Tips For Calming Anxiety In Dogs
If your pet experiences bouts of anxiety or depression, consider your routine and ways that you can help alleviate symptoms. Training with positive reinforcement can also help reduce recurring anxiety.
Mild cases of separation anxiety can be addressed with a counter-conditioning program, where, over time and through positive reinforcement, we change the dogs negative reaction to a situation to a positive one, says Erin Katribe, DVM and medical director for Best Friends Animal Society. This is usually achieved through associating the situation with something really positive that the dog enjoys, like really delicious food or engaging toys. Its also helpful to start the training process by providing these positive items while youre gone for only a short period of time the goal is to avoid the fear and negative association all together.
For more severe cases, she adds, training can be much more complex, and I recommend consulting a trainer or veterinary behaviorist. In severe cases, the dog has so much anxiety that they wont eat or engage with the toy or food item.
In any training scenario, be mindful of your own demeanor. Pets can sense your emotions, so its always best to try to be a calming influence. Giving too much attention when leaving and returning home can heighten anxiety in pets, says Dr. Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Vet.
Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
If your dog is anxious or unsettled about being left at home alone you may see the following:
- Your dog becomes distressed as soon as you leave. The first 15 minutes are the worst, during which time your dog becomes extremely upset. All the physiological signs of fear may be present an increase in heart and breathing rate, panting, salivating, increased activity and, sometimes, a need to go to the toilet. Your dog may try to follow you as you leave, scratching at doors, chewing at doorframes, scratching at carpets or jumping up at windowsills to look for a way out. Alternatively your dog may bark, whine or howl to try and persuade you to come back.
- After this frantic period, your dog may settle down to chew something that you have recently touched that still carries your scent. Dogs will often chew scented items into small pieces and curl up in the debris so that your dog forms a barrier of your scent around them for security.
- On your return, your dog may appear elated and may become very excitable. They may be wet, either from salivating or excessively drinking due to stress.
- When you are home, your dog may attempt to follow you wherever you go in the house. They may begin to display anxious behaviours when they see you preparing to leave the house .
Stress And Anxiety: Whats The Difference
Stress and anxiety are often used in the same sentence and may have similar signs, but they are slightly different.
Stress is caused by external factors. Its a reaction to something occurring within the dogs environment. I.e. if a firework goes off, a dog becomes stressed. Once the fireworks stop or the dog can no longer hear them, their stress levels are reduced.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is caused by internal factors. I.e. if a dog hears fireworks and becomes incredibly stressed, this may lead to anxiety – which persists long after the fireworks have ended. Anxiety is more difficult to treat because, unlike stress, it isnt always tied to one root cause.
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What To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation AnxietyModerate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. In these cases, its crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.
The following steps briefly describe a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Please keep in mind that this is a short, general explanation.
Step One: Predeparture CuesAs mentioned above, some dogs begin to feel anxious while their guardians get ready to leave. For example, a dog might start to pace, pant and whine when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys. Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leaveeven for just few secondswithout triggering their dogs extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that youre leaving and get so anxious about being left alone that he cant control himself and forgets that youll come back.
Medications Might HelpAlways consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem.
Find A Shared Interest
Itâs okay to be disappointed that your dog doesnât want to go to the dog park, agility trials or pavement cafÃ©s. Try focusing on what you guys can do together instead. Set up indoor obstacle courses, go on quiet wilderness hikes, take nose-work classes or just chill at home. Donât try to force the dog you have to be the dog you wanted. In the end, youâre likely to make their problems worse, not to mention strain your relationship.
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Consider Changing Your Vet
While some vets are great with nervous and aggressive dogs, others are still very old school they donât listen to owners and use invasive and rough handling. There are, however, new techniques out there for vets dealing with anxious dogs. Dr. Sophia Yin developed a program for vets that focuses on low-stress handling, which can make a huge difference in your dogâs anxiety levels. And Dogs in Need of Space has a list of vets who go the extra mile for anxious dogs if you do want to change your vet, itâs a good place to start.
Creating A Safe Environment
Another tip from Bernal involves creating a safe space for your pet such as a small room located far from the main entrance of a space and filling it with comforting items like a familiar toy and of course, plenty of food, water, and treats. This space will serve as a place to retreat when anxiety starts to take over, she explains. Offer your pet treats in this area or store his favorite toys here when theres no stressful activity happening to help build a positive association with the space.
You may also want to play some calming music for your pet. I have dogs respond well to classical music being played, especially when left at home alone, Dr. Burch says. Certain songs are scientifically proven to decrease anxiety in your dog and create a calming environment.
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Do Cbd Dog Treats Help With Anxiety
A lot of pet owners use CBD supplements to calm down their dogs. However, since every dog is different, the results may vary depending on your dogs weight and size. Results may last up to 8 hours depending on your pets energy levels, for example and while some dogs might only need one serving a day, others might need more than that. You can also rest easy knowing that these treats will not have psychoactive effects on your pets since they do not have any THC in them.
SYZYGY offers various CBD products for you and your furry pals. With an emphasis on science, they promise that all of their customers canine or human will feel a difference and enjoy life to the fullest. Their benefits are consistent and apparent, so you and your dog can look forward to an anxiety-free life.
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How Long Can My Dog Be Left Alone
As a general rule, your dog should never be left alone for more than four hours at a time. However, this will greatly depend on your dog, their age, breed and how they cope with being on their own in the house. Some may struggle being away from their owners for this long and others will be unphased.
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Anxiety Supplements For Dogs
When are supplements used for dog anxiety?
Unlike prescription medications,anxiety supplements for dogs are sold over-the-counter and can be used on a regular basis. However, supplements are not as potent as medication. Anti-anxiety supplements contain natural herbs and extracts like CBD, passionflower, chamomile, L-theanine, and L-tryptophan.
What are the benefits of anxiety supplements for dogs?
- Supports calmness and relaxation
- Contain safe and natural ingredients
- Available in easy-to-use forms
- Do not require a veterinary prescription
What are the risks of using anxiety supplements for dogs?
- Finding the right dose may take time
- Do not work for all dogs, and types of anxiety
Signs Of Stress And Anxiety In Dogs
It is important to be able to distinguish between normal and anxious dog behaviors, which requires familiarity with your dogs normal behavior.
Most of the time, relaxed dogs will have round, open eyes weight on all four legs a raised tail and raised, forward-facing ears. They will breathe normally unless they are panting from play or exercise.
Here are some dog anxiety symptoms to watch for.
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Tips To Help Dog Separation Anxiety
You come home from a long day at work to a spinning, jumping whirlwind of energy. Your dog follows you into your living room, where you find that he has chewed on your favorite pair of shoes. Your neighbor comes by to tell you that, once again, your dog has been driving the neighborhood crazy by howling and barking while you were away. Is this scenario familiar? Your dog may be suffering from dog separation anxiety.
In nature, dogs are almost never away from their pack. It is our job to help make this unnatural situation less stressful!
Living And Management Of Fear And Anxiety In Dogs
If your dog is on medications, your veterinarian will want to conduct occasional blood testing to make sure your dogs body can process and eliminate the medications appropriately.
If behavior modification does not work over the long-term, your veterinarian may want to modify the approach. If left untreated, these disorders are likely to progress.
You will need to help your dog with behavior modification exercises and teach your dog to relax in a variety of environmental settings. Encourage calmness when your dog appears distressed. Distract him and redirect his attention, following the plan your vet has set for you.
Fearful or anxious dogs may need to live in a protected environment with as few social stressors as possible. They do not do well in dog shows, dog parks or large crowds.
And remember that not all dogs are calmer when crated some dogs panic when caged and will injure themselves if forced to be confined. Absolutely avoid punishment for behavior related to fear, phobia or anxiety.
Contact your veterinarian for a referral to get professional help with your dogs behavior modification.
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Other Behavior Problems To Rule Out
Sometimes its difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, its important to rule out the following behavior problems:
Submissive or Excitement UrinationSome dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly.
Incomplete House TrainingA dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained. His house training might have been inconsistent or it might have involved punishment that made him afraid to eliminate while his owner is watching or nearby.
Urine MarkingSome dogs urinate in the house because theyre scent marking. A dog scent marks by urinating small amounts on vertical surfaces. Most male dogs and some female dogs who scent mark raise a leg to urinate.
Juvenile DestructionMany young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are home as well as when theyre away. Please see our articles, Destructive Chewing, for more information about these problems.
BoredomDogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because theyre bored and looking for something to do. These dogs usually dont appear anxious.
Things To Do To Help Your Dogs Storm Anxiety
Do you have a dog with mild to moderate noise anxiety ? There are many ways to help your dog feel more comfortable and at ease during these situations. However, if they have progressed to full-on anxiety attacks and are throwing themselves through walls and doors then it is unfortunately the below tips will likely not help. If that is the case, please contact our team at The Pet Doctor immediately.
Fireworks and such are usually more pure noise phobias and many of the techniques recommended here can assist with them as well. Storm anxiety can be more complex as there can be many components to a storm that dogs cue to. Thunder is not only noise but vibration, the noise of heavy rain, the darkening of the sky, their people running around looking worried, flashes of light, changes in barometric pressure and humidity and some can even become sensitized to the buildup of electrical charges. Yes, dogs can learn to cue to all those things and more. The complex nature of the cues with storms can make treating severe thunderstorm anxieties a complex business .
The following is a list of the most commonly helpful recommendations. Very often what works will be a combination of some of these methods rather than a single fix-all product or method.
1. Intervene Early
This tends to be true for ALL behavioral problems. Step in and deal with them sooner rather than later. The time to deal with these issues is long before major destruction and injury is occurring.
2. Reassure your Dog
What To Watch Out For
Heather Mishefske, a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, notes, Anxiety in dogs can present a number of different ways and can be related to contexts such as being separated from their people, fear, and age.
Common symptoms of all categories of anxiety include: Excessive panting, drooling, pacing, barking or vocalizing excessively, extreme restlessness, destructiveness, self-harming behaviors, or even behaviors that look like obsessive compulsive behaviors, Mishefske says.
Anxious dogs pace and are generally overexcited by normal stimuli such as people coming into the room, a doorbell, and cars or people going by outside, explains Dr. Ross Taylor of the NorthStar VETS Emergency and Critical Care team. Other signs to watch for are dogs who are overly vigilant and concerned about the environment around them.
San Francisco-based dog trainer Alisha Ardiana says she watches for dogs who are unable to engage in training or do normal calming behaviors, like smelling. If the dog is unable to smell the ground, is looking around, or looking over his shoulder, the dog is concerned that something is going to go wrong, she explains.
Training For Anxious Dogs
Behavioral training is one of the best tools at your disposaland for seriously anxious dogs, nothing else will do. Other tools can help, but this ones a must when it comes to addressing and managing anxiety successfully.
Scolding an anxious dog can just make the problem worse, so use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage dogs to replicate desired behaviors. Your dogs calm depends on your ability to stay cool yourself.
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What Dog Breeds Are Prone To Anxiety
All dogs can develop separation anxiety at some point, but there are some breeds that are more likely to suffer from this problem.
Dogs like Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Bichon Frise, Border Collie, and German Shepherd have a higher risk of anxiety.
This is due to the fact that these dogs were bred as companions. When you left them alone, they will become restless and eventually develop anxiety.
If youre planning to get a dog, its important to consider your lifestyle. Youre better off avoiding the said breeds if you often work long hours.
How To Prevent And Manage Separation Anxiety In Dogs
- The most common signs of separation anxiety are destruction in the home, excessive vocalization, and inappropriate elimination.
- Certain circumstances, like changes in schedules, can trigger anxiety in dogs who are predisposed. This is why some experts are concerned that there may be an uptick in separation anxiety among dogs as their owners return to work post-pandemic.
- A key principle in staving off and managing separation anxiety is establishing a strong relationship with your dog and training them to be independent during the hours you are together.
- Create routines and boundaries so your dog experiences low-intensity separation. Crate training is recommended as a preventative measure.
- In treating, start small in managing separation, like training your dog to stay in another room while you leave, and then work up to leaving the house.
To live with a dog is to know with certainty that theres someone who never tires of your company. Thats part of the joy of dogstheyre always happy to see you come in the door whether youve been away for an hour or a long workday. But at what point does your dogs desire to be with you turn into a problem?
While separation anxiety has been widely discussed over the last several decades, its become a hotter topic lately. As a global pandemic has changed our daily living and working habits, many experts and dog owners raise the possibility of a spike in rates of separation anxiety when normal schedules are resumed.
Exercise is key
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