When we think of anxiety, we usually think about humans. We think about how it makes us feel, how we can overcome it, how we can deal with its side effects, and what we can do to avoid it in the future. But what we don’t think about is how our pets can experience the same things.
More specifically, dogs are prone to a number of anxiety issues. Despite being a pet, these canine animals have their own complex set of emotions that they need to deal with. Like humans, they feel anxiety in stressful situations, when away from loved ones for too long, or when they’re around too many people.
As their owners, it’s up to us to help them overcome these anxiety issues and get them living the happy lives we want them to have.
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?
This is the big question that has to be answered in order to truly overcome the issue of dog anxiety.
Regardless of what species your dog is, they’re capable of feeling anxious. If left untreated, this can lead to severe behavior problems.
Some common causes of anxiety are age, separation from a loved one (either another dog or human), and a generalized fear of something.
Dog anxiety may cause them to become depressed, overly angry and aggressive, destructive, or generally different (increased panting, drooling, more bowel movements, and/or generalized restlessness or fatigue).
How Do I Know if My Dog is Anxious?
Sometimes, it can be difficult finding out what is exactly making your dog anxious. As stated, there’s a few symptoms that you can look out for, but it can be much trickier than that.
Generally speaking, your dog will let you know in two ways: behaviorally and physically. Look out for these changes in behavior to indicate something is wrong:
- Increased aggression
- Decreased energy
- Decreased hunger
- Sudden withdrawal from people and the outside world
Or, if you find them doing something that physically isn’t right, this may also be a sign. Fido’s actions may include:
If you suspect anxiety as the cause, take your dog to the vet and they can confirm what the issues are.
Below are some tips to adopt into your daily life to help your dog overcome this issue. It’s important to take all of these into consideration, not just one or the other. Anxiety is a lot more complex than we think.
Tips for Overcoming Dog Anxiety
Luckily for you, there are various things you can do to help your dog overcome and treat their anxiety.
Keep in mind that your dog, while just a pet in some people’s eyes, is a living being with a complex set of emotions and feelings. Like humans, their mental health needs to be treated seriously and quickly to prevent it from getting worse in the future.
Find the Root of the Problem
The first tip would be to figure out why your dog is showing signs of anxiety and get to the root of the problem.
This can be tricky as there are almost an infinite number of reasons for a dog to feel anxiety, but you can narrow down how to treat it by seeing what triggers are setting their anxiety off.
The best way to do this is to see what parts of the day they show the most signs of anxiety or what kind of activities make them seem unusual. If, for example, Fido acts in a particular manner when you leave the house, you may be dealing with separation anxiety.
Your pup is acting unusual in a certain room in the house, it may be because there’s something about that room that unsettles them. Try keeping them out of that room.
Once you’ve found out why they are acting the way they are, you can mold your anxiety-treating solutions around it.
Spend Time with Them
This is one of the first and most basic ways to help your dog with their anxiety. Psychologically speaking, dogs see us as their older siblings, parents, and best friends all in one.
When we spend time with them by walking them, playing tug-of-war, or just hugging them, we’re emotionally telling them how much we care. This lets your pup’s brain release a number of “feel good” chemicals, ultimately improving their mood.
If possible, take 30 minutes out of your day and dedicate that to some one-on-one time with your dog. This can be anything from taking them on a walk, all the way to lying on the ground and petting them until they fall asleep.
While this may not help them immediately, the effects will be long term if you stay consistent.
Play Some Music
Dogs are a social species. They thrive off of contact with other animals (such as humans and other dogs). When we’re not available, they’ll start to feel lonely and begin to crave some connection, similar to humans.
Whenever you’re out or preoccupied, turn on the radio or put on some music, this’ll help soothe your pooch.
When it comes to music, pick something that has many pitches and sounds, and keep the volume at a “neutral” level . This will help your pup’s brain become more active. Metal, rock, or other loud genres are not recommended.
Keep in mind that a dog’s hearing is able to catch onto much higher frequencies, so loud pitched or screeching music is not recommended.
Don’t Make a Big Deal When You Leave
Sometimes, we find that our dogs get especially jittery when we leave the house for work or other activities. This can create an atmosphere for all kinds of anxiety-related triggers. Issues can vary from separation, a fear of being alone, or an overall discomfort to their environment. To better control their emotions, try not to make a big deal about leaving.
Ways to help them control their emotions:
- Don’t say “bye” as you leave
- Avoid eye contact
- Avoid loud noises like keys jingling or door slamming
- Don’t call out to others to let them know you’re leaving
The less your dog knows, the better!
Overtime, they will not notice when you leave and will begin to become accustomed to these random disappearances. This just makes the reunion at the end of the day that much better.
Try a Thundershirt Vest
Believe it or not, there are vests and pieces of clothing that actually help dogs overcome their anxiety issues. They are especially effective when it comes to situations such as thunderstorms, fireworks, loud noises, or unfamiliar environments.
How does a Thundershirt vest work?
The vest stimulates the feeling that they’re being hugged, usually by someone who they love and feel safe with. A pressure creates around their torso that’s similar to swaddling an infant. This type of affection has been proven to reduce persistent anxiety.
If a Thundershirt is not an appropriate option for you, numerous other devices do exist to help overcome Fido’s anxiety. This includes products such as anxiety sprays, covers for their eyes, and, of course, Thundershirts for an anxious dog.
Get Professional Help
In some cases, there’s just nothing we can do. While this is hard to come to terms with, it’s a reality of some situations. If this is the case, don’t worry: there’s plenty of solutions out there for you.
Look out for professionals who are specially trained to treat anxiety in animals. Depending on where you live, you might be able to get help in person. However, if you live somewhere a little more remote, you could even turn to online options.
With a little bit of research, you might be able to find a professional online who could review training tips over Skype or FaceTime.
Regardless of how you go about doing it, getting professional help may just be the best alternative for you.
In conclusion, our dogs are important to us. They can be the best companions in the world and a beam of light in our lives, but only if we take care of them.
Mental health issues don’t only exist in humans, but also in our little four-legged friends. Take care of them and help them live the best life they can. The next time your dog has anxiety issues, don’t feel helpless. Just try a few of these tips or don’t be afraid to seek professional help if needed.
About the Author
Rehan, the editor of Best Pet Guides, the website where you can find plenty of useful information about pet toys and pet training.