Dog anxiety & Seperation Anxiety: How To Manage It...
If you’re reading this article, it’s more than likely you suspect your beloved pet pooch is suffering from some form of anxiety. Read our guide to find out more about the different types of canine anxiety, signs to look out for and tips for managing it.
Can dogs suffer from anxiety?
The answer is yes. They absolutely can. Anxiety in dogs is common and can be attributed to countless psychological, physical and environmental factors, manifesting itself through various signs and symptoms which can ultimately result in destructive behaviours. The most common forms of canine anxiety are typically born through separation, fear, and ageing:
Separation Anxiety In Dogs: Products That Can Help
Separation anxiety can be very stressful for you and your dog. It’s hard seeing them work themselves up into such a state. Correcting their behaviour and getting them to feel more at ease when alone takes time. However, don’t despair, there are some products that can help you along the way. These products help to calm your dog down so that their stress is not as heightened. They often enable dogs to cope better in certain situations.
A lot of rescue centres use some of these products to help their dogs keep calm in their kennels. You don’t have to watch or listen to your suffer or know that they have nothing for comfort. When you do have to leave your dog try and make them as comfortable and secure as possible by leaving them with all their favourite toys and giving them some calming products. Here are our top products that can often help dogs with separation related issues including calming products and clever gadgets.
Separation is the most common form of anxiety in dogs. As social animals, separation anxiety is caused when dogs become extremely anxious and distressed when they’re away from their owner.
5 Handy Tips for Separation Anxiety
As much as we hate being away from our furry friends, it turns out they often hate being away from us also. In fact, as pack animals, separation anxiety is one of the main reason dogs act out, whether that’s chewing your favourite shoes or pooping on your new carpet. Still, there’s plenty owners can do to curb this behaviour and make their puppy pals happier to spend time alone. Here’s five useful tips for handling separation anxiety in your pet that can change both yours and your dog’s life. And next time Rover barks non-stop or pees on your clean washing, try not to get too angry – they just love you that much!
1. Take Your Dog for a Walk Before You Leave the House
Getting up extra early to walk your dog may not seem that appealing, but your furbaby will thank you for it. This will help your pet to relax and leave them in a calm, restful mood for when you leave the house. You can even reward their peaceful mindset with food or water for extra validation.
2. Don’t Make a Big Deal When You Head Out
To show your pup that you leaving for a few hours isn’t something they should be worried about, don’t make a huge fuss when you head out the door. This includes no touching, talking, or eye contact with your pet.
This way you’re communicating that leaving is just business as usual, and not something they should get worked up over. If you have trouble saying goodbye without a good snuggle, make sure you say goodbye a while before actually heading out. This way the dog doesn’t associate the attention with you leaving them behind.
3. Stay Calm Yourself
It’s easy for animal lovers to worry about the anxiety their dog must be suffering when we leave them at home, but it’s not helping either of you. Dogs are pack animals, and they can pick up on your anxious feelings. Instead, act calm and assertive as you leave the house. Ensure your pet that everything will be ok by acting like everything will be ok. After all, you’ll be home later to make it up to them!
4. Start Off by Leaving Them for Shorter Periods of Time
Another option is to ease your pet gently into alone time by leaving them for short periods to begin with. Start by giving them space in five-minute intervals, then increase the time to twenty minutes, then an hour. Eventually, you’ll be leaving them for a full eight hours and your dog will be no more nervous than if you’d never left them at all!
5. Buy an Audiobook
It may sound controversial, but have shown that listening to audiobooks has a calming effect on dogs suffering with separation anxiety. The sound of a human voice improves their mood and makes them less nervous, and we doubt they’re particularly fussy about the title you choose either!
Like humans, dogs can develop fears and anxiety relating to specific noises, visual stimuli, and/or situations. Common examples include loud noises, fireworks, strangers, other dogs, and even the dreaded car ride to the vets.
It’s also worth noting that older dogs can develop anxiety, largely caused by pain associated with joint problems like arthritis, or neurological diseases, which can affect the nervous system. Like with separation and fear-related anxiety, this can trigger a number of physical symptoms and serious behavioural issues.
Signs of general canine anxiety & seperation anxiety
So, how can you tell if your dog has anxiety? As there are various dog stress symptoms, many of which are slight variations or extremes of normal canine behaviour, diagnosis can be difficult. However, some common signs to look out for include:
- Constant barking and/or howling
- Excessive licking or grooming
- Escape behaviours
- Aggressive chewing, scratching and the destruction of furniture
- House training accidents
- Trembling, Whilst stressful, the good news is that for every stressed dog there is medical and psychological help available through veterinarians and specialists.
Treating canine anxiety
The source of anxiety will ultimately dictate the best treatment, so the initial diagnosis is crucial. For example, playing calming music may help a dog with separation anxiety, but would have very little effect on a dog suffering with a fear of crowded places. As such, a trip to the veterinarian is a great place to start, who will also be able to rule out any other medical conditions which could be contributing to the dog’s symptoms. Your vet will determine a treatment plan, typically involving a combination of the below tactics:
- Calming actions (depending on the source of anxiety, this could include human contact, massage, exercise, providing additional stimuli, etc.)
- Natural Remedies, aimed at relaxing your pet
- Behavioural training and counter-conditioning, often provided by dog training specialists who aim to change the canine’s reaction to the source of the anxiety
- And in extreme cases, prescribed dog anxiety medications
Whilst it is hard to predict if your dog will develop anxiety, there are a number of ways to help your new pet avoid anxiety-related problems including; socialising with other dogs, regular exercise, stimulation, and obedience training. Also, avoiding potentially stressful situations (e.g. leaving your pet alone for extended periods of time) can reduce the likelihood of your pet developing anxiety issues in the future.
Night Time dog Anxiety
Does your dog get nervous at night time? Some dogs can become very distressed as soon as the lights go out and they are left on their own. This can be a form of separation anxiety or it can sometimes be due to medical conditions, especially if it occurs in older dogs. If your dog is experiencing anxiety at night time then it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a vet to rule out any health problems.
Dogs are very social animals and it often takes them a while to get used to being on their own at night time. When you go to bed at night they may start to howl, scratch at doors, whine, bark and even defecate.
It’s not very nice to listen to your dog in distress or go to sleep knowing they are anxious. If your dog becomes anxious at night you may want to consult a dog behaviourist. Here are some things that may help.
There are many calming products available to help anxious and nervous dogs. These products can help put your dog at ease and make them feel more relaxed. We sell a wide range of calming products including Adaptyl collars, calming tablets and calming sprays.
A place to feel safe
Provide a quiet place in your home where your dog will feel safe and warm. Get them a nice cosy bed to sleep in so that they feel secure.
Treat dispensing toys
Get a Kong for your dog to play with at nighttime and some treat dispensing toys. This should help to get rid of some of their nervous energy and make them feel more at ease.
Make bedtime fun
Try and make bedtime fun for your dog by playing with them just before you go to bed and leaving them with all their favourite toys. Reward them for good behaviour and make them realise that bedtime can be a positive experience.
Gradually move their bed
If your dog is getting extremely anxious one of the things you can do is start by putting their bed or crate outside your room. Then you can build up their confidence and gradually move it closer to where you want to be.
Make sure they have had enough exercise and mental stimulation
Another thing you can do to help reduce their nervous energy is make sure they have had enough exercise and mental stimulation. Take them out for a long walk in the afternoon or evening before they go to bed. Spend time playing brain games and doing obedience or trick training with them.
Dog Anxiety In Older Dogs
Older dogs can develop anxiety due to a number of reasons. As they get older, they may find it harder to adapt to daily life. The main cause for anxiety is suffering and pain caused by joint problems like arthritis, or neurological diseases, which affect the nervous system. Mobility problems might make your older dog cautious of being handled. Things like sight and hearing loss can be very distressing, causing dogs to rely on their owners. They begin losing their independence, so being away from their owners often causes separation anxiety in older dogs.
Changes in environment
This can also a cause anxiety in older dogs, who have gotten used to the same daily routine. Being taken out of one environment and put into a new one will make them feel very unsafe and insecure.
Dementia can be another reason for older dogs to become anxious. It’s found in dogs as well as humans. If your dog develops dementia they will become very confused, daily routines will seem hard for them they will not have any sense of time. This often ruins their sleep pattern and toilet training. Consequently. They become very frustrated and restless.
A lack of exercise can cause your dog a lot of anxiety. Being closed and trapped indoors all day is not ideal for any dog. Senior dogs still need their exercise to maintain a healthy and balanced life.
As our dogs get older it is very important to provide them with the right food and enough exercise. Keeping your older dog socialised is very important too, so that they can keep their brain stimulated and enjoy being around other dogs.
Owners find it hard to cope
Owners can find it very stressful when their beloved elderly dog becomes anxious. They may find themselves limited doing normal things and scared to make changes (e.g. holidays, new pets and children may add stress to your older dog). From experience we tend to become more sensitive ourselves as our dogs become old and ill we dread thinking about life without them , seeing them stressed and anxious can be heart breaking. All we can do is make our lovely old pals are as comfortable as possible, and support them in their old age.
What to do if your older dog develops anxiety.
If your dog is getting older and is showing signs of anxiety, it is advised to take a trip to the vet and examine your dog to eliminate any health conditions. If your dog is suffering from a medical condition, they may need treatment to make them feel more comfortable and relieve their symptoms.
Once you have ruled out any medical issues, you might want to look at the behavioural side of things. Getting a dog behaviourist to come and make an assessment on your dog’s anxiety may help, they should be able to give you some advice and training tips. There are many natural remedies and treatments available for dogs with anxiety. They range from natural oils, thunder jackets helping your dog feel secure again, to providing them with a calming peaceful place to relax. Put your dog in a quiet low lit room, use a blanket and wrap your dog up, this will work a similar way to the thunder jacket. Also using calming music to relax your dog until they fall asleep will also help.
A new stress reliever for your dog is a massage, there are several canine massage therapists throughout the country. Acupuncture has also been shown to help dogs suffering with anxiety. Acupuncture involves insertion of needles into body tissue where the nerves bundle and blood vessels come together. This promotes the body to heal itself and relieves any aches or pains your dog may be suffering from.
Another good therapy for dogs with anxiety is swimming or hydrotherapy. When dogs exercise, they release and flush toxins out of their body. Exercise helps distract the brain and keep the body busy reducing stress.