Like humans, dogs can experience a range of emotions, including stress and anxiety. Most of us have personally experienced these negative emotions and so we would go to any length to lessen the suffering of our best friends.
Signs of Anxiety
Unfortunately for us, we can’t just ask them how they are feeling. However, dogs will almost always use body language to communicate their emotional state. For example, dogs which are intensely fixated or are licking excessively could be indicating that they are nervous or afraid. Other signs of anxiety might include pacing, trembling, decreased appetite, lip-licking, and frequent yawning. Pay close attention to their behaviour and if you sense your pet is experiencing anxiety, you may want to take some steps listed in this article or purchase some of the suggested pet supplies, in an effort to improve their emotional state.
Causes of Anxiety
Often it can be more obvious things which are agitating your dog. For example thunder, fireworks, other loud noises, or the presence of other animals. Another common source of the behaviours listed above is known as separation anxiety. This will manifest when the owner is away and can cause the dog to engage in destructive behaviours such as howling, pacing, chewing furniture, etc.
Sometimes it’s not nearly as obvious why your dog is distressed. For dogs that you have not owned your entire life (rescues for example), you will have to pay close attention to the specific situations which trigger anxiety in your animal. For example, if your dog exhibits anxiety around much larger dogs, this might indicate that they have had a bad experience with a larger dog in the past. Perhaps past abuse might leave lasting psychological effects that are contributing to your pet’s emotional state.
Calming Your Anxious Dog
Sometimes bringing an end to your dog’s suffering is as easy as noting which stimulus is responsible and removing it. It might be a good idea to consult a veterinarian or a dog behaviour specialist to help determine the source of your dog’s behaviour. In extreme cases, veterinarians can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication, which acts in similar ways to human-prescribed medication.
We humans certainly appreciate a hug during a stressful time and our pets do as well. Try to smooth your dog with calm petting or cuddling (if they enjoy that). Neurotransmitters like serotonin are responsible for claiming both humans and dogs when engaging in physical contact.
If your dog is getting anxious in thunderstorms or from hearing noises outside the house, then consider turning on some music or other background sounds (i.e. “white noise”). This therapy might also work with some dogs suffering from separation anxiety. There is a recent study that investigates the calming effect of various genres of music on dogs. Choose something most appropriate for your pet.
Essential oils such as lavender can have a calming effect on your dog. Applying the spray along your dog’s back will prevent them from licking it off. You can them anywhere that pet supplies are sold.
A Better Routine
Having a daily routine that is predictable and which allows your dog to anticipate when they will go outside, eat, etc. can go a long way to making them more confident and less nervous. For dogs afflicted with separation anxiety, this might be a critical step to overcoming their behavioural issues. Most dogs benefit from a highly predictable environment.
For your dog’s daily routine, the importance of exercise cannot be understated. Anxious dogs often have uncontrolled energy and exercise is the best outlet for pent up frustration, as it is in humans. This is a part of the predictable routine mentioned above.
Address Your own Anxiety
Often our dog’s state of mind will reflect our own. Try not to react to your dog’s anxiety with your own, as the dog might be able to pick up on it and worsen the situation.
Keep in mind just how alike humans and dogs are. There is a reason that dogs are considered man’s best friend. Just like us, dogs will get nervous in the right situations. Don’t rush to punish the destructive behaviours that can stem from this anxiety. Try the ways of reducing stress outlined in this article to help your furry friend.