Anxiety is a widely occurring problem among canines. Canines left at home on their own are highly prone to separation anxiety together with high-risk breeds. Knowing how to cure dog anxiety is an important step to ensure that your pet will live a happy and worry-free life.
Remember that treating dog separation anxiety is a long process. It’s not an overnight task. You have to approach the problem slowly to prevent further stress on your dog.
In this post, I will share my personal experience in dealing with canine anxiety with my dog, Sherlock. Just like any behavioral issues, there’s a workaround for anxiety issues.
What are the signs of anxiety in dogs?
It’s easy to identify anxiety in dogs. However, a pet parent who got used to his pet’s anxious tendencies may dismiss the signs as normal behavior.
If you suspect that your dog has anxiety, you should look for these tell-tale symptoms:
- Pacing and panting even if it’s not hot
- Howling and barking when left alone
- Digging and chewing to escape
- Destructive behavior
- Accidents despite being housebroken
- Self-harm like self-mutilation
- Poor appetite
- Panic attack
You can also set up a dog camera to see your dog’s behavior when you’re not at home. This will give you a glimpse of your dog’s behavior and if it indeed has anxiety. If you notice these signs on your dog, it’s important to seek proper help right away.
What causes anxiety in dogs?
A dog’s behavior is affected by many factors. For the most part, canine anxiety is due to these three major aspects:
- Fear. Fear-related anxiety occurs when a dog suffers from noise aversion, gets surrounded by strangers, or visits an unfamiliar place. The fear and confusion due to the sudden changes will trigger anxious behavior. Most dogs will only have short-lived anxiety when exposed to these stimuli. However, some will be affected consequentially.
- Age. Older dogs are more likely to develop anxiety as compared to younger canines. Like humans, senior dogs will suffer cognitive decline. As the canine suffers from cognitive dysfunction, it will be easily confused by its surroundings. In turn, the dog will be anxious all the time.
- Solitude. Dog’s separation anxiety is the most common problem among dogs, across ages. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety can’t tolerate being left alone or not seeing their family members for long. According to the American Kennel Club, about 14% of all dogs have this type of anxiety.
All of these forms of anxiety require immediate attention. You should never dismiss the early signs as they can branch out into a bigger problem.
How can I help my dog with anxiety and fear?
If your dog has an anxiety disorder, you can do the following to help ease its suffering. Remember that you should take it slowly and gently to prevent further stress to your dog.
1. Crate training is the key
One of the most effective methods I’ve used on my dog Sherlock is crate training. Almost every veterinarian will recommend this to you. The aim here is behavior modification to curb canine separation anxiety.
Crate training is a process to which you get your dog used to staying inside a crate for hours. For some, this may sound cruel, but it’s actually the total opposite.
The crate mimics dogs’ natural habitat in the wild. They stay in cramped spaces to evade predators that may try to attack them in the open. With that, staying inside the crate gives your dog a sense of safety and relaxation.
Knowing how to crate train an older dog with separation anxiety is no different than training a younger dog. You just need to practice more patience as older canines move slower and can become confused more often.
2. Put on calming shirts on your dog
Another method that helps ease anxiety is using calming shirts. For Sherlock, I used ThunderShirt. It’s a brand known to make soothing shirts for dogs suffering from storm phobia and other anxiety issues. If you’re wondering what to give a dog for thunderstorm anxiety, a ThunderShirt is a good choice.
Calming shirts provide a mild pressure on your dog’s body, which is said to help them tone down. However, the likes of ThunderShirts aren’t the sole solution to dog anxiety. For dogs with intense anxiety, calming shirts may not be enough.
Some dog owners like me swear by this method, but others don’t see significant changes in their pet’s behavior. Still, there’s no harm in trying this product to see if it will work for your canine.
3. Use calming collars
You can also try putting a calming collar on your dog. This collar is infused with synthetic pheromone similar to the one that mother dogs produce to calm their puppies.
Such collars are clinically proven to reduce a dog’s nervousness. It also helps a lot in reducing barking, chewing, and accidents due to separation anxiety.
However, calming collars are like ThunderShirts – it won’t work on all pets. You can try putting one on your dog to see if it will react positively. It may take a few minutes to a couple of hours to see the difference.
4. Consider CBD products
Here’s one question I often receive from pet owners: can CBD help dog anxiety? While CBD products aren’t a miracle cure for a dog’s anxiety, it still helps a lot.
Basically, CBD for pets has similar effects as Prozac. It affects the canine’s serotonin system through the body’s natural CBD receptors. CBD provides a calming effect for dogs with anxiety.
For this, you can find CBD treats that your dog will enjoy. Aside from easy dosaging, CBD treats deliver fast calming effects. You can also consider CBD oil, though not all dogs thrive on it.
Just remember to consult your dog’s vet before giving any CBD products for anxiety. This is to assess potential side effects.
5. Increased mental stimulation
Aside from external products, you should also increase your dog’s mental and physical activity. This will curb boredom and excess energy that it can vent into anxious thoughts.
Daily walks are simple activities, but they will help ease your dog’s mind. This will also burn the excess energy of your pet, so it won’t chew or bark incessantly while you’re away.
You should also play mental games with your dog like fetch, agility course, dog puzzles, stuffed KONG, and more. This will stimulate your dog’s mind to keep it off anxious thoughts.
6. Diffuse an appeasing pheromone
Some pet owners use a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) diffuser. This has the same synthetic pheromone as calming collars, but you’re going to diffuse it like an essential oil. With that, your home will become a safe haven for your anxious dog.
A handful of studies prove that DAP works well for anxious puppies since it’s similar to the pheromone mother dogs produce. However, it may have limited effects on older canines. Still, there’s no harm in trying and seeing how your dog will react to it.
7. Consult the veterinarian
Lastly, consult your dog’s veterinarian. The vet can help pinpoint your dog’s anxiety triggers and how you can approach it. Your dog’s vet can also prescribe sedatives or anti anxiety medication to help with the canine’s condition.
What can I give my dog for fireworks anxiety?
Noise anxiety is the reason behind a dog’s fireworks phobia. Putting a ThunderShirt on your dog will help here. But if that doesn’t work, you can try calming pheromones, CBD products, or sedatives. Whatever your choice is, always seek the vet’s opinion first.
Can a fearful dog be cured?
The goal here is not to ‘cure’ the fear but to manage it. You can reduce your dog’s fearful behavior through proper training, socialization, and the use of calming products. This is a long process, especially for rescue canines that suffer abuse from their previous owners.
Why is my dog getting anxious in the car?
Dogs that are not used to riding vehicles will suffer from motion sickness. This will make the dog appear anxious, accompanied by drooling, pacing, and panting.
Knowing how to cure dog car anxiety starts by desensitizing your dog to car rides. Start with short and slow trips around the neighborhood. This will allow your dog to adjust to the new environment and stimuli inside the moving vehicle.
What dog breeds are prone to anxiety?
All dogs can develop separation anxiety at some point, but there are some breeds that are more likely to suffer from this problem. Dogs like Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Bichon Frise, Border Collie, and German Shepherd have a higher risk of anxiety.
This is due to the fact that these dogs were bred as companions. When you left them alone, they will become restless as and eventually develop anxiety.
If you’re planning to get a dog, it’s important to consider your lifestyle. You’re better off avoiding the said breeds if you often work long hours.
Knowing how to cure dog anxiety isn’t a one-time task. It’s a continuing responsibility of pet owners to ensure that their dogs don’t feel scared and abandoned. With the help of the seven tips above, you can curb your pet’s anxious tendencies. You can also consult the veterinary behaviorist for professional guidance.