How to help your anxious dog

By Kennedy Murray, Edited by Rachel Petersen

Is your dog pacing, non-stop panting, trembling, avoiding contact or experiencing spontaneous bowel movements? Maybe they’re also experiencing destructive behaviour in the home or aggressive behaviour toward people.

Dogs experience anxiety just like humans do. It’s not always apparent why a dog is acting anxious or nervous, but by watching them and ruling out issues you may suspect, it can become a bit easier to determine.

While it can be complicated to deal with, and there isn’t always a reason why it happens, there are some steps that you can take to try and help a dog dealing with anxiety. First, it is important to understand what type of anxiety your dog might be experiencing and have a conversation with your veterinarian about it.

Social and fear-related anxieties

Dogs suffering from social anxiety or fear-related anxiety are typically more anxious when they’re around strangers, loud noises, new surroundings or in specific situations such as being around water, going for a car ride or going to the veterinarian. This social anxiety can stem from a dog not receiving early socialization.

Separation anxiety

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety tend to display the “destructive” behaviour when no one’s around. They also typically can’t get comfortable or settle down once everyone has left the house. These dogs may destroy furniture, bark/howl and use your floor as a bathroom because they’re distressed about being separated from you, their owner.

Former shelter anxiety

Some dogs suffer from former shelter anxiety. These are the dogs who have spent a long time in a shelter and have memories of being left there. These dogs may also have experienced something traumatic before they were brought there. This anxiety typically turns into separation anxiety from the fear of being abandoned again.

How to help your anxious dog

Exercise is vital to a dog’s life. Exercise aids with a dog’s development, health and physical needs. Getting that pent-up energy out by going for a walk or a long game of fetch will take care of their needs and help prevent problem behaviours.

Training helps to keep a dog’s mind relaxed and the body busy. It helps establish trust, plus a well-trained dog has an easier time socializing with other dogs and people.

Swaddling can help calm an anxious dog during thunderstorms or fireworks. The swaddle places pressure on the dog’s torso that creates a calming effect. 

Homeopathy is the use of herbal and nutritional supplements. Consult a holistic veterinarian for dosage and product recommendations on what your dog should be taking. Always consult a veterinarian before giving your dog something that is not prescribed to them.

A veterinarian treatment plan is the most important when dealing with a dog with anxiety as they can help you determine the type of anxiety your dog is experiencing, as well as the possible triggers. In some cases, medications, preventive strategies and training are the best ways to treat the anxiety due to there being a variety of potential causes.

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