Many dogs find certain situations overwhelming, but for some dogs overwhelmed is an understatement. Dog anxiety is a real problem that many dogs and dog parents confront every day. Whether it stems from loud noises, strange locations, or just being left alone, many dogs find specific situations so stressful that they can become physically ill.
You could have a pooch that seems cool as a cucumber or one that is hanging on by a thread. Either way, it helps to know what to watch out for in terms of high-pressure situations. It also helps to have some handy coping mechanisms in your tool belt to deal with them, because even the coolest pooch can snap under the right circumstances.
Common Causes of Dog Anxiety
One of the most common causes of dog anxiety, being left alone can run even the most level headed dog up a wall. Dogs are our companions, and without us, they can get a little stir crazy — chewing up furniture, whining so loud the neighbors can hear, or scratching at the doors.
It is so common, in fact, that we already wrote up an article with some super handy tips on how to deal with separation anxiety specifically.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Top 5 Dog Separation Anxiety Tips
Another common stressor for dogs, loud noises like thunder or fireworks can often send dogs running for the hills. It is easy to forget how finely tuned a dog’s hearing is until we turn on the vacuum cleaner. Dogs can hear things nearly twice as high pitched as a person. So when it comes to dog anxiety, a loud noise can often be the culprit.
Dogs, just like people, can find a room full of strangers to be a bit intimidating. Some tend to revel in all the new smells and sounds, but for a select few, large gatherings can lead to over-stimulation and an eventual meltdown.
Dogs are, by and large, creatures of habit – they like their meals on time, a solid walking routine, and a place full of familiar smells. Traveling is an experience that affords next to none of those amenities.
Being cooped up in a kennel or in the kitchen all day often ends with a dog going nuts. A dog’s instinctive reaction to feeling trapped is to try to break free, and if they cannot, then dog anxiety can be a result.
How to Deal With Dog Anxiety
Now that you know what might be setting your dog off, here are a few tips to help them overcome their dog anxiety.
Slowly introduce your dog to the trigger in question and show them that it is not so bad. If it is separation, leave them alone for short bursts of time, eventually building to leaving them alone for a few hours. For loud noises, try giving your dog a treat anytime the sound in question comes on.
Same thing with travel, crowds, or confinement. Hopefully they learn to associate the thing they once feared with the joy of getting a reward, thereby removing the fear altogether.
A place where a dog can go and be left alone can be huge in helping them calm down. A room or a corner with a soft place to lay down and all of their favorite toys can work wonders. Also, adhering to a set schedule can alleviate a lot of dog anxiety. Regular feeding and walking times can correct for a lot of the uncertainty at the root of dog anxiety.
There are plenty of OTC treats, supplements, and products (like the Thundershirt) that advertise a calming effect. Whether or not they work for your dog is something you need to find out on your own.
Aside from that, always having a favorite toy on hand is a great way to distract your anxious pooch. Also, some people have had good results with playing some classical music.
If all else fails, it could be that your dog is not just reacting to external stimuli, but is actually suffering from full on dog anxiety. In that case, it is best to take your dog to the vet and get them prescribed an actual anti-anxiety medication.
Shiba Shake – Dog Anxiety Problems – How to Deal with an Anxious Dog