It can be agony to watch your dog suffer from anxiety. It is especially painful if you’re not sure what to do about it, and there seems to be no way to help. But usually, there are ways to help your anxious pup, both in the short-term and in the long run. Here’s how to work with your dog’s anxiety:
Understanding Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s related to fear, which is the nervous system’s response to a real or perceived threat. When your dog perceives a threat, their body will prepare for the freeze, fight, or flight response. Anxiety is when your dog anticipates future threats by preparing too well.
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs may include barking, drooling, panting, trembling, withdrawal, and lethargy. They may also develop lesions from scratching at themselves. A dog may hide and tuck in its tail.
Destructive behavior can manifest, but it is not always a sign of anxiety in dogs. If your pup is destroying the furniture, it might be because he is afraid and dislikes being alone. This is more common with separation anxiety.
The general types of anxiety recognized in dogs are noise anxiety, separation anxiety, and social anxiety.
How to Help Your Dog’s Anxiety
Here are some of the many ways you may be able to help alleviate your dog’s anxiety:
1. Increase Training
Anxiety may be getting to your dog partly because their concentration levels are too low. Without keeping themselves busy, they spend more time worrying.
Try playing new games with them, teaching them new skills, and new walking routes. The more engaged they are in the here and now, the less energy they will use on anxious thoughts and behaviors.
2. Increase Exercise and Play Games
Increase their exercise and play games with them. Exercise alleviates stress, and increases endorphins – even in dogs! Playing games with your pup can help them build confidence as well.
3. Swaddle Your Pup
During stressful moments, wrap your dog in a big hug, or a blanket, to let them know they are safe. Compression shirts can also give your dog that sense of safety, especially when it comes to something like storm anxiety and calming your dog during a storm.
In this same vein, massage can be very helpful to soothe dogs. Use long and smooth strokes to calm your dog’s nerves. You can also try circular motions to calm them.
5. Soothing Music
Soothing music can help your dog with anxiety. In the same way that certain types of sounds and melodies can calm a person, dogs can be calmed by certain sounds. iCalmDog makes musical recordings specially designed to help dogs calm down.
6. Behavior Modification and Desensitization
Use behavior modification and desensitization. Expose your pup to small amounts of the stressor at hand.
Separation anxiety, which is very common in dogs, can be alleviated through this technique. You can leave your pup at home on their own for increasingly larger amounts of time, and tie these experiences to rewards like extra playtime, cuddles or treats to give them positive reinforcement.
If they are afraid to be around people, have a few less familiar, but trusted, friends or family members visit regularly. Slowly build up their tolerance to the source of their anxiety and they may start to have a less anxious response.
7. Pay a Visit to Your Vet
They will be able to make the call on what kind of anxiety your dog has, and whether or not they need medication. Your vet can also help you figure out the best way to help your dog when they are feeling anxious.