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Man’s best friend is just like his master in so many ways. If you have ever experienced anxiety, you know that it can be overwhelming, and sometimes even debilitating. It is not unusual for pets to also experience anxiety, just like humans. They also experience different manifestations and degrees of the emotion.
Having a pet that has severe anxiety is difficult for any pet parent. There is nothing you wouldn’t do to calm your pooch and to have him back to his usual self.
Fortunately, nowadays, finding an effective treatment or a solution is not that difficult. However, we must first explore and understand anxiety to address it correctly and effectively.
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?
There are several causes of dog anxiety, but the most common are the following:
Age-related anxiety affects dogs with advanced age and is often associated with CDS or cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Dogs who suffer from CDS also experience a decline in perception, memory, learning, and awareness. CDS is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.
Separation anxiety is said to affect almost 14% of dogs. Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety cannot find comfort when they are left by themselves or when they are away from their human family. Separation anxiety often results in destructive and undesirable behaviors such as defecating and urinating in the house, excessive barking, and destroying furniture.
Fear-related anxiety is often caused by strange people or animals, loud noises and an unfamiliar environment such as going to the vet’s office or riding a car for the first time. Although these may seem of little to no importance to us humans, these situations create a lot of anxiety in dogs.
Symptoms of Anxiety
There are several symptoms to look out for to be able to tell if your dog is suffering from anxiety and they are:
Compulsive or repetitive behaviors
Urinating in the house
Defecating in the house
The most dangerous of all symptoms is aggression because it can be indirectly or directly targeted, depending on the situation. Aggression is direct when dogs are aggressive and threatening other dogs. On the other hand, aggression is indirect when dog acts aggressively towards a person that comes between the dog and the source of his aggression.
The most common symptom of anxiety is defecating and urinating in the house. Anxious dogs work themselves up to a point that even though they are housebroken, they will poop or pee inside the home. This can be frustrating for pet parents because nobody wants to come home to a house that smells bad after a long day at work.
Another common symptom is destructive behavior. Not only do dogs end up destroying property inside the home, they also risk harming themselves in the process. If they attempt to break out of the home through windows and doors, they can easily get injured.
How to Help Your Dog’s Anxiety
Dogs are different from one another and may also show anxiety in different levels but there are calming technique you can master to help your dog’s anxiety. Depending on what causes anxiety, you may be able to recognize the stressor and just simply remove it from your dog’s environment. However, there may be cases when you have to seek the help of a professional to determine the root cause and assist in reliving it.
Anxiety creates uncontrollable energy. Just as with humans, it is advisable for pet parents to ensure that their four-legged friends have sufficient exercise to alleviate anxiety. Regular exercise is crucial for a dog’s mental and physical well-being. A dog that is stimulated is also less likely to pick up destructive behaviors.
2. Aromatherapy and essential oils
There are sprays and balms in the market today that are especially formulated for pets which have calming properties. Most of these formulas are easy to use, just rub them in between your hands and pat your palms on your dog’s back. Follow the instructions on the label and you won’t go wrong.
3. Time out
There are some doggos that just can’t calm down no matter how you try to praise or reward them. In such a case, a quiet space devoid of any stimulation can help them turn off all input and unwind.
4. Change going away signals
Break your dog’s association with any action that is related to your departure so that it won’t trigger separation anxiety. Distract your dog with a toy or a treat when you leave. There are several calming treats in the market today which is a short-term remedy for anxiety. Giving your dog treats when you leave will teach them that being alone can be a good thing.
5. Downplay departures
Pet parents must refrain from being emotional when leaving and too excited when coming back after being gone. Paying too much attention on departures and returns will only reinforce your doggo’s fear of absence. Be calm when you say goodbye and when you come back, do not get too affectionate even if you missed your dog terribly.
6. Train your dog to be alone
Training your beloved pooch to be alone when you are in the house will help reduce and even prevent anxiety when he is left by himself. Tell your pooch to stay in a room by himself while you head to a different part of the house. Start with small intervals of 5-10 seconds and then work up to 20-30 minutes in a week.
7. Leave comfort items for your dog
Dogs have a powerful sense of smell and items that remind them of you, such as your dirty laundry can help them relax and helps them remember that you will be back, so have them handy. Remove items that cause stress such as chains, collars and chokers, if your dog has a particular aversion to them. Hide treats around the house so being alone becomes adventure time for them because they get to hunt while you are away.
8. Don’t leave your dog alone for too long
Although your doggo can be trained to be alone for a few hours, you cannot be away for more than 6 to 8 hours. Structure your errands so you will only be away for shorts period of time and if need be, ask a friend or a relative to come over or leave your four-legged friend with a pet sitter.
9. Give your dog his personal space
Get your pooch a separate dog bed instead of sleeping with him. Make sure his space is also a place where you can give him calming treats and pet him. This will teach your dog that he has his own space and that it is something he should enjoy. With his independence, he will be less anxious when you are away.
Medicines are often the last resort when it comes to dealing with anxiety in dogs. Make sure that you consult a veterinarian before you give your dog any medicine.
11. Preventing Dog Anxiety
Even if you have already taken care or have many dogs at home, it is just impossible to predict if your beloved pooch will develop anxiety of not. However, there are ways to help your dog avoid anxiety problems. After all an ounce of prevention is still better than a pound of cure.
Proper socialization of dogs can prevent anxiety. Introduce your dog to new pets, people, and experiences to avoid exaggerated responses down the road. By doing so, you will develop well-adjusted canines and who doesn’t want that?
13. Obedience training
Another essential tool that helps in preventing and managing anxiety is obedience training. It helps establish the foundation of trust between a dog and his pet parent. A dog that is well-trained is easier to socialize and manage compared to a dog that isn’t.
14. Situation avoidance
If the veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with anxiety, you can prevent situations which trigger anxiety. For example, if your dog gets anxious when in the company of large dogs, you should avoid going to dog parks. Avoidance means reducing stress on your dog, so you, in turn, won’t be stressed too.
Prevent dog anxiety from taking control of your life and your dog’s life. With the right strategy, you will be able to overcome your pooch’s anxiety and prevent destructive and dangerous situations from happening. If you have everything on your part to calm your dog but are still not getting results, consult a veterinarian immediately for a treatment plan that best fits your doggo.