You want your pup to have the happiest life they can, but what if it’s their own anxiety that’s getting in the way? Here’s how to treat anxiety in dogs.
Anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes worry and fear of a situation, person, or object.
Anxiety in dogs and humans is pretty similar, and dogs need just as much reassurance as we do when they get anxious. Simple behavior training and adjustments to diet and living environment can greatly reduce the anxiety felt by your pooch at home.
Before we dive into how to treat anxiety, let’s talk about the different types and how an anxious dog tells us they feel scared.
2 types of anxiety affect dogs:
This is where the dog feels anxious because they are left alone, or someone has left. This could be a human or a canine companion.
This is the anxiety caused by something scary. Dogs are commonly afraid of thunder, fireworks, and water. They could also be afraid of small spaces or any situation that they find scary based on past experiences.
Rescue dogs who have had bad experiences may exhibit fear behaviors towards random objects or situations.
What Does an Anxious Dog Look Like?
Anxious dogs may display one or all of these behaviors:
- Tail tucked under legs
- Hiding under furniture
- Urinating/defecating inside
- Self-harming, e.g., biting themselves or throwing their bodies around
- Not sleeping/resting
- Not eating or overeating
- Aggressive behaviors such as growling, teeth bearing, and biting may be seen as a last resort to avoid a frightening situation
Now we know what anxiety is and what it looks like, in dogs, it’s time to learn about how you can treat it. The behavioral training is best done by consulting a qualified animal behaviorist to ensure you are training your dog correctly. Poor training could result in your dog becoming confused and more anxious.
Behavior training is a long-term solution to anxiety, whereas medications and other remedies only work in that instant.
This is a type of training where you train the dog to perform another behavior when they feel anxious.
For example, if your dog is a self-harmer, and they bite themselves when anxious, you can instead train them to bite a chew toy.
This redirects the unwanted behavior to more appropriate or safer behavior for the wellbeing of your dog.
This involves exposing your dogs to a lesser version of the scary stimuli and gradually building up the intensity until your dog remains calm with full stimulus.
This must be done correctly to ensure you are rewarding the dog for being calm. You must also ensure you do not overstimulate the dog and scare them.
This type of training should be completed very gradually over several weeks or even months to ensure full desensitization to the scary stimuli.
This works well providing the distraction is more appealing than being anxious. For example, if your dog is afraid of storms or fireworks, try keeping them in 1 room with the tv or radio on loudly to ‘mask’ the loud bangs.
Only do this is if your dog is used to the sound of the TV or radio.
You can also try to distract your dog with playtime and their favorite toy.
Avoid giving your dog treats while they are displaying anxious behavior, as this rewards them for being anxious.
Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP)
This is a fantastic tool to have in your home if you are the owner of an anxious dog. You can buy the DAP as plug in’s for around your home. It releases DAP, which is a synthetic version of female lactating hormones that calm puppies.
Humans aren’t able to smell the pheromones, and therefore, this is a great tool to help in the treatment of anxiety.
If your dog has severe debilitating anxiety where it is affecting your dog’s quality of life, then it’s time to consider prescription anxiety medication from your veterinarian.
Many drugs can be used as anti-anxiety medications, commonly anti-depressants are prescribed.
This is a big one for anxiety prevention. A well-exercised dog will spend the day sleeping rather than being anxious.
Exercising your dog also gets them out and about, meeting new people and seeing new places. This can help relieve some of their fears.
If your dog is very anxious while being out, try to take them out little but often. Their exposure time to the stress is minimal to start off with, and then you can gradually increase it over time.
Ensure your dog gets the correct amount of high-quality food daily, plenty of fresh water, and plenty of exercise. Ensure your dog is free from pain and disease and has regular vet check-ups.
A dog that is in pain or sick could display signs of anxiety as they feel vulnerable.
CBD oil is a great remedy to help with anxiety in your dog. The CBD releases into the bloodstream and works on the nervous system to release serotonin. Serotonin is produced by dogs’ bodies naturally and works as a ‘calmer’ to keep them happy.
A lack of serotonin can cause depression and anxiety in dogs, just as it does in humans.
For more information about CBD for dogs, these experts can help.
Anxiety in Dogs: Keep Your Dog Happy
If you are struggling with your dog’s anxiety, don’t hesitate to contact your vet or behaviorist for advice. A combination of behavior training and medication may be needed for long-term, severe anxiety in dogs.
Give our top 8 anxiety tips a try for a happier, healthier, and less anxious dog.
For more pet advice, check out our blog.