Anxiety can affect all breeds of dogs and even though some pets only experience anxiety at certain times of the year or in specific situations, if untreated it can cause behavioural issues.
Understanding the root cause of your dog’s anxiety can help with treatment and improve their behaviour in the long-term. Dogs can experience anxiety for many reasons and some only suffer with it at certain times of the year. Whether it’s a young puppy or a senior dog, it’s never nice to see your pooch suffer.
Fear related anxiety
This can be caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli such as hats or bright colours, new or strange environments, specific situations like vet visits or car journeys or floor surfaces. Some dogs may only have brief reactions to these kinds of stimuli, but they may also affect anxious dogs consequently.
This can affect older dogs and can be associated with cognitive dysfunction. They may seem more anxious than normal and more fearful of unfamiliar people or places.
Separation anxiety is common in dogs who are not used to being away from their owner. If left home alone for a few hours some dogs can become nervous, and this can be shown in a variety of ways.
There are certain times of the year when dogs can become more anxious. In autumn when fireworks are being let of, dogs who have a fear of loud noises can become anxious and stressed. Halloween can also be a stressful time due to scary costumes and more people at the door trick or treating.
Some common signs of dog anxiety can include:
- Increased vocalisation
- Increased sleeping
- Decreased appetite
- Digestive problems
There are a few ways you can help reduce dog anxiety including:
Create a safe zone
Make sure your pet has a safe place to retreat to, should they become anxious. You could add an item of your clothing in there that will smell familiar to your dog. Let them
come and go as they please but keep an eye on them
Keep your routine
Fixed routines can help to keep your pet calm. Any changes to your normal household routine can upset and stress your pet. During any stressful time of year or upcoming event, try to feed and walk them at the same time as usual.
Distract your pet
Use toys to keep your pet distracted and focused on something else.
Don’t punish or shout at your dog
If they do something wrong, which could be due to stress and anxiety, don’t shout at them as it could cause further stress and behavioural issues.
If you know a specific event, such as fireworks or a trip to the vets could make your pet anxious, try to prepare ahead of the event to help keep them calm on the run up and during.
If you must leave your pet alone, play calming music to help drown out
external noise that could make them anxious. Close curtains or blinds to remove any external distractions.
Comfort your pet
When stressed try to sit close to your pet and stroke them to try and keep them calm. Physical contact could help to make them feel safe and reduce their anxiety. Don’t force them or chase them to try and stroke them, if they prefer to be by themselves, let them wander off to a safe place to hide.
If a trip in the car or being left alone causes your pet to have anxiety, you could train them to get used to these situations. Reward your dog with a treat and praise them when they respond positively to training. Be patient with your dog and don’t force them.
If your dog is nervous of people or other dogs, training classes could help reduce anxiety during these occasions. Refrain from locking them away when visitors come, as this will only add to their stress.
Consider using a natural support to help reduce your pet’s stress and anxiety. There are many products on the market that can support your pet through various helpful situations, such as Nutracalm or a physical support such as a Thunder Shirt. Your vet may be able to recommend something to help your pet.
Speak to your vet If you are worried about your pet’s health or behaviour, speak to your vet as this may be down to another health issue. Your vet is also best placed to offer advice and treatment options. They may be able to offer help with training techniques to help reduce their fear.