When we think about our dogs, images of playful roughhousing, catching their favourite ball and excited walks come to mind. However, beneath the surface of those cheerful dispositions may lie an undercurrent of anxiety, often going unnoticed until it manifests into observable behaviours.
Understanding the complexities of anxiety in dogs and guiding them gently through their stressors helps not only their mental well-being but also enhances the bond shared between you and your furry friend, creating mutual understanding and empathy. Below, we’ll share insights and helpful tips on managing dog anxiety behaviours.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
Every dog expresses anxiety differently, and to treat dog anxiety we must identify these signs to ensure they’re living comfortably. Anxious dog behaviour is more than just occasional whining. Excessive barking, especially when it seems out of context, can be a clear indicator. Trembling when it’s not cold or aggressive behaviour are also signs that should raise your concern. Excessive panting without an apparent cause like exercise or heat, might also hint towards dog anxiety.
Compulsive behaviours, such as constant tail chasing or over-grooming to the point of causing sores are more dog anxiety symptoms. By understanding these signs, we can take the first step in addressing your dog’s anxiety and enhancing their quality of life.
Identifying Separation Anxiety
A dog’s separation anxiety goes beyond just missing their human companions—it’s a profound distress leading to disruptive behaviours. They might become excessively vocal, barking or howling relentlessly once you’re out of sight.
Are you discovering destroyed furniture, torn curtains, or other signs of havoc when you return home? These are common symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs. Some dogs even attempt to escape, leading to scratched doors or windows, while other dogs may stop eating as much. To truly understand your dog’s behaviour during your absence, consider setting up a pet monitoring system or a simple camera. This way, you can observe and address any symptoms head-on.
Calming Strategies for Anxious Dogs
Treating dog anxiety or separation anxiety doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Numerous calming techniques can help soothe their nerves and calm them down. Music therapy, where soft, calming tunes are played, can significantly reduce stress levels in pets. Aromatherapy, using certain dog-friendly essential oils, can create a serene environment, too.
While not all dogs will enjoy a cuddle, the simple act of hugging and patting your dog with a belly rub should not be overlooked as the power of touch provides reassurance and can ease muscle tension. You can look at incorporating interactive toys or puzzle feeders as a way to distract and engage their minds, reducing feelings of stress to treat anxiety. If your dog has separation anxiety, you could also look into pet sitters or doggy daycare as a way to keep them company while you’re out of the house.
How to Help an Anxious Dog on Walks
The great outdoors can be overwhelming for an anxious dog. But with positive training methods, walks can be made enjoyable and can help your dog cope. Begin with desensitisation: start by exposing them to the stimuli they’re afraid of in small, controlled doses, gradually increasing exposure as they become more comfortable.
Another way to train them out of their anxious dog behaviour is by counter-conditioning. This method involves replacing their fearful response with a positive one so every time they encounter a ‘scary’ stimulus, reward them with treats or praise.
When you’re walking your anxious dog, using a harness instead of a collar provides better control and is less stressful for them. Lastly, always choose quieter routes or off-peak hours for walks and avoiding dog parks are other great ways of reducing your dog’s triggers.
Professional Help for Anxious Dogs
When home remedies don’t suffice, it’s time to call in the experts. A veterinarian can conduct thorough checks to ensure the anxiety isn’t stemming from an underlying medical issue or help if they are struggling with separation anxiety. If the anxiety is behavioural, a certified dog behaviourist can offer deeper insights into your dog’s behaviour, suggesting tailored interventions to treat their symptoms. These professionals have the training to decode a dog’s body language and triggers, developing effective strategies for managing and reducing your dog’s anxiety.
Medication for Dog Anxiety
In extreme cases, where your dog’s anxiety is hindering their quality of life and other interventions have failed, medication might be the next step. Veterinarians can prescribe specific drugs that help regulate a dog’s mood, making them feel more at ease. These medications aren’t a cure but a tool to help dogs cope better. Keep in mind that it’s important to use medication alongside behavioural interventions for maximum effectiveness.
If you feel like your dog’s anxiety is negatively impacting their quality of life, then consider booking in a consultation with your vet to discuss options.
Finding the Path to a Happier Pup
By understanding, recognising, and addressing your pet’s anxieties, you can ensure they lead lives filled with more tail wags and fewer worries.
Your journey with your pup is one that can be filled with joy, affection, laughter and plenty of wonderful memories. But sometimes there will be challenges for you to face together. This is where pet insurance can help to give you peace of mind, ensuring you’re prepared to always provide the best possible support for your pet, no matter what. Because when it comes to your dog’s well-being, their happiness is your happiness.
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