We often talk about how dogs are like us. Anxiety is no different. Although the causes usually aren’t the same as ours, they still experience stress along with physical reactions. Mild cases of anxiety or shyness can usually be handled with simple training tips. But for more serious cases your dog may need a training program specially designed by a trained professional who is skilled in behavior modification.
Some common types of anxiety are:
Some common symptoms of anxiety are:
It’s important to recognize the symptoms, then to understand what type of stimulus or situation is causing the anxiety. Once you know what is causing the anxiety, one of the best ways of handling it is to gradually desensitize him to the stimulus.
If his anxiety is caused by separation, utilizing small treats or clicker training you can try the “Yo-Yo” method. This is the training method in which you gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. When he remains calm, reward his good behavior. Once he’s gotten used to the idea of you being far away, remove yourself from his line of sight, whether it be outdoors (maybe around the side of the house) or indoors (by simply going to another room). When he remains calm, reward his good behavior.
Confinement anxiety can sometimes be mistaken for separation anxiety. Try recording your dog when you’re not at home, left outside of his crate. Many times a crated dog that is seen as having separation anxiety will be calm if simply allowed to be outside of containment. If confinement is necessary, desensitization training can be used. After he goes to his crate, reward him when he remains calm…gradually increasing the time he is able to remain calm.
The same training method can be used when desensitizing your pup to noise.
For noise anxiety, use recordings of sounds that your pup finds fearful. Although recordings of thunderstorms can sometimes be found at music outlets, generally any sound you are searching for (loud automobiles, fireworks, sirens, etc.) can be found online on sites like YouTube. Simply begin playing the sound at a low volume, maybe even slightly lower than you can hear (remember, your dog’s hearing is much better than yours). After several minutes, increase the volume slightly. Every time you slightly increase the volume and he remains calm, give him a treat.
Although training works in mild cases of anxiety, some breeds and individual dogs simply have a higher level of anxiety than others. Studies have shown that the use of lavender can be very effective when combating anxiety. Dog appeasing pheromones or all-natural supplements like CBD, Calm Me, or Tranquility can help with most common types of anxiety. As always, consult your vet before administering supplements to your dog.
Finally, as we mentioned at the beginning, some cases of anxiety are beyond what we as pet parents can handle. In that case, there are certified animal behavior consultants that are specially trained in situations just like these. Organizations such as the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) even have online resources that can help you find a skilled consultant in your area.
With the proper knowledge of your fur baby and the appropriate training, issues with anxiety can be a thing of the past. A calmer dog will inevitably lead to a calmer and happier home environment for you and your four-legged children!
My dogs have given me an entirely new spiritual perspective on life. I now have a genuine understanding of unconditional love and provision.