Thunderstorms. Loud noises. Being left home alone. Getting acquainted with a new daycare facility. A dog's mystifying ability to understand the letters "DVM" when painted on a building. If you're a pet owner, then you likely recognize these as potential triggers for your dog. Also, you may have tried everything from ThunderShirts to diffusers loaded with lavender oil to calm your pooch, only to find that it's never enough—because, in reality, there's no single trick to solving dog anxiety.
But if you prepare your dog using the proper techniques and fill your toolbox with everything from enrichment toys and compression jackets to appropriate meds, you can spare them and yourself from serious dog anxiety issues.
When our dogs are upset, they sometimes do things that upset us. Unfortunately, our own responses to these behaviors often compound their anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. It's a major—and usually preventable—reason why people give up their dogs.
These are the behaviors most often associated with dog anxiety and stress:
Once we realize our dog isn't just being "bad," how can we make things better? Like us, dogs experience mental health challenges and therefore benefit from a little professional help now and again.
Your first priority is ruling out any medical conditions that might be causing the symptoms associated with dog anxiety. Once your pet's been given a clean bill of health, your vet can help you determine the type of anxiety your dog's experiencing. Two common conditions are:
You can discuss with your vet the treatment most appropriate for your individual dog. They can refer you to a reputable veterinary behaviorist.
To best advocate for your dog, it's a good idea to become familiar with common medications and products used to treat dog anxiety. These include:
Many essential oils are highly irritating to pets' skin and respiratory systems, and some can be lethal to dogs in high doses. Veterinary studies have deemed small amounts of lavender oil safe. But it's best to consult with your own doggie doc before using essential oils topically or in diffusers.
A pet behaviorist can work with you and your anxious dogs using one or more of the techniques below:
What if your dog started associating fireworks with their very favorite treats?
Counterconditioning is a type of positive reinforcement that rewires a dog's attitude toward a specific stimulus. With plenty of patience, belly rubs, and sweet potato treats, you can then turn Independence Day into a party your dog will actually enjoy!
Desensitization is the process of slowly and gradually exposing your dog to a situation so that, eventually, it won't trigger them. This often includes counterconditioning strategies and requires the pet owner to be very familiar with their dog's body language.
Dogs feel bored, just like us. But that boredom can cause stress and anxiety in working breeds. Border collies, for example, are extremely intelligent herding dogs with an intrinsic need to do a "job," be it herding sheep, running agility courses, or finding every single sock in the house and burying it in the backyard. So what would YOU rather they do?
A dog doesn't have to be a working breed to need mental stimulation and "enrichment" exercises. All dogs benefit from puzzle toys, learning new tricks, and other problem-solving challenges. A skilled behaviorist can also recommend several enrichment activities for your specific dog.
At Animals Matter, we offer luxurious pet furniture that makes your dog feel at home, from posh dog loungers to protective car seats. And when it comes time for some pawsitive reinforcement, your pet will love our very own organic sweet potato crisps! Contact us today to learn more about our ever-growing line of top-quality dog products.
This depends on the dog's behavior, the type of anxiety, and the circumstances. But in general:
Dog owners can "bomb-proof" their pets over time using these approaches:
Dog anxiety treatment usually requires multiple approaches. Some options are:
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