perception, memory, and awareness, which can lead to anxiety and confusion.
- Separation anxiety: Between 14-20% of dogs have separation anxiety, which is triggered when they are left alone or separated from their owners. Separation anxiety can cause a dog to constantly bark, destroy furniture, or go to the bathroom in the home.
Symptoms of dog anxiety may include:
- Trembling or shaking
- Going to the bathroom in inappropriate places
Dr. Rachel Barrack, a licensed veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist at Animal Acupuncture, warns us to not ignore unusual behavior occurring in your dog. Anxiety can be mentally and physically taxing on your dog and can result in injury to your pet, yourself, and even another dog or person, she says. If your dog is displaying these behaviors, speak with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Check out the below tips from experts on how to calm your anxious dog.
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Living And Management Of Fear And Anxiety In Dogs
If your dog is on medications, your veterinarian will want to conduct occasional blood testing to make sure your dogs body can process and eliminate the medications appropriately.
If behavior modification does not work over the long-term, your veterinarian may want to modify the approach. If left untreated, these disorders are likely to progress.
You will need to help your dog with behavior modification exercises and teach your dog to relax in a variety of environmental settings. Encourage calmness when your dog appears distressed. Distract him and redirect his attention, following the plan your vet has set for you.
Fearful or anxious dogs may need to live in a protected environment with as few social stressors as possible. They do not do well in dog shows, dog parks or large crowds.
And remember that not all dogs are calmer when crated some dogs panic when caged and will injure themselves if forced to be confined. Absolutely avoid punishment for behavior related to fear, phobia or anxiety.
Contact your veterinarian for a referral to get professional help with your dogs behavior modification.
Think About The Equipment You Might Need To Help You With Your Management
Whilst you are working on a training programme and you are managing your dogs environment to help minimise their stress levels, there may be certain tools that might help you.
Some dogs respond well to Thundershirts or other anxiety wraps. These work by creating a firm and constant body pressure and this can often make your dog feel calmer. If you want to know more about the principles behind this premise we recommend reading about the Tellington T Touch principles. Thundershirts are expensive but if your dog has severe anxiety and they respond to this kind of product it can be very worthwhile.
Some people try fashioning a homemade version to try to work out if the real deal would be worth investing in. You could try wrapping bandages around the core part of the dogs body, some pressure needs to be applied but not so much that it will affect circulation.
We would always recommend putting the Thundershirt on at random times and not just when you are exposing them to the trigger that causes a fearful reaction. Not doing so could inadvertently teach your dog to associate the Thundershirt with the thing they are scared of.
Massage, holistic remedies or supplements may also be an option for helping to reduce your dogs anxiety levels enough to make your behaviour modification sessions more successful. If you are planning to go down this route we would suggest seeking the advice of a qualified Holistic Vet.
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