Yes, it’s true. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders in dogs are a real thing. Anxiety becomes an issue for dogs when fear, an important evolutionary emotion necessary for survival, gets a little out of whack. When that fear is present for prolonged or frequent periods, it eventually causes suffering in your furry best friend. In this article, we will give you a little more info on the specifics of anxiety in dogs and give you some strategies for how to help your fur kid cope. We’ll cover everything from the importance of play to natural supplements like CBD for pets to help make your dog’s life even better than it already is.
A Little More About Anxiety in Dogs
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior examined the prevalence, comorbidity and behavioral variation in different kinds of anxiety that affect dogs. They discovered that general fearfulness, noise sensitivity and separation anxiety were the top three types of anxiety most responsible for the most significant proportion of behavioral problems in dogs who live as family pets.
The findings of this study were pretty far-reaching. They discovered that the roots of anxiety in dogs can be linked to genetic predisposition and learned behaviors reinforced through early stages of development or even later years of life. Some typical signs that your dog may be suffering from one type of anxiety or another include:
- Excessive panting or drooling when it’s not warm or hot.
- Pacing, general restlessness and constant fidgeting.
- Barking, whining and other noisy behaviors.
- Ears back, tail tucked and shaking or trembling.
- Disruptions to their eating, including a lack of interest in food or not eating at all.
- Destructive behaviors that include chewing and tearing up items and objects.
- Urination and defecation in areas where they have been trained not to, notably indoors.
Some of these symptoms and red flags can be signs of other issues, so it’s a good idea to get help from your vet in correctly diagnosing your dog with anxiety and rule out other issues. All in all, anxiety can be a complicated issue in dogs, the same as for human folk, but there are some things you can do to help lessen your pup’s anxiety.
Tips, Tricks and Strategies to Help Calm Your Anxious Dog
Here are some tips, tricks and strategies that you can put into effect right away to help calm your anxious dog.
1. Train your dog using positive reinforcement.
The landscape of dog training has changed a lot in recent years. Gone are the days of owners asserting themselves as alphas and working their dogs into submission using heavy-handed tactics. It is generally recognized now that many of those techniques employed fear as a tool of coercion, and evidence shows they are at the root of anxiety-related behaviors in some dogs.
2. Feed your dog a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Foods made with human-grade, organic ingredients with fewer or no fillers and junk will give your dog the nutrients it needs to live a happy and healthy life. Physical health plays a significant role in helping dogs stay calm, especially when maintaining proper gut health. It’s natural for a dog to be fearful and anxious when things aren’t going well for them physically because they will feel vulnerable and at risk.
3. Give them more exercise and more play.
It’s essential to help your pup exercise regularly to keep them physically healthy and for mental stimulation. Going for walks or runs in the dog park will help keep them cognitively alert. So will regular play. This is especially important for younger dogs who are just developing socially, but make sure to give your senior pups a chance to exercise and play too. The time spent together will also strengthen the bond between you and your dog, helping them to feel even more secure.
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4. Establish and maintain clear routines.
When you establish regular routines, you will be setting your dog up for success and helping them to feel less anxious. Routines remove uncertainty, which allows your dogs to be confident. Try to be as consistent with timing and actions related to what happens when you get up in the morning, how your dog receives their meals when they get a walk, cues for initiating play, etc.
5. Use natural remedies when appropriate.
Some dog breeds are a little more prone to anxiety than others. And some dogs, notably rescues, come to us with histories we’re not entirely familiar with or that seem tough to overcome. In these cases, we may need to up our game a little to help calm our dog’s anxiety, and there are some natural ways to do this. One is to use special calming coats or shirts that apply a gentle amount of pressure to your dog’s torso, which has the same calming effect as swaddling a baby. There are also supplements that you can introduce into your dog’s diet. Some of the most popular are CBD dog treats that calm anxious dogs with the bonus of being tasty at the same time.
Use caution and do research when introducing anything new, and don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s okay for your dog just because it works for people. This is especially true of essential oils. Many of the great ones for people are unfortunately quite harmful to our four-legged friends. So, be careful and, if you’re unsure, don’t use the product or item until you get the all-clear from your vet.
6. Be patient and loving.
This is perhaps the most essential way to help keep your anxious dog calm. Yes, we know how frustrating it is to deal with excessive barking, yet another pair of chewed-up shoes or cleaning up a potty accident for the umpteenth time. But remember that your dog isn’t doing any of these things out of spite or malice. They’re not capable of those kinds of behaviors. What they’re doing is finding outlets for their anxiety in the ways available to them.
It’s our job as loving pet parents to do our best to help them through it all and bring them to a place of living their best lives. But if it is becoming overwhelming, we highly recommend consulting your vet or a qualified pet trainer for assistance. You’re not in this alone, and help for both you and your pup are available!