When my dog was a puppy, he was nicknamed the “land shark” by everyone in my household for his destructive tendencies alone. He never ran out of energy- he always had to be tearing something to shreds, running circles around the house, or going potty on the furniture. Despite the intensity of it all, we all thought that he was just doing everyday dog things- until we realized that there was a deeper-rooted issue when he would have fits any time someone left the house.
My puppy had separation anxiety, one of the most common types of anxiety in young dogs. Since he was used to being inside with his favorite humans all day due to the Covid-19 lockdown, he had no idea how to handle being alone. Like in humans, anxiety isn’t something you can just “fix.” with an extensive amount of training, I was able to teach him better coping methods, but he undoubtedly still feels anxious from time to time.
Just like us humans, our dogs can experience anxious feelings too. Anxiety in dogs can stem from many things that we can’t necessarily understand since our dogs don’t think as logically as we do.
For example, we may become perplexed or even annoyed when our dogs bark at the vacuum, but our furry friends see a large, loud, evil suctioning machine making unpredicted movements.
Luckily, helping our dogs cope with anxiety is a much easier thing to do than helping our human friends. Because our dogs’ nerves are usually derived from several common causes, getting to the root of the issue can be straightforward. The key is identifying what exactly is making your dog so nervous, then conditioning your dog to realize it’s not as bad as they think it is.
Every case of doggy anxiety is different, with so many different ways to treat each case. For the most part, it depends on what is causing your dog the fear and how manageable it is to deal with it. After you’ve pinpointed your dog’s triggers, you can go about treating it by avoiding the trigger or desensitizing your pup to said trigger.
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs can most easily be noticed through their body language. Our dogs tell us so much with their body alignment, positioning, and vocals- learning how to decipher it is an essential aspect of dog ownership. If you suspect your pup may have anxiety, check to see if they’re displaying any of the following symptoms:
If your dog has anxiety, these symptoms will usually be displayed under a given circumstance. Working at these triggers is the best way to keep your pup and everyone around them safe. Check your pup’s surroundings and situation if they happen to be showing any of the symptoms of anxiety, and make a note of what’s freaking them out.
While every dog can experience nervousness, some breeds tend to be more prone than others. Species that are hyperactive, intelligent, or loyal tend to be most predisposed to anxiety. Some of the breeds with the most common occurrences of anxiety include:
With all breeds, making sure your pup gets their exercise and mental engagement is vital to their psychological and physical health. For any of these anxious breeds in particular, you may need to come into an anti-anxiety routine to help your pup calm down.
Anxiety is not only damaging to your dog’s emotional health, but it can pose several physical health threats as well. The stress hormones released during an episode can lead to several common physical health issues.
Diarrhea:Diarrhea is one of the more common anxiety symptoms resulting from the excessive release of adrenaline. When dogs get nervous, their blood rushes towards their brains as they frantically release fight-or-flight hormones. This blood is no longer used in digestion, decreasing blood flow to the digestive tract and causing diarrhea.
Shortened Lifespan:According tothis study on animal anxiety, “dogs with fear and anxiety disorders would have decreased lifespan and increased disease frequency and severity.” After analyzing hundreds of data sets, scientists discovered that anxiety was closely linked with a shorter lifespan and specific diseases.
Skin Problems:A compulsive behavior dogs might display during an anxious episode is licking or picking at their skin. These compulsions result from the excess energy produced from their stress with nowhere to be released. Licking, scratching, and damaging their skin are harmful ways our dogs tend to release their nerves.
Change in Appetite or Energy:The mental strain a dog goes through when they’re experiencing frequent anxiety affects their habits when it comes to eating and exercise habits. For example, a dog may refuse to eat their food or become hyper beyond control.
Increased Likelihood of Dangerous Situations:Their fight-or-flight response is activated when your dog is nervous. This may cause them to act in ways never expected before- they may get into dog fights, run out into a street, or chew on something hazardous. Our dogs are usually taught what they should and shouldn’t do, but they can easily forget when they feel threatened.
These symptoms can all be damaging to your pup’s long-term health, which is why dealing with anxious dogs is crucial. Luckily, there is always something you can do to help with your pup’s nervousness.
By using these tips and providing your dog a safe space, they will learn ways to cope with their anxiety and calm down around triggers. Anxiety is a scary thing for our pups, which is why we have to be extra understanding and caring as pet parents!