What is Dog Anxiety, and How to Help Your Dog Through It
You probably know by now that anxiety is a serious mental problem millions of people deal with daily. But you might not have realized that dogs can have severe anxiety, too.
We joke about our dogs having trouble being away from us, for instance. To them, though, the separation is a serious thing. When will you come back? Will you ever come back? What will they do if you don’t?
All of those questions show up in doggy form for pups with anxiety issues. This problem rears its head in other situations, too.
If you notice Fido is acting strange, or if your dog has always shown symptoms of nervousness, you might be dealing with an anxious pup.
To take care of a dog who has anxiety, you need a lot of patience and TLC and the knowledge you’ll learn in this guide.
Causes and Symptoms of Dog Anxiety
Like people, some dogs are born naturally nervous. There’s nothing that happened to them to cause it. They are just high-strung from birth, and any little thing can make them jumpy.
For most dogs (and people, too), anxiety comes from a trigger, though. Figuring out the reason for their environmental anxiety gives you know an idea of how to help your pup.
Environmental Anxiety in Dogs
There are two main causes of environmental anxiety: animal cruelty and major change. Age-related anxiety can also happen as your pup gets older.
If your dog came from a shelter or another owner and has a nervous personality, it’s possible they were mistreated or neglected. This type of anxiety often shows up as barking, whimpering, whining, and/or shivering. They may cringe if you try to pet them.
Hopefully, your pup has never been the victim of animal cruelty. Even if you’re the most affectionate pet owner, it’s possible for your pup to become anxious. If there’s been a drastic change in your routine that affects your dog, or their environment has changed, it could result in anxiety.
The symptoms of this problem aren’t always verbal. In some extreme cases, your pet may become hostile or destructive. Over time, they may lose their appetite or completely withdraw from interacting with you and others.
It’s also important to note that if you see your normally well-behaved pup lashing out and becoming destructive, how you respond is crucial. If you start yelling and punishing an anxious dog, it’s going to increase their symptoms, not reduce them.
Instead of becoming upset, look for ways to calm your dog’s anxiety. Then, the symptoms will most likely go away on their own.
Ways To Calm Dog Anxiety
How to best calm your dog is a decision left up to you. Some dogs simply need more consistency with their routine, while others require medical attention.
As you begin to recognize that your pup is dealing with some serious mental health needs, try these methods to soothe them and relieve their anxiety.
Give Them Treats and Toys
Dogs calm themselves down by licking, so you might see them uncontrollably licking themselves. Give them a treat that they can lick to distract them from anxiety-inducing triggers, such as strangers or loud noises.
Create a Safe Space
All dogs, but previously abused or neglected dogs, in particular, need a space where they feel safe. Create a cozy area with a dog bed, lots of blankets, and their toys. Some dogs prefer a crate to hide in when there are storms, or they feel nervous.
This safe area is their sanctuary. If you have to move, keep the same bed and blanket set up to make the transition smoother.
Physical Contact or Massages
Sometimes, a loving touch is all it takes to make your pup feel safe again. When you start to pick up signs that your up is feeling anxious, give them a hug, pet them, and have a cuddle session when you have the time.
Dogs with separation anxiety may benefit from a swaddling wrap. Called an ‘anxiety wrap, these are vests that go around the animal’s torso. In effect, they act like a swaddle on a baby or a hug to a person who is upset. The light, firm pressure creates a calming sensation for your pup when you’re gone.
When your pup doesn’t get enough healthy activity, they’re going to do one of two things. They’ll become lazy and obese, which is unhealthy and can cause them to get sick. Or they’ll be active in destructive ways.
With an anxious dog, exercise is extra important. Anxiety creates spikes in energy, so providing your pup an outlet for that energy reduces their stress. As with humans, exercise also produces endorphins in your pup. These are the feel-good hormones that help us lower our stress levels.
If pavements are super hot or it's cold and snowy consider using dog boots to prevent your dog having anxiety about their walking terrain, Walker Paws are the world's first dog leggings designed to be a better boot. They are super comfy for pups as they are loose around the ankles and have thin rubber soles so pup can feel the ground when he walks, providing a much needed sense of security
Exercise offers another advantage, too. If you wear your pup out before you have to leave for a while, they’ll sleep through the separation.
Watch for Medical Issues
In most cases, your pup’s anxiety is environmentally related and should be helped by some or all of these suggestions. If you notice your dog continues to behave in destructive manners or otherwise act anxious, and nothing is helping, it may be something deeper.
Serious anxiety disorders are treated by your vet through medications and natural therapies. Your pup may need help that you can’t provide, such as an antidepressant or other medication.
Talk to your vet if you’re concerned that your pup’s anxiety is beyond normal help. They may have suggestions you weren’t aware of. Ultimately, what’s best for Fido is what you need to do.
Above All Else, Be Patient
If your furry companion suffers from dog anxiety, it can be a trying time for both of you. It’s not easy to be patient when your dog is hurting and/or lashing out.
Eventually, you’ll learn the triggers to prevent some of Fido’s anxiety and help prevent and manage the symptoms. You’ll have your sweet, cuddly pup back, and they’ll feel safe and protected by you.