When you live with dogs for any length of time, you get to know their (mostly) adorable quirks. But when those quirks turn into anxieties, it’s up to you to help them cope with the stress and become happier, healthier dogs.
Here are some of the most common things that can cause anxiety in dogs and how to help a dog with anxiety:
Thunder, construction and fireworks can be problematic for a lot of dogs. If you notice your dog pacing, drooling, howling or hiding during these “noise events,” try providing them with a snug bed or crate draped in sound-dampening quilts in a windowless room. Some dogs benefit from sound therapy, ThunderShirts or T-Touch wraps; others respond well to CBD treats. If your dog displays extreme noise aversion, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They may recommend a combination of prescription medication and behavioral modification to help keep your dog comfortable during high-noise events.
Being Left Alone
If your pup tends to whine, bark or act up when you leave the house, he might have separation anxiety. The good news is that all but the most severe cases of puppy and dog separation anxiety can be treated with a consistent program of behavioral modification. For dogs on the more extreme end of the separation anxiety spectrum, a combination of behavioral modification (both yours and the dog’s) and medication may be in order.
In an ideal world, all dogs would play happily together. In the real world, however, dogs have decided companion preferences (just as people do), and some dogs can get anxiety when in proximity to other dogs. In cases like this, you’ll have to work on desensitization, space management and improving your animal handling skills.
Some dogs looooove car rides. Others, not so much. If your dog has car anxiety, your first job is to figure out why car rides are problematic. Some dogs just get car sick, and your treatment options are basically limited to medication or avoidance. For dogs who are car reactive or have generalized anxiety around cars, try to determine what the triggers are. If you have a rescue or rehomed dog, you may never know what kind of past experiences he has had with vehicles; in these cases, you can use positive reinforcement techniques to help overcome the negative associations. Use treats, praise and fun to help your dog understand that cars aren’t bad and don’t always end in a trip to the vet.
From the average dog’s perspective, nothing good ever happens at the vet. It’s a waiting room full of other anxious pets, and an exam room full of strangers, needles and cold thermometers. To help make vet visits less stressful, work on desensitizing your dog to the experience by bringing him to the vet for a quick trip full of treats and praise, without a visit to the exam room. Look for a provider who subscribes to a fear-free treatment philosophy, and don’t be afraid to shop around for veterinary practices with well-trained staff and clean, well-designed spaces.
Remember that close observation is one of the keys to determining what sort of external stimuli trigger anxious behaviors, and keep in mind that your dog’s internal environment can change with age, illness and even diet. If you’ve noticed that your dog’s overall behavior and resiliency has changed or worsened, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, or certified dog trainer for advice.
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Jamie Damato Migdal, CPDT-KA and CEO/Founder of FetchFind, has been innovating within the pet industry for over 25 years. A sought-after consultant and public speaker, Jamie has built four national pet service companies and has wide-ranging industry expertise in education, technology, business development, sales, marketing and management. Her fourth and current company, FetchFind, provides staff training and engagement, as well as digital marketing and other business solutions, to pet care service and pet-friendly companies around the globe.