Just like us humans, your canine companion may be suffering from anxiety, but fear not, there are simple steps to anxiety detection and ways to help them overcome it. A variety of reasons could cause anxiety, so it is best to not jump to conclusions but to take the time and evaluate why your doggo might be suffering.
How to spot anxiety in your furry best friend
The first and most important thing to watch for is a sudden change in behaviour. You know your doggo best, so if they’re acting ‘off’, take the time to investigate.
- First things first, watch their tail and tongue. If your doggo suddenly tucks their tail in between their legs and they start licking their lips, make sure to investigate. This is a clear sign of distress.
- Watch the hair on their back. If it goes rigid, make sure to check your doggo for any other symptoms as this could be anxiety or fear.
- Ears pinning back or mouth pinning back as if in a ‘smile’ may be signs of anxiety and distress.
- Trembling and whining might come off as excitement, but it can be a sign of an anxious doggo.
- Rage and aggression can be a sign of anxiety for fear-related reasons.
Reasons for anxiety in your doggo
There are three main reasons that your canine companion might be suffering from anxiety.
Fear related anxiety is common, especially if you have a rescue or a doggo who has gone through any sort of trauma. This will happen due to loud noises, sudden movements, or things directly triggering their past trauma. When taking on any dog, but particularly a rescue, make sure to learn their triggers, whether that be vacuums or tv screens.
Separation anxiety manifests when dogs find it difficult to get comfortable or feel safe when left alone. These doggos will bark, mess the house and destroy furniture when left alone for long periods of time. Separation anxiety is more common than people know, so if you figure out that is the case for your furry friend, don’t worry, you are not alone.
The anxiety that comes with ageing for dogs is similar to those of humans. When you have an older dog watch for signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) it presents in a similar manner to Alzheimer’s disease.
How to help your doggo avoid anxiety
Avoid their triggers at all costs
When adopting or buying a dog, make sure to ask the important questions including what triggers they might potentially face. Ask about what has made the doggo nervous or anxious in the past. By asking questions and getting involved you will be able to prevent putting them in those situations in the first place.
If the old owners or the kennel cannot identify any potential triggers, watch for them yourself and then remove your doggo from the situation. Do not get angry at your furry friend, stay calm and use the positive training methods available online. Make sure you’re contacting your vets as soon as you notice their weird behaviour.
Socialise your doggo as soon as you can
Socialising your doggo is key to preventing anxiety. It has been proven that doggos who get lots of time with other pets have a better chance of not developing anxiety and destructive behaviours.
Make sure that the situations your doggo is put into are not dangerous or threatening. By putting them into a safe space you are assuring your dog that they don’t need to fear other dogs or people.
Feed them a healthy diet
Your doggo’s gut health is so important when it comes to their mental health. When your doggo’s tummy is happy, your doggo will be happy also.
The most important thing is to keep feeding times consistent and regular. Try starting your anxious pet on food twice a day in smaller quantities. This way your doggo won’t be anxious for their next meal.
Remember to give your doggo natural dog treats when they’re being good and improving their behaviours. Use the positive training methods to help them along, do not get angry or upset. Use treats such as beef liver treats or green lipped mussels to help you train while keeping your doggo’s tummy happy and healthy.
There are many options if you are looking into medicating your doggo for their anxiety. There are several things your vet might recommend: CBD oils, natural remedies such as crates or weighted blankets, and antidepressants.
Your vet might give you once off medication for stressful events, such as fireworks or long car rides. If you both decide that your doggo needs medication long-term, they might prescribe SSRIs, similar to those prescribed to humans.
Whatever you choose, make sure to always have the help and support of a veterinary professional.
Training and desensitisation
Counterconditioning is the act of changing your doggo’s response to a triggering event. When you notice your doggo getting irritated or anxious, calm them down and give them a command they are familiar with, try ‘sit’ in the beginning. Once your doggo has completed the command, give them a natural dog treat and a pet and make sure they are concentrating on you and not what gave them anxiety in the first place.
If the triggering event is something you cannot control, try removing your doggo from the situation first, before attempting to counter condition them. This will take time and effort so make sure you are prepared to work hard.
As an owner try and introduce your doggo to the object or situation that is triggering their anxiety response in small increments. This will mean you can control the situation that causes your furry best friend stress and pull them out of it when it gets too much. When trying this contact your vet first for guidance and take your time, no need to rush it.
At the end of the day, like humans, doggos can experience anxiety for many reasons and at different times. All they need is your support and willingness to learn and help them through it.