Every dog owner wants to make sure their pet is happy. Unfortunately, not all dogs are calm and collected. Some dogs express their worry and anxiety through destructive behaviors and barking. Dogs that are fearful can feel threatened by many simple situations like visiting the park or taking a walk with their owner. Let’s cover some key points about anxious dogs to help you offer your pet comfort in the most natural way possible.
Pets are like their owners in many ways. When we’re stressed or anxious, it shows — and the same is true for them. Like people, dogs can develop an anxiety disorder, and left untreated these conditions can harm their health and behavior.
Dogs are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. If something drastic happens — a move, change in routine, or new addition to the family — it’s not unusual for a dog to develop separation anxiety. Remember, dog anxiety can be caused by several different factors, but they often stem from a dog’s environment, genetics or experiences. For example:
- Genetics plays a role in anxiety. Some breeds have higher rates of anxious behavior than others, although this isn’t always a guarantee that a dog will struggle with anxiety.
- A traumatic event, like getting lost or being attacked by another animal. Dogs who have experienced abuse or abandonment may have higher rates of anxiety than those who haven’t experienced these types of trauma.
- Change in routine, such as when a family member leaves home or a person or pet dies
- New surroundings, like moving to a new house.
Environmental factors play a big role in causing anxiety in dogs. Dogs who experience traumatic events or changes may develop anxiety as a result. For example, if you move your dog from one home to another or introduce a new baby into your home, your dog may develop separation anxiety or become stressed by the change. While most triggers are environmental or circumstantial, some anxiety disorders have no clear cause — but they can still be treated.
- Separation Anxiety. A dog’s living conditions can also contribute to the development of anxiety, especially separation anxiety. If you leave your dog alone for long periods of time on an ongoing basis, he may become stressed and anxious when you leave or when he’s alone. Separation anxiety is often triggered when there’s been a change in routine, such as when you start working different hours or go away for an extended period of time.
Anxiety can manifest in many different ways. For example, your dog can become anxious when they are left alone or when they hear certain sounds like fire trucks and thunderstorms. If your dog has separation anxiety, it will not only cause them suffering, but you also as a pet owner.
Does your dog have anxiety? Watch for these signs:
- Panting or pacing
- Destructive behavior, like chewing furniture or digging holes in the yard
- Whining or barking excessively
- Chewing paws or licking lips and other parts of the body excessively
- Refusing to eat or drink
- Self-harm, such as biting or scratching themselves
- Urinating/defecating in the house (when not potty training)
- Aggression or other abnormal behavior such as inappropriate urination or defecation
Dogs should never be punished for their behavior. This can only make things worse. The best advice is to always remain calm when confronted with an anxious dog. And if you need help, there are plenty of resources available to you and your pet.
Before you give your dog some CBD pet treats to calm them down, talk to your veterinarian about the possible underlying causes of your dog’s anxiety. Next, consult a certified pet behaviorist for guidance on how to ease your dog’s anxiety. For example, if separation anxiety is a problem, try gradually building up the length of time you’re out of sight while you’re still home. Then try leaving the house briefly before returning. If fireworks are a trigger, find out whether they’re being set off in your area on specific holidays and be prepared with some calming techniques before and during the event.
Here are 5 more ways to help your anxious dog relax:
Pet stores have many natural remedies available for your anxious pet. These can be very effective. Some of the most popular ones include CBD pet treats, hemp oil, and CBD oil. If you’re unsure which one is best for your dog, consult your veterinarian.
Even if your dog doesn’t go outdoors, there are still ways you can play with them. If a ball or Frisbee is too much for them to handle, try a smaller toy like a kong or a treat toy instead. Some dogs will also enjoy a game of fetch if you throw their toy far enough away that they don’t feel too threatened by other dogs or people approaching them. If your dog has a favorite toy, it may be fun to play tug of war with them.
Exercise is very important for dogs, but some anxious dogs may not do well if taken out on long walks outside. If your dog has trouble walking on the sidewalk, try walking in an open field so they are less stressed by the other people and animals around them. For larger breeds of dogs, walking on a treadmill at home may be an option as well. A good way to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise is to take them to a dog park that has space to run around in!
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical activity. It’s also an excellent way to tire out an anxious dog without over-stimulating them with physical activity. Some ways to stimulate your dog mentally include: hide and seek games, food puzzles, and treat dispensers.
There are products available that will provide comfort for your anxious dog. These include calming collars, Thundershirts, and pheromone-releasing products like DAP diffusers. You can also give your pup a treat-filled toy such as a Kong or Buster Cube to keep him busy while you’re gone.
Ultimately, to calm your anxious dog, you must seek the causes. And in order to do that, there is no substitute for a proper diagnosis by a qualified veterinarian or animal behaviorist. If you have ruled out serious medical or health conditions as the root cause of your dog’s anxiety, do not delay in scheduling an appointment with one of these specialists. Whether you are seeking medication or other treatment options, or simply desiring advice on practical steps you can take to mitigate your dog’s anxiety, work with an expert who can guide you and share the benefits of their expertise.