Just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, dog anxiety is one of the most common behavioural problems in canines. But what exactly is dog anxiety? Read on to find out.
What is Dog Anxiety?
Dog anxiety is a condition that manifests itself in various ways, including panting, pacing, trembling, and barking. It can be caused by many different things, including Separation from their guardians, changes in routine (such as moving to a new home), and exposure to loud noises (like fireworks) and thunder.
How to tell if Your Dog has Anxiety
There are several tell-tale signs that your dog may have anxiety. If your dog is experiencing any of the following behaviours on a regular basis, it may be time to talk to your veterinarian or dog behaviour professional about the possibility of anxiety:
- Panting excessively or drooling more than usual
- Pacing back and forth or appearing restless
- Trembling or shaking
- Chewing on furniture or other objects
- Trying to escape from their crate or yard
- Barking/howling/whining more than usual
- Eliminating inside the house even though they are toilet trained
- Licking their paws obsessively
Types of Dog Anxiety
There are three main types of dog anxiety: separation anxiety, noise anxiety, and social anxiety.
Separation anxiety is the most common type of dog anxiety. It occurs when your dog is separated from you, their favourite person. This could be due to going to work, running errands, or even going to the bathroom. Some of the many symptoms of separation anxiety include destructive behaviours, barking, howling, pacing, and excessive sniffing.
Noise anxiety is exactly what it sounds like - anxiety caused by loud noises. This could be anything from the sound of fireworks to construction work outside your home. Dogs with noise anxiety often try to hide or escape when they hear loud noises. They may also pace, pant, shake, or salivate excessively.
Social anxiety is less common but can be just as debilitating for your dog. Social anxiety occurs when your dog is around other people or animals - essentially anything that isn't you. Symptoms include defensive aggression, hiding, shaking, and pacing.
What Can I Do to Help My Anxious Dog?
There are a number of things you can do to help calm an anxious dog. If your dog has separation anxiety, try leaving them with a favourite toy or treat-dispensing puzzle to keep their mind occupied while you're gone. For dogs with noise phobias, desensitisation therapy - where your dog is slowly exposed to the sound they're afraid of - can help them get used to it and eventually overcome their fear. You can also try giving your dog anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your veterinarian if their anxiety is severe.
4 Top Tips to Keep Your Pup Calm
Dogs are man's best friend for a reason. They provide us with companionship, love, and support when we need it the most. But just like humans, dogs can suffer from anxiety. And just like humans, there are many different ways to treat dog anxiety. Here are 5 tips to keep your pup calm:
Avoid punishment. Yelling at, or hitting your dog will only make their anxiety worse. Dogs are very sensitive creatures and they can sense when their owners are angry or upset. Instead of punishing your dog, try positive reinforcement instead. Give them treats or pet them when they do something good so that they know they are loved and appreciated.
Regularly rewarding calm and relaxed behaviour – especially when your dog is naturally in this state – sends a very potent message to your dog that this is the type of behaviour that is both desired and will lead to very satisfying rewards. In other words, your dog learns that it’s to his or her advantage to continue to display this type of calm, anxiety free behaviour.
Create a safe space. Just like humans, dogs need a place where they feel safe and secure. This could be their crate or bed that they sleep in or even just a spot on the couch where they can curl up and relax. Make sure that their safe space is in a quiet area of the house where they won't be disturbed or triggered by loud noises or commotion.
Get them on a regular schedule. Dogs are creatures of habit and they thrive on routine. Having a regular feeding and toilet schedule will help to ease their anxiety because they will know what to expect and when to expect it. Stick to the same walk or play time every day so that they can get some exercise and release some of their pent-up energy.
Talk to your veterinarian. If you feel like you've tried everything and nothing is working, then it may be time to speak with your veterinarian about more serious options such as medication or behaviour modification training. They will be able to assess your dog's individual situation and make recommendations accordingly.
Treating Dog Anxiety
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from anxiety. If you think your pup may be anxious, look out for certain behaviours, like excessive panting or chewing on furniture. If you think your dog might be suffering from anxiety, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your vet in order to ensure there are no underlying health conditions.
The good news is that if your dog is diagnosed with anxiety, there are a number of treatment options available. The most common approach is behaviour modification through training. This involves working with a professional trainer to help your dog learn how to cope with their anxiousness.
Active Creatures works with many dogs who experience dog anxiety. To find out how we can help, please refer to our package options to see how we can best assist.