By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 05/05/2022, edited: 05/05/2022
Does your dog suffer from anxiety? Are they constantly in a state of fear? While some dogs can show anxious reactions to certain stressors, such as new people or dogs, changes in their environment or routine, being alone, or loud noises, there are other dogs who seem to be on edge all the time.
Just like people, dogs can suffer from anxiety triggered by something in particular, or generalized anxiety, and it's not always clear why. From scary shelter situations to past traumas to just a timid nature, there are many things that could have created those emotions in your pup. Anxious and fearful feelings can lead to negative behaviors such as crankiness, withdrawal, or uncontrollable whining, crying, or barking. Whether they aren't sure why they are anxious or they are afraid of certain things, dogs rely on their pet parents to keep them safe and protected.
This year for Dog Anxiety Awareness Week, we’ve compiled these 5 tips to help you reduce your fur baby’s anxiety and let them get back to the fun of being a dog! Let the chillaxing begin!
Our dogs can't tell us about their feelings in words, so being able to recognize tense or anxious body language is important. Understanding your doggo's body language can help you notice what's going on, identify if there is a stressor triggering them, and apply the most effective remedy, such as avoiding certain stimuli or doing some training. However, some dogs with generalized anxiety may act out without the presence of a stressor with behavior that may seem bizarre.
While every fur baby is different, most anxious pups will exhibit a few common signs such as:
Recognizing that these signs may indicate your dog is feeling anxious can be a signal to take action to reduce, prevent or manage your fur baby's anxiety. For anxiety that seems to be triggered by an object, person or animal, or noise, you can help your dog by:
If your dog seems to be anxious all the time, however, the next tips can help reduce or prevent that anxiety before they get into a stressful situation.
A lot has been written on the scientific basis for exercise’s role in beating stress in people by releasing chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin, all which effectively lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The same science works for our pooches. Physical activity also creates satisfying fatigue which likely gave rise to the adage, "A tired dog is a happy dog." Dogs don’t view exercise as work – it’s all play to them, and they’ll willingly engage with you unless they’re ill or in pain. By taking advantage of this canine perspective, pet parents can provide their doggos with an outlet that can go far in relieving their anxiety.
Exercise with your pup could include:
The pawsitive effects of exercise on humans can indirectly help their pupsters as well. Dogs are very sensitive to their parents’ moods, and may become anxious as a result of sensing it in us. Working up a sweat, meditation, or yoga may damp down some of the stress, and signal to our pooches that they can relax, too.
Confidence is essentially the opposite of fear, and the more confident a dog is, the better prepared they'll be to face new or scary situations. Like with exercise, training is mostly viewed by our fur babies as a fun activity full of tasty rewards and praise. If conducted in a positive, enthusiastic environment, training can help to build up your dog's confidence using simple techniques employed in many kinds of training exercises. Plus, the more time you spend training your dog, the deeper the bond you create between you while helping your dog learn to focus on you rather than the object of their fear.
Training that can help build confidence and replace the fear instinct that can lead to anxiety include:
Building confidence is also as easy as playing games! That's right, your dog can increase their confidence with some fun games that give them a sense of accomplishment with every win. These can include:
Recognizing that anxiety in dogs is more prevalent than once thought, several companies have created an array of products to help reduce it. Whether the cause is situational, as in separation anxiety or a thunderstorm, or it’s long-term stress related to previous trauma or lack of socialization, there are many vet-approved anxiety-reducing products available. Here are a few to think about:
If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how calming it can be. It’s possible to enter a massage room with tense muscles and a headache and emerge relaxed and rejuvenated. Spa days work for dogs, too!
Grooming activities also help you and your dog bond and produces oxytocin, which lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol can trigger or cause anxiety and fear in humans and dogs, and too much can create panic attacks or aggressive behavior in pups. Controlling and reducing cortisol with relaxing activities and distractions can help your pooch feel less anxious. You can make some of Fido's routine grooming feel calming by doing the tasks gently and soothingly.
Your canine spa day might include:
These are just a few of the ways you can help reduce anxiety in your dog. The long-term effects of untreated anxiety and stress can shorten your best furry furiend's life, and possibly create a danger to other animals and people. Reducing, preventing and managing your dog's anxiety can help them conquer their fears and live a happier life.
If nothing you’ve tried to help reduce your dog’s anxiety has worked, a visit to your vet is recommended. Not only can they advise you on OTC remedies and other products, but they can also rule out medical issues that may be contributing to the anxiety. A treatment plan from a veterinarian may include referral to a canine behavioral therapist, prescription medications, and other recommendations.
Got more questions about your dog’s anxiety? Chat with a veterinary professional today to get the lowdown on anxiety and stress in dogs.
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