Dog Anxiety: What Dog Owners Need To Know
We love our precious pups and want nothing more than to keep them happy, safe, and content. However, this can sometimes be tricky, especially if your dog is dealing with the effects of anxiety. Responsible pet owners need to understand the range of reasons your dog may feel anxious and the various things that you can do to help them feel more comfortable.
There are many reasons that your dog may be feeling anxious, and how you can help them feel better is primarily determined by the factors that are triggering their anxiety in the first place. This article intends to explore some of the most common types of doggy anxiety and what dog mommies and daddies can do to help keep their dogs as calm and happy as possible, no matter the situation. Continue reading to learn more, and also feel free to check out Dope Dog, which offers a variety of CBD dog treats to help keep your pet calm and happy.
Related: 10 ways to help your nervous dog
Dog Anxiety Symptoms
Aside from the easily recognizable fidgeting, tucked tail, hiding behavior, and avoidance of eye contact, anxiety in dogs can be displayed through a wide range of symptomes. These can include:
- Excessive licking, salivating or drooling
- Dilated pupils
- Destructive behaviors
- Spontaneous elimination (bowel movements & urination) despite being potty trained
- Passive escape attempts
- Scratching at doors and windows
- Digging holes and chewing things up
- Avoiding interactions
- Excessive panting
- Displacement behaviors (shaking like their wet, lip licking, air sniffing, and yawning)
Dogs can exhibit one or more of these symptomes on occasion, and it’s normal when they are in an uncomfortable situation. However, it becomes problematic when they exhibit many symptomes at once or to an extreme degree. It’s also a problem if your pet shows any of these behaviors constantly, as that can indicate a consistent state of anxiety.
The Common Sources of Dog Anxiety Owners Need to Know About
There are several primary sources of anxiety in dogs that owners should be aware of to be better prepared to help their precious pet reach a state of contentment and comfort, even in the face of uncomfortable situations. While dogs can become anxious for a wide range of reasons, the four most common ones tend to include separation anxiety, illness-induced anxiety, rescue or former shelter anxiety, and generalized anxiety. This section is intended to explore these four primary anxiety sources, alongside a few other common causes; social interaction, storms, and car rides.
Some level of separation anxiety is a common problem for many dogs (especially for several specific breeds, like German Shepherds, Border Collies, Jack Russel Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers). Dogs are highly social animals by nature and don’t like being alone. However, intense separation anxiety tends to occur when a dog is hyper-attached to its owner and becomes anxious and stressed when its owner isn’t around. Extreme separation anxiety for pets is becoming especially problematic at this time when many pet owners are starting to head back to their in-person jobs after being forced to work from home due to the pandemic. Dogs exhibiting this separation anxiety may bark, whine, or howl excessively, become destructive of household furniture, or have accidents when left alone in the house, especially if they are alone for an extended period.
Separation anxiety tends to be fueled by boredom and loneliness, though it may also be connected to prior negative experiences that the dog may have experienced when left alone. Separation anxiety may also develop in time due to old-age-onset, which can be caused by a steady decline of memory and cognitive comprehension in older dogs.
While many dogs develop anxiety as a response to outside stimulus or experiences, such as storms, car rides, or social interaction with new dogs or people, dog owners need to understand that anxiety can also be caused by an illness or disease. In these cases, the anxiety will typically appear suddenly and unexpectedly in a dog that isn’t ordinarily anxious. Some common causes of illness-induced anxiety include:
- Hearing and vision loss: The loss of one or both of these senses may cause dogs to startle more easily and become more generally anxious, especially in unknown or unfamiliar surroundings.
- Pre-diabetes: When new generalized anxiety develops in your dog alongside excessive weight gain, the appearance of cataracts, or excessive thirst, it may be an indication that your dog is pre-diabetic.
- Hypothyroidism: When dogs exhibit intense fear responses and symptomes of anxiety along with lethargy, weight gain, and hair loss, they may be suffering from hypothyroidism. This condition means that their thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones necessary to keep the dog healthy.
- Encephalitis: Also known as inflammation and swelling of the brain tissue, dogs with this condition often develop anxious behavior along with potential aggression, seizures, and clumsiness.
- Thyrotoxicosis: Also commonly known as Grave’s Disease, this rare autoimmune disorder can impact the thyroid gland, leading to several potential issues for the dog, including increased anxiety levels.
If your dog has started exhibiting any of the above physical symptomes alongside anxiety or other behavioral changes, please reach out to your local vet so that they can help rule out any underlying medical conditions. If tests come back negative for these illnesses, then your dog may be exhibiting anxiety for other reasons included in this article or as a result of other factors that haven’t been touched on here.
Rescue & Former Shelter Anxiety
Pets that have spent time in an animal shelter often carry bad memories of being abandoned by their owners. Many of them may also possess memories of neglect and abuse. Dogs may develop a generally anxious demeanor due to these experiences, as well as because of their time in an unpredictable environment with little routine. Anxiety of this nature can also develop into separation anxiety if new owners take them in because they fear being abandoned again.
Owners of rescue dogs need to develop a consistent and predictable routine, along with a stable environment that can help their pets feel safe and secure while reducing their anxiety. Additionally, owners may invest in the service of a dog trainer or behaviorist to help them pinpoint potential anxiety triggers for their dog. These professionals can also recommend possible solutions and tactics to help keep your dog calm and reduce their anxiety.
Much like for people, some causes of anxiety aren’t able to be fully determined. The dog may have experienced a primary event to trigger the onset of their anxiety that went unnoticed by their owners or occurred before the owners took them in. However, it’s also possible that your dog is just more prone to feelings of anxiety, causing them to become stressed whenever there is a change to their environment or daily routine.
Generalized anxiety is quite common in dogs (especially in certain breeds, such as toy breeds, Cocker Spaniels, German & Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Greyhounds, and others) and often goes unrecognized by their owners. This is usually because their anxiety symptomes are more subtle and aren’t perceived as abnormal.
Many dogs experience some level of social anxiety when around new people or dogs, especially if they haven’t been properly socialized to be around others. Dogs that exhibit this type of anxiety are much more likely to bark, lunge, or show more aggressive behavior when around these unfamiliar pets or people. Owners need to remain patient and positive if their dog experiences social anxiety.
To help them overcome the issue, start by introducing them to new people and dogs one at a time, and allow the dog to initiate contact in their own time. Also, be sure that they have access to a safe retreat if they begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed. It’s essential to go slow and reward your dog for its good behavior they feel calm.
Storm anxiety is yet another common condition that dogs may exhibit, and it’s often connected to a general fear of loud noises (such as fireworks). This type of anxiety most commonly develops in dogs between two and four and tends to involve whining, hiding, scratching, excessive slobbering, pacing, trembling, and sheer panic. Owners of dogs exhibiting storm anxiety can employ several strategies and techniques to help their precious pets cope with their fear, including keeping them distracted during storms by putting on calming music or playing with your dog if they feel up to it.
Owners can also help their dogs become desensitized to the sound of thunder between actual storms by downloading and playing thunderstorm sounds while giving them treats for staying calm. People can also look into a range of comforting products to help keep their dogs calm during a storm, such as tight jackets that create a sensation of pressure and comfort, much like swaddling a baby.
While many dogs love riding in cars and look forward to sticking their head out the open window during a drive to take in all of the curious new scents of the world, many dogs experience intense anxiety and outright dread when it comes to car rides. Dogs with car anxiety will often wine, bark, tremble, and sometimes even vomit or have accidents in the car due to their fear and stress. Car anxiety can be one of the more difficult anxieties for pet owners to handle, mainly because many potential factors can trigger it. Said factors include the fear of being trapped in a large, moving machine, motion sickness, previous bad encounters inside a car (such as an accident), and more. Dogs can also develop car anxiety if they are used to only going to unpleasant destinations, such as a vet or groomer.
While owners can employ some basic techniques to help their dogs handle car rides, such as adding a cozy blanket to the seat or giving your dog a teddy bear, that often won’t be enough to completely cure them of their anxiety. If their car anxiety is intense enough, it may take a lot more than a blanket or toy to get them to even approach the car. When it comes to helping them overcome this issue, there is a range of things dog owners may need to try before finding a method that works.
Desensitization & Doggy Car Anxiety
Dogs can be trained to associate the car with something good by using the process of desensitization and counter-conditioning. Desensitization is a method that gradually introduces your dog to the car. Counter conditioning involves changing the dog’s emotional response from a negative experience to a more positive feeling about being inside the vehicle.
It depends on how the dog reacts, but you might have to teach him to ride in the car starting 10 feet away while the vehicle is parked in the driveway. The best thing to do is to start with the backseat. The trick is to find the point where your companion is more relaxed and comfortable, then slowly transition to the front. Make each process a positive experience by giving your dog a treat or toy to reward them. You can even play games to keep them entertained. The goal is to make the car ride feel positive and exciting.
Move the dog closer once he becomes more relaxed. If the dog stops eating or playing, it means you are moving too fast. If that is the case, then take a step back until your four-legged friend relaxes again. Once The dog is more adapted to the car, it’s time to add more elements to the fun.
For example, you can have him sit in the driver’s seat, close the door, or make a remote lock beep. Don’t forget to pair each step with a reward like tossing a treat or toy in the back. Remember to keep the dog safe and secure with a harness attached to the seatbelt while the car is moving.
Once the dog is in the car, turn the car on and off, but don’t go anywhere. Just let your companion associate the sound of the engine with something fun.
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Preventing Motion Sickness
Puppies are more likely than adult dogs to get carsick, but many of them grow out of it as they mature. For those who don’t, here are some tips to help reduce nausea, vomiting, and stomach upsets:
- Lower the window for fresh air.
- Keep the temperature cool.
- Ask the vet about anti-anxiety medication or motion sickness meds.
- Give your companions food and water a few hours before the trip.
- Exercise the dog for about 20 minutes before the car ride.
- Spray dog pheromones in the car that mimics the odor of a nursing mother dog to calm the adult dog.
- Use CBD dog treats from Dope Dog to help relax them and reduce nausea and vomiting.
Check out Dope Dog for CBD dog treats to help your companion relax.
We also have a few additional tips that can help your dog relax. Following these six steps below will increase your chances of helping your dog’s anxiety and improve the overall experience of riding in the car for both of you.
Step 1: First, you will want to acquaint your dog with the vehicle. Try withholding a meal before attempting this training exercise. Before beginning, place a small piece of dog food or treat in the car. Consider where you want your favorite furry friend to ride during your adventures. You may prefer they ride in the back seat. Begin by walking your pet to the car with a loose lead for safety. You might want to consider walking around the car once and letting your dog take in all the sounds and smells. Next, you will need to open the car door and reveal the treat you have left in the vehicle. If they freely choose to jump in the car, you are ready for step two, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t keep responding in this way. It’s important to keep practicing this step at least once every day for the next six days. Be sure to reward your dog for their hard work!
Step 2: Now that you’ve begun creating positive emotions associated with the car, you will need to build on them. While holding the loose lead, climb into the vehicle. Try handing them a small bite of dog food or a special treat from inside while speaking in a fun yet calm voice about how fun the car is. With every treat, move further into the vehicle. Until your dog responds without nervousness, practice this step up to three times a day. Let your dog’s behavior guide you when to move forward; a key sign you’re ready to move on is when your dog walks to the car and sits in it without hesitation.
Step 3: Now that your dog is acquainted with the car, you might need to calm any anxiousness associated with the seat belt. While sitting in the car with treats in hand, attach the seat belt while reassuring them with calm, happy words, praising them for being so good. Remember to reward their hard work with their favorite CBD dog treats. Sit in the car for a few minutes with the belt attached. Use a release such as “Okay,” and exit the vehicle with you in the lead when you're ready. As an added reward, go for a quick stroll around the block and don’t forget to practice this exercise regularly.
Step 4: Eating in the car might not seem ideal, but this simple act can help relieve your dog’s car anxiety. While repeating step three, serve an entire meal in your vehicle. You could even sit and eat with them. Use the release command when you are both finished and reward them with a quick walk. As you repeat this step, start the engine, but don’t go anywhere. You want them willing to eat while the motor is running, so keep practicing until they can. You will know that your dog is relaxed when they climb in and out of the car and enjoy eating while the engine is running.
Step 5: You and your best pal are finally ready to take the car for a spin. Following the previous steps, withhold the dog’s dinner until you return to the driveway. Continue using positive, verbal reinforcement while taking a short drive around the block (or somewhere no more than 5 minutes total drive time). Upon returning to your driveway, serve dinner just as before while the engine is still going. Remember to use the release command and praise your dog for all of the hard work they have put in.
Step 6: Practice makes perfect. Keep practicing driving in the car with your dog, adding more drive time each time you go out. Watch for any signs of anxiety, such as drooling or whining. If they become nervous, find a place to stop and get out for a quick walk. As you keep going out with your furry friend, you won’t have to continue feeding dinner in the car, but rewarding them with a special treat or toy is a great way to keep improving your success.
Related: Keeping dogs calm during fireworks
Overcoming Anxiety: Helping Your Dog Feel Comfortable
Take Them for a Walk
Begin the day by going for a brisk walk with your dog, and make sure it is a rigorous one that will enable them to burn off some energy. Once you get home, you can reward your dog with water, food, and maybe a small treat. Of course, some dogs may need to rest before they eat, but water is a must after any form of exercise. Following this tip will help ensure that your dog can stay in a more restful and quiet mode throughout the day, especially if you have to leave for work or take them on a car ride later on.
Make Your Dog Comfortable
Items that have your scent can help your dog relax and remember that you will be returning home if they have separation anxiety, but can also help calm down other anxiety by allowing them to feel safe. Additionally, if there are any items that your dog doesn’t like, for example, their collar, make sure they are removed and out of eyesight so that your dog does not start to stress out because of them.
Give Them a Safe Place
Do you sleep with your dog? If so, this is something you should try to stop to help your dog with anxiety, especially if they exhibit signs of separation anxiety in particular. Get your dog a separate bed where you can give them calming treats and pet them. It is essential to teach your dog to like being in his personal space, independent of you. A private space is a location that they will be able to go to ease their anxiety, especially if you are not home.
CBD Treats for Anxiety
The CBD market has developed considerably in the past few years, and there are now suppliers like Dope Dog that have designed CBD products specifically for dogs. These products have all been lab-tested to give you peace of mind when feeding them to your furry friend. They are proven to provide anxiety relief in a wide range of dogs, helping owners treat separation anxiety in particular so that they do not need to worry as much whenever they leave home. They have also shown to be quite helpful for other types of dog anxiety, such as storms, car rides, and when interacting with new people or dogs in a social situation. Try Dope Dog’s Calming Crunchies, delicious human-grade biscuits packed with 6mg of CBD each.
The CBD compound can react to your canine companion's brain receptor to release chemical signals to promote relaxation. This can help your dog feel calm and relaxed when faced with anxiety-inducing triggers or situations.
Help Them Be More Independent
You should train your dog to be more independent to help them learn how to remain calm in uncomfortable situations, especially if they have separation anxiety. You can start training them by telling your dog to stay in one room while you venture into a different room in the house. Start with small intervals to help them remain as calm as possible, and then work your way up to leaving them alone for more extended periods. For example, you can start with five seconds and then keep working your way up over the next few weeks. It’s baby steps, but it’s progress!
Dog owners need to remain calm in anxiety-producing situations since dogs are so keyed into their emotions. Also, for dogs with separation anxiety, owners must endeavor not to get emotional when leaving their dog for the day and try not to get too overexcited when they return home. If you pay too much attention to leaving the property and returning, you could reinforce the fear your dog feels when you are absent. Instead, try to be a lot calmer when you say goodbye to your dog and leave for the day. Once you return, wait for your dog to calm down before you start getting overly affectionate.
Change Your Routine
Another tip for dealing with separation anxiety in your dog is actively changing your “going away” signals. Leave your shoes, purse, or keys in a different location, for example, or put your coat on, but don’t leave for a good ten minutes. You could also try using a different door each day. The aim here is to break your dog’s connection between these actions with you departing the property. This should help to prevent their separation anxiety from being triggered.
Give Them Love
Ultimately, it’s essential to have patience and show support for your dog during scary or uncertain times when their anxiety may be triggered, no matter what their source of stress is. Do not scold or punish them for abnormal behavior, especially if their anxiety is being triggered by something like a storm or fireworks. Their behavior during these times is likely due to extreme feelings of fear, not disobedience or a desire to act out. Be sure to give positive reinforcement and lots of hugs and kisses to help keep them calm and assure them that everything is safe.
Whether your dog is anxious due to separation, a storm, car rides, or interacting socially with new pets and people, it’s the responsibility of loving dog owners to do their part to help their pets feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Fortunately, there are various tips and tricks to help alleviate your dog’s anxiety, no matter the cause.
CBD dog treats from Dope Dog can help your canine companion relax during times of anxiety. Other strategies like taking them somewhere fun, having their favorite treats and toys on hand, and slowly desensitizing them from their anxiety triggers can help. With that in mind, we hope that all the information that we have provided can be of great assistance to bring your canine companion some peace of mind.
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