The fact that dogs find it difficult to tell us when anything is wrong is one of the challenging aspects of our relationships with them.
Therefore, in order to assist our friends in coping with problems like anxiety, we need to be aware of the symptoms.
If you suspect your dog is experiencing anxiety, there are therapies that might help both them and you feel less worried. In order to recognize and treat dog anxiety, we talked to veterinarian Sandra Nguyen and animal behaviorist Kate Mornement.
The most typical type of anxiety is separation anxiety, which occurs when your dog doesn’t like to be apart from you.
Dogs frequently equate human presence with everything they cherish in life, including company, play, food, and walks, according to Dr. Mornement.
They most likely don’t have any of that excellent stuff when they are left alone.
Separation anxiety can set in if they haven’t mastered the art of enjoying their own company.
According to Dr. Mornement, the greatest time for dogs to learn how to deal with being apart from their humans is when they are young.
Aversion to loud noises
Thunderstorms and pyrotechnics are two examples of things that can make dogs anxious.
Dogs naturally identify the [lower level] noise of wind or rain with those events because they are loud and frightening, according to Dr. Mornement.
Dogs frequently experience anxiety as a result, even if they suspect a storm is approaching.
Changes in environment and resource guarding
According to Dr. Nguyen, less frequent types of anxiety can be brought on by environment changes like traveling to the vet, driving in the car, or moving houses.
Any abrupt change to one’s routine might cause anxiety, according to Dr. Mornement. “Even things like changes in work hours, the owners traveling,” are examples of such things.
If a dog is worried about a valuable object being taken away, resource guarding—aggressive behaviors intended to scare other dogs or people away—can also be a problem.
Signs of anxiety in dogs
It’s important not to dismiss behaviors that we sometimes consider normal, warns Dr Nguyen.
For example, “not eating can be a sign that we would potentially put down to [an] upset stomach, but it could be anxiety”, she says.
- Common signs of anxiety in dogs include:
- Barking or howling when owner isn’t home
- Panting and pacing (even when it’s not hot)
- Running away and/or cowering in the corner of a house
- Escaping the yard
- Destroying furniture
- Self-harm, including excessive licking or chewing
- Not eating
- Urinating more frequently
- A general inability to settle.
Options for managing canine anxiety
The more effectively you can address your dog’s anxiety, the earlier you’ll notice it.
According to Dr. Mornement, “much like any behavior that is repeatedly engaged in over an extended period of time, it gets increasingly hard-wired in the brain.”
There are numerous options available to you.
Dr. Mornement advises working to transform your dog’s negative associations with being alone into positive ones by providing it with something it enjoys.
Dr. Nguyen recommends food-puzzle toys to keep the dog busy while you are away.
Furthermore, you can progressively extend the amount of time you leave the animal alone, “but only if it’s managing at the prior level,” according to Dr. Mornement.
Changing the negative association to positive applies similarly to noise.
Dr. Mornement advises “pair[ing] the scary thing with something the animal likes.”
Dr. Nguyen advises breaking the process down if your dog is anxious about automobile rides.
When it comes to how rapidly you can advance through each stage, she advises, “Get them near the car, then reward them, the next day get them in the car, and treat them, then the next day drive them about and praise them.” Each dog will have different demands, she adds.
Dr. Mornement advises giving the dog medication to “take the edge off” in more severe cases of anxiety.
I work with animals, and sometimes their anxiety is so extreme that it prevents them from learning, thus they need medication.
Planning ahead, safe space and exercise
Dr. Nguyen adds that preparing for your dog’s anxiety is essential to controlling it.
Doggy day care, if you can afford it, is a fantastic choice for animals who struggle with separation anxiety, as can boarding your dog with friends or relatives when you must go.
She gives the example that if we invite friends of mine to dinner, they will hire a dog sitter.