Is your dog anxious? How can you deal with it?
Pooches can be playful, loving and friendly, but that won’t stop them from developing anxiety. If you have reason to believe your dog might be anxious, it’s important you’re aware of the signs and know how to deal with it.
Learning how to treat dog anxiety will help you to protect your pooch, and so too will taking out dog insurance.
Go Get It can compare dog insurance on your behalf, accessing our specialist panel of insurers to find you the right policy, for a great price.
Causes and symptoms of dog anxiety
As the American Kennel Club points out, dog anxiety comes in different forms, though the most common causes are fear, separation and ageing.
- Fear-related anxiety can be caused by things like loud noises, strangers, other animals, objects (like newspapers or umbrellas), new/strange environments or certain situations.
- Separation anxiety is thought to affect approximately 14% of dogs, and is when canines find it impossible to find comfort when they’re left on their own and/or are separated from their family members.
- Age-related anxiety can be associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) in ageing dogs, which is when perception, awareness, memory and learning start to decline, leading to confusion and sometimes anxiety.
If your dog is anxious, he or she might display one or more of the following symptoms:
- Urinating/defecating in the house (common symptom of separation anxiety)
- Destructive behaviour (common symptom of separation anxiety)
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive/compulsive behaviour
As Pets4Homes writes, you need to be totally sure your hound has anxiety, as some symptoms could be a sign of another, underlying issue. For instance, urinating in the house could be due to a urinary tract disorder.
So, if you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s always worth taking a trip to the vet, as they will be able to rule out other problems. They’ll be able to tell you for sure whether or not your pooch is anxious, and recommend the next steps.
They may suggest your dog be referred to a qualified canine behaviourist, which can be very beneficial – especially if you don’t know the root cause of your dog’s anxiety.
Dealing with separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety in dogs. As Blue Cross explains, pooches – regardless of their age – should never be left alone for long.
That said, getting dogs used to being left for short periods of time when they’re young will increase the chances of them growing up feeling comfortable being on their own.
There are some tell-tale signs your dog is suffering from separation anxiety:
- They become distressed as soon as you leave, with the first 15 minutes being the worst. They may show the physiological signs of fear – panting, salivating, increased activity and breathing rate, and a need to go to the toilet.
- During this 15 minutes, the dog may try to follow you as you leave, chew or scratch door frames, scratch at carpets, and whine or bark.
- After this period, your dog might settle and start chewing on something you’ve recently touched (as it still has your scent on it).
- When you return, your dog might be extremely excitable and elated, and they could be wet from salivating or excessively drinking because they’re stressed.
- When you’re home, your dog might try to follow you wherever you go, and display anxious behaviour (like panting or pacing) when they notice you preparing to leave again.
What to do
If you’ve not long adopted a pup or dog, your aim is to teach your pooch that being alone isn’t something to be scared of – instead, it’s a time to relax and feel comfortable.
Selecting an area
One of the first things you’ll need to do is decide on a place inside your home where you’re happy leaving your dog.
It’s fine to choose a utility room or kitchen, but it needs to be an area that they usually use – otherwise they’ll just associate it with isolation.
Blue Cross says that stair gates are effective tools in helping dogs get used to being alone, as you can use them to create distance between you and your pooch when you’re still at home.
Use the stair gate on the door of the room you’ve chosen to leave your dog alone in, and place a comfy bed, water and a chew toy in that room (the act of chewing helps to calm dogs down).
Switching the radio on at a low volume can provide them with ‘company’ – choose a talking station over one that plays loud music. Placing an item of clothing you’ve recently worn can help your dog to feel comfortable, too.
Training your dog in the area
Once you’ve prepared an area for your canine, here’s what you should do:
- At random times during the day, place your dog behind the stair gate with a tasty chew stuffed with treats. Close the gate and leave your dog, but try to remain within eye and earshot, especially if they’re young or new to your home.
- After several minutes, open the gate – hopefully your pooch is relaxed and engrossed in the treat.
- Over a few days, increase the time your dog is left in the room with the stair gate closed until they’re comfortable enough for you to wander out of sight. Build up this time to half an hour of alone time.
When your dog is comfortable with this, you can start getting them used to being totally alone for short periods of time. You should:
- Prepare the area as you usually would, leaving your dog with a treat, and get ready to leave the house.
- Come back after a few minutes. If your dog is comfortable, great! Repeat a few more times over the course of the day.
- Gradually increase the time your dog is left alone, up to around half an hour over a few days.
- If your dog seems worried, start again from where they last felt comfortable. If they seem anxious due to a certain noise (like picking up your car keys) you’ll need to ‘desensitise’ them to that noise by regularly putting your dog in the area and getting them used to seeing and hearing you pick up your keys, for instance.
- When you return, keep greetings friendly but calm. Don’t punish your dog if they’ve chewed on something – just go back a few steps and start from there.
Hopefully, these tips will help to identify and treat anxiety in your dog, so you can keep them happy and healthy. To protect your dog with cover loaded with benefits, compare dog insurance with Go Get It today. Get a quote!