Dogs Coping with Canine Anxiety and Fear

Published on May 4th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin


Coping with Canine Anxiety and Fear

Not only humans have to deal with stress, anxiety and fear at times. Dogs can also suffer from these feelings and it is vital that you know to spot and deal with them in order to keep him relaxed and feeling good.

There are different reasons why a dog could feel anxious or afraid and there are also different ways of dealing with this situation if it arises.

Reasons Why Your Dog Could Be Stressed or Afraid

Each dog is different and will react differently to stress factors but there are some common issues that are likely to affect most of them negatively. These include things like moving to a new home or having their usual routine disrupted in some way. Your dog might also feel nervous and afraid when meeting new people or animals for the first time. Loud noises can also be a problem for many pets, with fireworks or thunderstorms among the noises that can make them feel upset and scared. Being left home alone can also cause him to get anxious, especially if this is something he isn’t used to. Of course there are a number of other things that could cause him to get stressed as well.

The Evidence of a Dog Being Stressed

When a dog gets stressed out he can behave in any of a number of different ways. For example, he may bark more than he normally does, lose his appetite or start whining. Other evidence could be if he becomes restless or start shivering a lot. He might also forget about his house training and soil the floor inside your home. If he is feeling particularly afraid or threatened he could go and hide under a bed or behind a piece of furniture.

Destructive Behaviour

It is also possible that your dog could show destructive behaviour when he is feeling anxious. This could happen in a number of ways. For instance, he could chew up shoes or items of furniture. He might also start to scratch at the doors or the walls. While this can result in some damage being done to your home and possessions, it can be even more upsetting to see your canine friend feeling so bad that he resorts to this sort of destructive behaviour.

Understanding the Triggers

The best way to cope with canine anxiety is to find out what triggers it and then try to avoid this. As we have already seen this can happen for a number of reasons, so it can be tough to work out what the real trigger is. Once you work out what it is that causes him to get scared or anxious you can work on finding a way round it. This solution can come in avoiding the situation in the future or it can be through desensitisation, which means getting used to the thing that he is afraid of.

Getting More Exercise

Many dog owners prefer to get their dog to feel less stressed through regular exercise. You may already know from personal experience that going to the gym or going for a run is a great way of feeling more relaxed. Well, the same thing can work with dogs do. Play with him or take him for a long walk to see if tiring him out helps him to forget about his worries for a while.

Using Pheromones

Pheromones are chemicals that are passed from one member to the same species to another and that affect the behaviour of the person or animal receiving it. They can be used to pass on different types of information, such as whether the individual is ready to reproduce or whether they are in an aggressive mood. As certain types of pheromone can induce a calming effect, they are used in drugs and treatment that are used to help appease dogs. This is the case with some of the ones that are based on the pheromone that a mother dog gives out to comfort her puppies’ right after they are born. This sort of product can be used in a spray, a diffuser or a collar.

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

One of the most difficult types of canine anxiety to deal with is separation anxiety. If you need to go out to work or to study every day then this can seem like an impossible problem to resolve. However, there are some tricks you can try in order to make him feel more relaxed when you go out. For instance, you could leave him with a piece of your clothing so that he is comforted by having your scent close to him. You could also try leaving some treats around the house for when he is alone. Some people also try using special doggie music CDs or DVDs. There are special herbal and flower essence blends you could try adding to his drinking water as well.

More Mental Stimulation

A problem for many dogs these days is that they don’t get enough mental stimulation during the day. Giving him a mental challenge such as a puzzle toy can help to reduce his stress levels by getting him to concentrate on something else. This is particularly important for dogs that spend a lot of time alone in their homes.

More Playing Time

A dog that is busy playing and having fun isn’t likely to be feeling scared or stressed. If you can get him to play in a situation in which otherwise he might get stressed then you should be able to get him to see that sort of situation differently in the future. A good example is that of a dog who doesn’t like to travel in the car to go places. If you can coax him into the car while playing with a ball or a stick then he will begin to associate getting into the vehicle with having a good time rather than getting anxious and upset. This same idea can be used to help you make him feel more relaxed about just any sort of situation in which he might be feeling stressed.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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