Many people don’t know this but just like us, dogs have anxieties too. The most common form of canine anxiety is separation anxiety. It is important that you notice signs of stress early so that you can act on it quickly and efficiently. And, luckily for us as dogs communicate their emotional state through behaviour and body language you’ll be able to easily detect the signs once knowing exactly what you need to look out for.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Dog Anxiety?
- Urinating and Defecating
- Destruction and Chewing
- Excessive Barking and Howling
- Seeking Comfort
- Excessive Energy
- Panic Attacks
What Causes Dog Anxiety?
Usually, an adult dog may show signs of anxiety due to all that extra attention and fuss they were once showered with as a pup decreasing. They are naturally trusting animals and love close companionship so when the 24/7 attention suddenly decreases to neglect, they become stressed which then leads to anxiety.
They may experience separation anxiety when the people whom the dog have become attached to leaves. They perceive the absence of their owner or guardian as a dangerous threat which causes them to wreck the household or even attempt to escape.
Fear is present in a lot of different animals. When responding to threats or even perceived ones this can instinctively flare up your dog. Fear is what signals the brain to get ready for trouble whether that being from a situation, thing, or person and in turn prompts a freeze or fight response and the fear they feel can cause them to feel stressed which in turn triggers anxiety.
More specific causes of anxiety of fear in dogs that you’ll no doubt encounter are;
- Trauma/unfamiliar settings that may frighten your pet
- Physical problems that cause pain or serious illness
- Lack of exposure to healthy social influences
- History of rehoming, abandonment, neglect, or even multiple owners
- History of being trapped/crated
- Changes that come with aging
Treating a Dog with Anxiety
Dog separation anxiety is most often unknowingly caused by dog owners, which is why you should never, ever punish an anxious or fearful dog. We make such a big fuss when we come and leave home, which in turn provokes their stress when we leave. By punishing a dog for being anxious you are only going to make them even more stressed and fearful which could potentially lead to even worse reactions.
If your dog’s anxiety is severe and you are looking for long-term ways to reduce anxiety in dogs, I would advise you to read up on professional advice from dog experts. If you want some short-term tips to soothe anxiety in dogs, here are 5:
Anxiety can create energy that isn’t easy to control. Just like humans, when told exercise helps to relieve stress, it can be the same for dogs too. By taking your dog for a run, walk or even some playtime on a park or in your garden you will find that it burns off some of that built up tension. It will not only tire them out, but can also calm them and they’ll really enjoy the time they have spent with you.
Contact from others helps dogs and humans to relieve any stress, fear, and anxiety they feel. A dog’s anxiety begins to exceptionally increase when they feel cut off from their owner. So, ensuring you regularly cuddle and pet your dog rather than make them feel neglected will help to relieve them of their anxieties.
A stressed dog especially if left home alone and dealing with separation anxiety can cause them to become destructive. The energy they have is not easy to channel, which is why a chew toy can be a great distraction and will hopefully stop them from causing destruction to your house and belongings.
- Keep a Calm Demeanour
It is always best to stay calm when your dog is feeling stressed, dogs can sense what is going on with their owners and if you begin to act tense when reacting to their anxiety they will feed of your anxiety, which then becomes a massive cycle. Have a calm demeanour and voice when dealing with your dog, if that means taking a break and having a few deep breaths first, then do it!
- Invest in an Thundershirt
Thundershirts are fairly new products that are useful for dogs with noise phobias, travel anxiety and separation anxiety. The effect of these pressure wraps has positive results in helping with relaxation and the reducing of anxiety as they are extremely comforting when the dog is alone.