Is your four-legged friend a bit on the anxious side? Anxiety in dogs is common but manifests itself in different ways. Some dogs shake uncontrollably, some bark and whine, and some dogs can become violent. The first step in treating an anxious dog is identifying the issue. The following will help you determine the cause and work with your dog to relieve their anxiety.
Dog Anxiety Triggers
There are often specific events that trigger a dog’s anxiety. Dogs can be fearful of strangers, loud noises, other animals or children. They can also experience serious separation anxiety whenever they are left alone. Around 14 percent of dogs experience separation anxiety and, unfortunately, it usually isn’t an option to be next to them 24/7. Observe your dog carefully to see what triggers their anxiety and make note of it. Once you’ve pinpointed the source, you can start working on prevention and treatment.
Exercising Your Anxious Dog
Just like in humans, exercise is very beneficial in calming an anxious dog. Exercise releases chemicals that make dogs happier in both the short and long term. It can tire out your dog and make them less concerned with your absence. Try exercising with your pup before you need to leave them at the house. This can help increase the benefits of exercise.
Exercise also gives you and your dog important 1-on-1 time. Spending quality time with your dog makes them more content and relaxed. An owner’s touch alone is very soothing and a great tool in combating dog anxiety. At the earliest signs of anxiety, start petting and cuddling up with your dog and giving them some love. Keep in mind that humans aren’t the only animals who like a back massage. Give your dog a gentle back massage – it can nip that anxiety in the bud.
It’s no secret that dogs have incredible hearing. This means that they can hear all sorts of scary noises coming from outside the house. If your dog has auditory anxiety triggers, music therapy can help them tremendously. Not only can music soothe and relax, but it dampens the sounds that scare your pup. Funny enough, dogs seem to prefer classical music, so make sure to curate them a playlist they will enjoy!
Somewhat surprisingly, setting your dog up in an isolated and dark place to hide can help reduce anxiety. Most people associate crating dogs with punishment negative behavior, but placing an anxious dog in a sound proof, low light crate or small room can actually help them calm down. It’s best not to lock them in, but instead give them the option of a safe space when you first notice signs of anxiety.
Calming Dog Coats
Calming coats are another common treatment for dog anxiety. They wrap up your dog and apply slight pressure that is comforting to them. These are helpful for dogs that are triggered by things like thunderstorms. At the first sign of a storm, wrapping your buddy up in a calming coat can be a great way to help keep them relaxed.
Counterconditioning Your Anxious Dog
The previous strategies are things that any dog owner can do. Behavior modification and counterconditioning is best left to a professional dog trainer. Counter conditioning refers to taking negative triggers for your dog and associating them with positive feelings. For dogs with separation anxiety, this can be as simple as rewarding your dog with a long-lasting bone with a tasty filling. They will be distracted for the first 20 minutes or so after your departure and they will start associating you leaving with a delicious treat.
More severe anxiety requires intensive counterconditioning where the dog is slowly introduced to their trigger and are either rewarded or distracted. This has been shown to dull the intensity of your dog’s fears and make their anxiety more manageable. This process is not easy, especially for the inexperienced.
Fortunately, services like Beau’s K9 Academy are there to help calm your anxious dog. We have the knowledge and experience to modify even the most extreme behaviors. Contact us today – a brighter future awaits for your anxious dog.