Saturday, August 25, 2012
High anxiety, what can a pet parent do?
Many dogs (and even cats) can suffer from ANXIETY. This is an extremely common problem!
Anxiety can manifest in different ways, everything from fearful behavior, hiding, shaking, whining, barking to neurotic behavior like pacing, licking, tearing up the house, etc. Probably one of the most common anxiety-related afflictions is separation anxiety which, if you've had a pet with this problem, you know how difficult it can be to treat successfully.
Anxiety can be learned or it can be a temperament issue. There may have been a trauma in puppyhood and the dog has become sensitized to something in particular. Sometimes it is due to a lack of socialization and exposure to different situations so the dog hasn't had a chance to build confidence. All of this said, whether it is temperament or it is a learned behavior, it is still possible to improve your dog's quality of life..
Although anxiety is a very complex issue, it can be helped through some very basic procedures that can put your pet at ease.
Teaching your pet to be neutral about staying home alone is a good place to start and one that I highly recommend. Tone down your comings and goings. Downplay your emotions relating to leaving your dog and then being reunited. Sure, you are sad to leave your baby and happy to see her again, but the less emotion that you display at these critical times will help your dog to feel less emotional about it as well. Less is more in this case and a big help to your dog in dealing with being alone. You are not doing your dog any favors by having dramatic arrivals and departures.
What most people fail realize is that our emotional state directly affects our pets. If you think about it, you can probably come up with several examples where you felt that your pet was responding to your emotional state. A lot of these emotions can be projected onto your pet including anxiety!
Crate training can also be very helpful to dealing with anxiety because your dog learns to enjoy the crate as a safe haven. If you crate train you are more likely to have a dog who doesn't mind being alone and quiet. It's also great for travel and especially in an emergency to have your dog acclimated to the crate. Crate training is something that needs to be gradually introduced so I will leave that to another post...
Another thing that can keep your dog calm is having a regular schedule. Dogs are truly creatures of habit. I find that when a routine changes there is usually an adjustment period that needs to take place. Try not to change too many things at once. Even a food change can cause some mental upset.
Thankfully there are a lot of articles and books on how to deal with anxiety in dogs and I would advise anyone that they should take full advantage of the information that is readily available online. Websites like Dogstardaily.com and Cesarsway.com have dealt with the topic of of anxiety many times. These websites are a great place to start.
In recent years, products have come on the market like Thundershirt which is basically a snug fitting shirt-like wrap that can help the dog feel more secure much like swaddling a baby. I personally would recommend the Thundershirt before going the medical or herbal remedy route. If you do try Thundershirt, remember, read the directions first! Oh and btw, I sell them at Lola 4 Pets! :-)
If you have an anxious dog, come by Lola 4 Pets and I will be happy to help you come up with a solution that works for you and your pet without breaking the bank.