Dogs very often mirror the emotions of their humans. Think about what makes you anxious, and you'll probably have a good handle on what makes your dog anxious. Beyond that, think about things that may make anybody afraid or anxious. These are the things that are likely to make your dog anxious. Of course, some dogs develop irrational fears and anxieties and when this happens you must be something of a detective to determine exactly what's going on. In this article, we offer tips to help you determine if and why your dog is anxious. We also provide sound advice to help you resolve your dog’s anxiety. Read on to learn more.
Know Your Dog
Learn how to read your dog’s body language, and learn the signs and symptoms of fear that precede anxiety. Being aware of your dogs feelings can help you avoid frightening and dangerous situations. When you see that your dog is becoming uncomfortable or frightened, change the situation to avoid anxiety.
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety and Dogs?
When a dog is anxious, he may experience a wide variety of symptoms including:
These are common symptoms, but there are also some more subtle symptoms you should watch out for. For example, your dog may gradually exhibit slight changes in behavior which may include:
- 1Panting and shaking: Of course dogs may pant when they are too hot or have been exercising. They also pant intermittently throughout every day. Your dog may also pant when a specific event has frightened him (e.g. fireworks or other loud noises). This is normal. On the other hand, if your dog pants excessively for no apparent reason, this can be a sign of anxiety.
- 2Hiding: Your dog may seek solitude more and more when he is anxious or afraid. This can be appropriate if your dog is crate trained and uses his crate as a safe space, but it can be inappropriate if he hides in odd places (e.g. in a closet, under the bed, porch or house) and will not come out.
- 3Clinging: Conversely, your dog may become very clingy and stay too close to your side or even in your lap or in your face when anxious. This is almost never appropriate, especially with very large dogs.
- 4Chewing, licking and excessive grooming: If your dog is constantly licking and chewing at his coat and skin, and even chewing sores on his legs and other parts of the body, this can be a sign of anxiety. Alternately, it may be a sign of a skin problem or pest infestation. Check with your vet to determine the cause of your dog’s chewing.
What Can You Do To Help Your Dog Overcome Anxiety?
The best way to deal with anxiety in dogs is to avoid allowing it to develop in the first place. Good upbringing and training produces a confident dog, but if you’ve adopted an older anxious dog, it’s never too late to start good habits that will help calm him down. Follow these tips:
- 1The best way to deal with anxiety in dogs is to avoid allowing it to develop in the first place. Good upbringing and training produces a confident dog, but if you’ve adopted an older anxious dog, it’s never too late to start good habits that will help calm him down. Follow these tips:
- 2Take your dog to obedience training. A well behaved dog who understands what is expected of him or her is a happier and more confident dog. Taking your dog to basic obedience training as a puppy and to more advanced obedience training and/or agility training as he or she matures is a good way to build your relationship and your communication with your dog so that you can both go confidently into the world.
- 3Socialize your dog properly. Being out and about (safely on leash) among people and other animals in unusual and new places is an important experience for dogs. If your dog doesn't know anybody but you and only stays at home, he or she will naturally be frightened any time anything unusual occurs. Proper socialization is an important responsibility for a dog owner and a good way to avoid having an anxious dog.
- 4Choose your battles. Avoid unnecessary, anxiety producing situations. If you know that your dog doesn't like being in the middle of a pack of dogs, don't go to the dog park. You don't have to do that to get your dog good exercise. Focus on taking your dog on walks for and on going to obedience classes for socialization. Classes are controlled and usually consist of smaller groups of dogs being individually handled rather than packs running wild.
- 5Choose proper equipment to work with your dog. Have a sturdy leash that is no longer than 6 feet and an effective collar or harness that stays firmly in place and conveys your wishes to your dog. A loose collar and an excessively long leash do not provide you with the control you need for your dog and public settings.
- 6If your dog tends to nip, use a basket muzzle. There is no shame in this. You are better off protecting your dog and those around him or her by preventing a potentially dangerous situation. Many dogs who are fear biters actually feel more confident with the muzzle in place.
- 7Teach your dog to heel and keep him close at your side when you're out. Your proximity and the fact that your dog knows that you're in control will go far to help alleviate his or her anxiety.
Can You Train A Dog Not To Be Anxious?
There are a number of different training strategies you can use to help your dog overcome anxiety. One such strategy is called counter conditioning which helps your dog learn new responses to frightening stimuli. When your dog learns a new response, he or she will have an appropriate and desirable behavior to turn to which will not cause problems for him or for you.
You may also want to try desensitization which involves gradually introducing the dog to the source of his anxiety. Getting your dog used to a frightening person, place or thing a little bit at a time can help your dog overcome his fear.
If your dog is extremely anxious and is causing a great deal of trouble for you and him, you may also want to consult with a dog trainer. Working together with a professional trainer and with your vet will help you to see the problem from every angle so that you can overcome it.