Is Your Dog Crazy? Or Is It Just Dog Anxiety? 2

Dog obedience training helps calm dogs

Dogs can have anxiety, just like people, and it affects more dogs than you may realize, and that number keeps growing. They may be temporary fears, like the anxiety of moving, or it may be more long term, like noise anxiety or separation anxiety. But the bottom line is, your pet is suffering, and it is up to you to help them. To get at the root of the problem, you must remember two things about dogs:

  1. They are pack animals and do not like to be alone
  2. They like routines

Anything that changes the above two causes some dogs to exhibit abnormal behavior.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Anxiety Problems?

So what are some of the common dog anxiety symptoms? A generic statement would be undesirable, uncommon behavior that does not happen in a normal, calm environment. For example, if your dog has separation anxiety, then they are fine when you are there; but when you leave, they lose it – they may bark excessively, chew on household objects (or even doors, window sills, and walls!), urinate, or defecate. If your pet has noise anxiety, for example, a dog afraid of thunder, then they may bark excessively when the loud noises are happening, cower, walk around in circles, scratch at doors and walls to try to get out. Anxiety can even create dog itchy skin causing your pet to scratch incessantly. All of these are signs of stress for your dog and you need to figure out how to stop, or at least lessen, the anxiety behaviors.

Before we start, please always remember: never punish a dog because of what they do due to their anxiety disorder – this really only increases the anxiety.

Dog Separation Anxiety

Symptoms of Dog Separation Anxiety

  • excessive barking/whining/howling
  • urinating/defecating
  • chewing – on household objects, doors, windowsills, walls
  • itching/licking – excessive scratching and licking
  • taking a while to calm down when you return home
  • digging

Dog Separation Anxiety Treatments

This type is probably the largest percentage of anxiety in dogs. Some pets are just more prone to being anxious when left alone, others might have experienced a traumatic event when alone. Whatever the reason, if not treated it will just keep getting worse.

Dog obedience training helps calm dogs

Obedience training is one way to help dogs deal with their anxieties

There are many treatments for dog separation anxiety and it may be that your dog needs a combination of them, or just one might do just fine – you need to test them out to find your solution. Or, if your dog have extreme anxiety problems, you may need the help of your vet and possibly even some kind of calming drugs to help ease the anxiety. However, most pets can be helped by using one of more of these common treatment options:

  • Obedience training: many dogs are confused as to their role in the home – are they the pack leader or are you? some dogs also just get clingy, maybe because you are always around. Whichever the case, it is time to let your pet know, in no uncertain terms, that you are the pack leader, the alpha dog – and that comes with obedience training. You need to train your pet that it is OK for you to leave the house; you need to desensitize your dog to your being away. When you become the pack leader, your dog knows that you will take care of him. Correct obedience training will take weeks, but is something that really is invaluable for your dog. The structure that is provided for your pet when they know you are in charge, is comfort for them.
  • Pressure wraps: pressure wraps, like the Thunder shirt for dogs, apply a gentle, constant pressure around the chest that has been proven to calm dogs (in about 85% of the cases). While it does not remove the fear, it does comfort them. For example if your pet used to run like a wild dog through the house during thunderstorms, with the Thundershirt on, they may just lie calmly – they may still be nervous about the storm, but they feel comforted.
  • Exercise: not enough exercise is a huge problem for many dogs and pent up energy can cause them to do destructive things when you are not at home. Taking your dog for a walk or some playtime of fetch before you leave, can help them relax and sleep while you are gone.
  • Dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) – these pheromones give off a scent that reassures and calms dogs. The scents can be through a diffuser in a room, on a collar, or both.
  • Aromatherapy for dogs – using different scents,such as lavender, have a calming effect on canines.

Dog Noise Anxiety (Thunderstorm/Fireworks/etc)

Dog Noise Anxiety Symptoms

  • barking/whining/howling
  • scratching to get out- walls, doors, more extreme cases dogs have even broken through plate glass
  • itching/licking – excessive scratching and licking
  • walking/pacing in circles; continuous running
  • panting
  • hiding

Noise Anxiety Treatments

This is also a very common problem: dogs afraid of thunder storms, fireworks, gunfire, etc. In the wild, when loud noises occur, it is natural to go try to find a place to hide, like a cave or under something – this is just in their DNA. While humans have learned when these noises are threatening (like a severe thunderstorm) or are not (like fireworks), animals do not understand this. If your dog is already a little nervous, then hearing these loud sounds can really put them over the edge. They may want to try to get out of the house so they can try to hide, or they may try to hide somewhere in the house, or some other odd behavior. There are two main theories of treating noise anxiety in dogs: desensitization and pressure wraps.

    • Pressure wraps are a jacket that your dog wears that applies a gentle pressure around the torso. This provides a calm feeling for your pet, and works on about 80% of noise anxiety cases.
    • Desensitizing is a type of behavioral modification that involves slowly and gradually training your dog that the noises are OK. This can be accomplished using treats, toys, and/or other types of distractions. Most training uses CDs of thunderstorms and fireworks, starting at very low levels, and gradually, over time, increasing the loudness.

Some dogs have extreme noise anxiety and neither of these two options help. In these cases, you really need to get to your vet for some anti-anxiety medication. While separation anxiety is also a real problem, it seems that more dogs cause self-injury due to noise anxiety than separation anxiety.

Dog Travel Anxiety

Symptoms of Dog Travel Anxiety

  • panting
  • itching/licking – excessive scratching and licking
  • vomiting (although probably due to motion sickness rather than anxiety issues)
  • barking
  • excessive salivating

Dog Travel Anxiety Solutions

Although not as severe as noise or separation anxiety, travel anxiety can pose a real problem, especially if you are trying to get them to the vet! Riding in a car may be related to going to the vet or maybe even a car accident. Your dog’s fear is the same as a young child. For example, as humans get older, we understand that not every time we get in a car, we get in an accident. But for a young child, it might be very frightening after being in an accident, especially if they got hurt. This is pretty much like your dog, they don’t have the reasoning skills to deduct this.

The two most common approaches involve behavioral changes through training and pressure wraps (see above treatments). Essentially, you need to help your dog overcome their panic response and replace it with a feeling of good. The pressure wrap is like a big body hug, and positive reinforcement through training and praise provides comfort. Both of these options have very high success rates in getting your dog to travel without too much anxiety and stress.

2 Comments

sandi says:

my boy itches so bad have spent so much time at the vet and money and still not helped. He has it on the underside
on belly and legs. I have changed food and given meds but nothing helps. He is home with me all of the time and I take him when i can. There is nothing new I am so frustrated


jeff says:

Hi,

I believ that my 2 yr. old short haired german shephard has anxiety issues. He scratches and bites at his skin. Six months ago my vet said that he had mange, months later after hundreds of dollors in pills, no results. The pet food store said he had to much yeast so I swithed to a grain free dog food which seemed to help some. Any advise would be greatly appriciated. Thank you …………Jeff


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