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How to Handle a Dog with Anxiety

February 12, 2018

shutterstock_514853983-300x186 How to Handle a Dog with AnxietyAnxiety is often an issue associated with people, but animals can also deal with anxiety and stress. We think of dogs as being happy, carefree beings, but they can also experience anxiety.

It can be difficult to figure out what is going on with your anxious dog and how to help, but the Animal Behavior Clinic of AERA is here to assist. Once you better understand the symptoms and sources of anxiety in dogs, you can better understand your pet and in turn, feel more prepared to help him or her cope with anxiety.

Anxiety in Dogs

As previously mentioned, dogs, like humans, can experience anxiety caused by all kinds of triggers, including loud noises and separation from their families. Anxiety may manifest in different ways for different reasons, and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what is happening inside your pet’s brain. As experts in pet behavior with a board-certified behaviorist on staff, The Animal Behavior Clinic of AERA can help you deal with a variety of behavioral issues that are caused by anxiety in dogs as well as help your dog learn to cope with his or her fears.

If your dog experiences stress when left alone, he or she isn’t alone. The stressor of being left alone is usually obvious, as the dog will often display obvious symptoms like barking or howling, defecation or urination, destructive behaviors, self-mutilation, and aggression after his or her people leave the house. Your dog may also become aggressive when he or she knows you are about to leave the house. If your dog tends to destroy everything in the room or causes painful sores on his or her body when you leave, it can be a warning sign that your he or she deals with stress when left alone.

Loud noises can also be extremely scary for some dogs. If your dog is fearful of loud noises such as fireworks, thunder, gunshots, sirens, vacuums, car alarms, and construction sounds, it can cause him or her a lot of stress, especially if these noises are unavoidable. While it is difficult to know for certain what causes this fear, veterinarians have a few ideas. The cause for fear could come from the noise itself or a traumatic experience your dog remembers when he or she hears specific noises. Another cause could be the changes in barometric pressure and humidity that cause discomfort in your dog’s ears, making them more sensitive to loud noises.

If your dog is afraid of loud noises, you will notice a distinct difference in your dog’s personality when he or she hears the anxiety-triggering noise. You may see that your dog starts shaking, cowering, hiding, or urinating. He or she may also refuse to leave your side. For other dogs, the problem noise will cause them to become destructive or self-mutilating. Since dogs can also sense changes in weather, if storms bother your dog, he or she may start to exhibit symptoms before the storm, so don’t discount the anxiety just because no noise is currently present at the time the behavior begins.

Some dogs are afraid of unfamiliar people or other animals. This anxiety can make day-to-day life very difficult for you and your pet. Not only does this fear make it nearly impossible to go anywhere with your dog, it is also one that makes you uncomfortable allowing other people in your home.

This type of anxiety can affect dogs that weren’t properly socialized as puppies, but that’s not always the reason. Puppies need to be in contact with humans and other dogs during their critical period (6-12 weeks), or they risk being fearful and nervous when placed in social situations. A dog may also experience anxiety or fear around other people or animals if they experienced something traumatic in their life. When placed in social situations, these dogs typically start to feel uncomfortable, which causes them to become aggressive or timid, depending on your dog’s disposition. Not only does this fear make life difficult for your pet, but it can also be a safety hazard for others, depending on how he or she reacts to the stress.

Approach to Anxiety in Dogs

As a pet parent, addressing anxiety in dogs is difficult. At the Animal Behavior Clinic of AERA, we want you to know that we are here for you and are ready to work with you and your pet to improve his or her quality of life. You are not alone and there are many treatment options available for your anxious dog.  Here are some quick tips for approaching your dog’s anxiety:

  • DO meet with a board-certified behaviorist for help
  • DO understand that every dog may have a different learning style and require a different approach to treatment. An experienced behaviorist can come up with a specialized treatment plan to fit your dog’s unique needs, including a change in diet, massage, medication, therapeutic exercise, or a customized training plan.
  • DO be careful when looking for advice on the internet, and bring up any ideas you have to your behaviorist to avoid causing more anxiety problems with your pet.
  • DON’T punish your dog for exhibiting any symptoms of anxiety.
  • DON’T use a choke or shock collar on your dog for training or any other purpose.
  • DON’T force your pet into any situation that makes him or her anxious or uncomfortable as this can scare your dog and make the anxiety he or she feels worse. Animals may also become uncharacteristically aggressive when they are under stress.
  • DON’T yell at your dog for displaying symptoms of anxiety.
  • DON’T lose hope that your pet can overcome his or her anxiety.

AERA’s Animal Behavior Clinic is the only behavior modification facility in New Jersey that has a full-time board-certified veterinary behaviorist, as well as a CPDT-KA certified trainer and technical staff. All staff members of the Animal Behavior Clinic are Fear Free certified. If you live near Fairfield, New Jersey, and want help dealing with your dog’s anxiety, call the Animal Behavior Clinic of AERA today at (862) 702-3738.