Some individuals may be surprised to learn that humans aren’t the only ones to experience anxiety. Dogs do, too. So if you have one or several, you’ll want to learn how to calm dog anxiety naturally. While anxiety is a normal, healthy emotion that all dogs experience now and then, you still shouldn’t leave it unchecked for long.
Let’s review what you need to know as a responsible dog owner, from the causes and symptoms of anxiety to anxiety relief.
What Is Dog Anxiety?
When someone is anxious, there’s a feeling of unease, worry, and even nervousness. If you’ve experienced anxiety before, you may know what this entails. There’s a combination of tension and restlessness, your heart beats faster, and you might sweat more than usual.
Dogs experience these, too, when they’re anxious. But because they can’t speak, they can’t tell their owners that something’s wrong.
As your dog’s human companion, it’s up to you and your family to pay attention to its behavior and recognize the signs of anxiety. The ability to do so should go hand in hand with knowing how to calm an anxious dog.
This kind of anxiety occurs in response to certain stimuli, ranging from sudden loud noises to new environments, strange people or animals, and even to visual stimuli such as umbrellas. Dogs may also become anxious in specific situations, like car rides.
As you may have guessed, this kind of anxiety is mostly seen in older dogs.
It may be associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome or CDS. Dogs with this condition will see a decline in perception, learning, memory, and awareness. This will result in confusion in senior dogs.
Separation anxiety is estimated to affect around 14% of dogs. As the name implies, it occurs when a dog can’t seem to relax and be comfortable when they’re separated from family members or otherwise left alone.
This is arguably the most common complaint pet owners have when their dogs become disruptive or destructive when left alone. Barking, howling, or trying to escape – among other things – may be signs that a canine needs more house training.
But that’s not always the answer.
Owners should always remember that this answer isn’t always applicable to all dogs. That’s why they should learn how to recognize separation anxiety symptoms.
Rather than being taken as indicators that a dog isn’t well trained yet, they’re signs that the dog is distressed somehow, and that distress has to do with being separated from their guardians.
Another thing that complicates matters is that dogs and separation anxiety causes are different, though some families may have similar experiences or difficulties with others.
Some dogs may simply be restless while family members are getting ready to leave and then try to escape once they’ve left.
Other dogs may seem not bothered when the family leaves but then act too excited upon their return. Some may even show their anxiety by trying to stop family members from leaving!
There’s really no clear answer to why dogs develop this kind of anxiety. However, there are some factors and triggers commonly seen.
For example, when you look at rescue dogs and separation anxiety, you’ll find that more dogs adopted from shelters exhibit signs of this condition compared to dogs that have lived with a single family since puppyhood. In other words, losing an important person – or even a group of people – can lead to separation anxiety.
There are less drastic changes that can trigger behavioral change, too. A dog whose guardian worked from home may develop separation anxiety if that same guardian gets a new job and has to leave home.
Other potential triggers include moving to a new house and the absence of a family member, whether they moved away or there’s some other cause behind their absence.
The cause of a dog’s anxiety may even be a combination of these different triggers. For instance, owners dealing with older dogs and separation anxiety may find that their new pet had to go to a shelter after their previous owner died.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
Whether it’s fear, separation, or age-related issues, these are the common symptoms to watch for:
- Pacing, restlessness, and excessive barking
- Destructive behavior
- Compulsive behaviors
- Urinating or defecating in the house
It’s also important to note that all breeds can experience anxiety, but the condition affects each dog differently. These differences are why pet owners should talk to their vet. That way, they would know how to calm dog anxiety naturally.
How to Treat Anxiety in Dogs?
The first step to treating dog anxiety is to talk with your vet; then, you can determine the next steps to take when providing adequate anxiety relief. The thing is, anxiety may show up in dogs at any time and without warning.
Let’s say one family takes steps to reassure their pet it won’t be left alone for long, but the dog still becomes anxious. Meanwhile, another family has a mild-mannered dog that seems well-adjusted to the different members leaving home and returning. So if they found their dog acting anxious one day, they’d all be surprised.
If you were in that situation, would you immediately ask your vet what triggers separation anxiety in dogs? It may be tempting to do, but since you’re only guessing, it’s best to ask what kind of anxiety your dog is experiencing.
Your vet will want to rule out any medical conditions that may cause your dog to act anxious. Afterward, the vet will assess possible causes and confirm if the anxiety is just situational. After that, your vet can suggest treatment options.
Training and counterconditioning, for example, aim to change how a dog responds to the trigger or stimuli. For example, if a dog shows their anxiety by jumping around because of their restlessness, an owner may want to train them to put themselves in a timeout in their crate.
Another way how to calm dog anxiety naturally is desensitization. This is where the owner or guardian exposes the dog to the source of anxiety in small doses or for small periods and at a decreased intensity.
Repeatedly exposing the dog to the cause of anxiety and rewarding them for positive behavior are the keys to this treatment option.
Finally, there are anxiety medications for dogs and potentially helpful natural therapies that you can try. If you want to know how to calm dog anxiety naturally, you’ll need to let your vet know so they can focus on the latter in their treatment suggestions.
Common Questions about Dog Anxiety
What Do You Do When Your Child Wants a Pet?
While not directly related to dog anxiety, you may ask this if your family members leave home a lot and you don’t want to risk a furry companion developing dog anxiety.
If you don’t think your family is ready for pets, look for a nearby animal shelter. Your kids can visit them so the dog would feel less lonely and abandoned. Who knows, you might even adopt one of those animals when your kids are older and more responsible.
How Do You Stop Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Addressing separation anxiety can be a challenge. There are several potential triggers, and any of them can happen to your pooch. You can help your dog cope with their anxiety until they become more confident in their ability to be by themselves.
For minor cases, practice calmly talking to your dog whenever you leave the house and return. Start using a word or action to tell your dog you’ll be back soon.
You can loosely confine your dog to a room with a window for more severe cases. You can put toys to distract your pet or even dirty laundry so the family’s scent is in the room.
Do Dogs Grow Out of Separation Anxiety?
As in humans, anxiety isn’t a phase that dogs will grow out of. Pet owners need to get their dog’s help before the anxiety becomes more difficult to manage.
Helping Your Anxious Dog the Best Way Possible
Helping your dog deal with anxiety involves working with a professional to find out what caused your dog’s anxiety. Then you’ll need to work with your dog to help them gain more self-confidence so they can eventually cope better.
As far as knowing how to calm dog anxiety naturally, you’ll find that there is no one uniform approach. Regardless of the treatment plan, you must invest much love, patience, and trust. If you really care about your dog, trust us; the effort will be worth it.
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