In our last article, “What are dogs scared of and can a dog have anxiety?“, we looked at some dog anxiety signs and symptoms and possible causes for a dog’s anxious and fearful behavior.
Just like their humans, dogs can become anxious and scared. Dog anxiety symptoms vary from dog to dog and by paying close attention to your dog’s everyday body language you will soon notice any unusual behavior that can point to fear and anxiety. You can help your dog cope and overcome his fear by patiently and consistently working with him.
Step 1 – Before You Begin
Before starting to work with your dog it is important to check that he doesn’t have any possible medical conditions that could be leading to the symptoms he is displaying – sometimes a dog with anxiety symptoms could be sick. Speak to your vet if the symptoms you are seeing are consistent and causing you concern.
Also, keep in mind that not all unusual or destructive behavior is necessarily caused by anxiety. Sometimes boredom can also play a part in the symptoms you are seeing.
Step 2 – What’s Causing Your Dog’s Anxiety
Try and isolate what is causing your dog’s anxiety. If possible, try to remove whatever is causing the fear. Obviously this isn’t always possible but if it is then your solution is simple.
Always remember to stay calm and relaxed when working with an anxious dog. Dogs can sense stress and they may feel their fear is justified if they sense you are stressed and anxious as well.
Step 3 – Desensitize
Slowly expose your dog to small doses of whatever is causing his anxiety. For example, if your dog is scared of fireworks or thunder, consider playing audio recordings of the sounds that bother him. Start with quiet, less triggering sounds and work your way up.
And likewise, if your dog has separation anxiety, help him to get used to being without you by leaving him for small amounts of time at first and then lengthening the time as he begins to understand that you will always come back.
Try to create a positive experience associated with the anxiety trigger. For example, if your dog is scared by thunder give him a favourite treat every time there is thunder (using an audio recording will obviously make this a whole lot easier!).
And always keep in mind that your dog watches your reactions closely so if you remain happy and calm they will be less likely to panic and become scared.
Step 4 – Create A Safe Space For Your Dog
Choose a quiet, safe spot where your dog can go to relax. Ideally you should always use the same bed, mat or blankets so that your dog learns to associate this spot with safety and comfort. Offer treats and rewards when your dog is happily settled in his safe space and make sure that you don’t ever use this spot as a punishment.
Step 5 – Toys & Treats
Dogs love licking and chewing and they find it very soothing and calming. Giving your dog something to lick or chew also provides a distraction to an otherwise scary anxiety trigger. If your dog has a favorite game or toy they love to play with, use this opportunity to not only bond with them, but also to distract them.
Step 6 – Get More Exercise
Dogs who do not get enough exercise often have a lot of pent-up energy which can cause them to overreact in stressful situations. Along with getting rid of excess energy, exercise also releases stress-relieving endorphins which will also help your dog to relax.
Step 7 – Music
Music is beneficial to both dogs and their humans, especially when used consistently before stressful situations occur. Try playing music in your dog’s safe space or around your home when you are happy and calm and your dog will learn to associate that music with being calm and relaxed. You can then play the music when you know that you will be in a stressful situation for your dog. Music is also a great way to block out stress-causing noise and triggers.
Step 8 – Bach Flower Rescue Remedy For Dogs
I’m sure that you have heard about Rescue Remedy for humans. But did you know that Bach have created a homeopathic line of remedies especially for dogs and other pets?
The most commonly used remedy for pets called Rescue Remedy has been used successfully on animals who have experienced trauma, have fear of thunder and firework, dislike visits to the Vet and Groomer…www.bachflowerpets.com
These are the 5 Bach Flower Remedies in their pet Rescue Remedy including Star Of Bethlehem ( Orithogalum Umbellatum) which helps animals that have “experienced abuse, trauma, and shock, whether experienced recently or in the past it helps the animal let go of the trauma and enjoy life”.
Rescue Remedy is completely safe and easy to use. Either rub it onto your dog’s gums, ears or paws as needed or simply add two drops to their drinking water.
Step 9 – Anxiety Wrap
Just like swaddling cloths help babies who are anxious, constant gentle pressure to a dog’s torso can also relieve anxiety. Calming jackets or anxiety dog wraps are a great option.
Step 10 – Gabapentin
In one of our previous articles, “Gabapentin For Dog Anxiety – 5 Important Precautions You Need To Know About“, we looked into using gabapentin to treat your dog’s anxiety. As with any medication, there are always pros and cons to consider. Always seek advice from your vet before giving your dog any medications. If your vet does recommend gabapentin then she will make sure that the correct gabapentin dog dosage is administered.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix when trying to help a dog overcome their anxiety. You may need to try several therapies or a combination of a few to see what works best for your dog – with patience, consistency and time you’ll be able to help your dog conquer their fear!
We would love to hear from you! Do you have any tips and tricks that helped your anxious dog?
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