How to Help Your Anxious Dog Be Less Fearful
Article contributed by Adam Conrad
Know the Signs of Anxiety
Symptoms of mild fear include trembling, tucking their tails, withdrawing from situations, hiding and reducing the amount of activity that they want to do.
Panic amps those symptoms up to include regular attempts to escape and out of context motor activity, including diarrhoea. If the anxiety or panic goes on long term, it’s not uncommon for dogs to develop lesions because of their anxious behaviour like licking or biting at certain parts of their bodies.
It is important that you not punish your dog for these behaviours, even if it’s inconvenient for you that they are presenting this way. Your dog is scared and punishing them is not to help with that. It can even exacerbate the problems that you both are having. Instead, you should comfort them and make sure that you do everything you can to relieve their anxiety.
Find the Cause of the Anxiety
Separation anxiety is common in dogs, particularly the more people-oriented ones or ones who remember being abandoned at the shelter. This type of anxiety can manifest in excessive barking and howling, chewing furniture or frantically scratching doors or windows, indoor bathroom accidents, excessive salivation or panting, and intense pacing. These will show up every time you leave your house, or whenever your dog sees you put on a coat or get your car keys.
How can I help it?
One way to try and relieve your dogs anxiety is by teaching them that they gets a special treat whenever you leave. The dog is anxious because they know that you are leaving them. You can try and counteract that by leaving them a special treat, small trees around the house for them to discover while you are gone, and by making sure that all of their favourite things are close at hand to help ease the anxiety.
Just like humans can get stressed out by other humans, dogs can get stressed out by other animals being in their home. If you notice that your dog is having a lot of anxiety when another animal is in the area or in the room with them.
How can I help it?
If you notice that your dog is getting anxious whenever another animal is in the room, try and separate the two animals as much as possible when you’re at home. Often, this is caused by your dog feeling like they have to be watchful around that other animal, even if that is not the case.
Dogs may not have the best memory, but they will remember when they’ve been mistreated. If you notice that your dog is having an anxious reaction to something that you are doing, this might be because they were mistreated by a former owner or while they were in the shelter. This is often the cause behind many other types of anxiety.
How can I help it?
Keep an eye on your dog and what is making them react anxiously. Do what you can to soothe them when you see them start to react anxiously, but also try to avoid doing the behaviour that is causing them anxiety in the first place if possible.
The older your dog gets, the more likely it is that they will develop anxieties such as these simply because of their old age. For these dogs, it will be more difficult to try to change the behaviours within your dog, so it might be helpful to try for a medication that will make your dog feel less anxious.
How can I help it?
Talk to your vet see if there is anything going on like a brain or thyroid disease that could be contributing to the problem. It may also be coming from a toxic substance response, so make sure they do a full workup on your dog before dismissing the problem.
The Benefits of a GPS Collar & Invisible Fence
If your dog tends to run for the hills whenever they get anxious, you may want to install an invisible fence. These are inexpensive and easy to set up anywhere, with absolutely no wires involved. The collars that come along with these systems emit a small shock that will work as a deterrent for your dog when they come close to the fence line.
However, you should make sure that these are appropriate for your dogs before you purchase them. If you have multiple dogs, it may not be able to hold all of them in at once. If you have a small dog, it may not be safe for your dog to wear these collars since they emit a shock. If you have a larger dog, the shocks may not do anything to stop them from running straight through the invisible fence.
This is especially important if you live somewhere rural, because it’s very easy for dogs to get lost when they are anxious and trying to hide. There’s no telling how far they can go without you knowing where they are, and plenty of places for them to hide.
They also come with a GPS tracker embedded in the collar which makes it possible for you to track where your dog is even when they run away from home.
The shocks also occur when they tried to return home, so you should keep an eye out if your dog does escape to make sure that they can get back home when they tried to.
Talk to Your Vet
Illness is a major cause of a lot of fears and anxieties for dogs. Before you start making any major changes, talk to your vet to see if there is any reason that the symptoms your dog is exhibiting might be caused by an illness or disease. This is especially important if your dog is older and the symptoms are newly presenting without any visible cause.
You should also double check that a shock collar is safe for your dog to wear before you buy one. They may be able to recommend something that is more useful for you.