Just like humans, dogs have anxiety too. And while it is a healthy emotion, if it reaches high intensities, it can cause behavioral disruptions. All dogs can have anxiety, although its intensity differs depending on past trauma and personality.
Between the most common types of anxiety dogs can have is separation anxiety, the fear of being left alone. Some dogs can experience fear of loud noises, other animals or even specific places, like the vet’s office. There are diverse stimuli that can make the anxiety of dogs arise. Some can fear specific objects like umbrellas or bikes or specific situations like a car ride. Some dogs might experience higher levels of anxiety to these stimuli, while some only brief reactions.
However, an anxious dog has different behaviors that let you know that he is not feeling good. And whether some seem completely normal dog behaviors, their intensity and recurrence can help you make the difference. An anxious dog is aggressive towards other people or dogs. Among aggressive behaviors are excessive barking and growling. Other dogs that have anxiety are urinating or defecating in the house or have a destroying behavior.
Treating dog anxiety can be challenging, but knowing the source of anxiety can help you better handle the situation. A vet can help you correctly identify why your dog is anxious and can help you design the best intervention for him.
You probably know that exercise is recommended for people with depression, anxiety or who are stressed. Just how it works for humans, it does for dogs too. You can exercise with your dog every day and fetch the ball. You can play its favorite game and you will soon notice behavioral improvements.
When exercising, the production of serotonin is stimulated and your dog will instantly feel better. Also, you help him consume his energy and tension within a game, so it will have fewer resources to mobilize in aggressive behavior. If you manage to do his favorite activities every day, you will see that your dog will become to be less anxious. Especially for the ones that have separation anxiety.
Dog Massage, Reiki and other Touch Therapies for Pets
Dogs are pretty much like humans, they love a good massage. Even though you might think that it cannot work with your anxious dog, you should give it a try. A good massage will help the dog soothe his nerves and relax. There are also popular dog massage techniques that can help you offer a better experience to your pet.
Linda Tellington Jones has built the perfect massage technique, called TTouch Training. You can use it in different situations, like when your dog has car sick, aggressive behavior or he experiences extreme anxiety and fear. Besides, this is a win-win situation. The research from the last years has shown that petting a dog or a cat can improve your well-being and life satisfaction. Other healing techniques growing in popularity include reiki for pets and golden energy healing.
Distraction might work in some cases and in some not, but it depends on the intensity of anxiety. For example, if your dog fears new and crowded places, you can distract him and help him concentrate on the things he knows, rather on the ones that scare him.
And if your dog loves food rewards, you can ask him to do the tricks he knows the best and reward him. Like this, he will be more relaxed and calmer. However, there are dogs whose anxiety and fear are extreme, and distraction might not work as good as with others.
Music can have a relaxing and soothing effect on dogs too. Even though the music that soothes them is much simpler, they are pretty much the same as humans. There are a lot of owners who let the tv open or the music playing for their dogs when they leave home. There are also playlists with music for dogs, specially designed to calm and relax them. The songs are specially recorded with two simple sounds and are arranged in the perfect way.
One behavioral technique you can use to treat your dog’s anxiety is counterconditioning. When you have identified the stimuli that trigger the anxious response in your dog, you can work on substituting the response.
‘This technique is used in animal training and it works on creating a positive response to fearful stimuli. For example, a dog that is always watching on the window when someone comes displays behaviors of anxiety. To change his reaction to some stimuli, you need to associate the view and sound with positive behavior. You can pet him or you can give him a reward’ — says Din Holand, the HR software specialist at the veterinary company.
Usually, counterconditioning and desensitization are used together in animal training. Desensitization means that you expose gradually your dog to the stimuli that trigger the anxious reaction. If done incorrectly, this can trigger even more aggressive behaviors.
The exposure to aversive stimuli needs to be done at levels so low that it cannot trigger a negative response. Over time, with constant exposure and counterconditioning, the dog will not display undesirable behaviors anymore.
Dogs are such wonderful creatures. They can have the same problems as us, meaning that there are some stimuli that can trigger anxious or fearful responses. Besides medication, you can try these six natural remedies that can help you work with your dog and support him. Petting, music and positive reinforcement are among the most popular and efficient techniques.
This dog blog was contributed by Sebastian Rice.