Almost everyone will have dealt with feeling anxious at one point or another, and it is not fun. Dealing with anxiety can be incredibly debilitating. Anxiety is not exclusive to humans; animals can also experience it, and, indeed, many dogs do. Coping with an anxious pup can be frustrating at times, but keeping them calm and happy is obviously worthwhile because it directly impacts their quality of life. Keep reading to learn more.
What Anxiety Looks Like In Dogs
The first thing that you need to do is to learn more about the signs of anxiety in dogs and how to recognize them. Dogs obviously cannot verbally state their feelings to their owners; instead, they rely on body language. There are several cues that can demonstrate that your dog is feeling anxious like:
- Shaking or trembling
- Decreased appetite
- Over-grooming and self-trauma
- Excessive panting
- Dilated pupils
- Lip licking
Witnessing any of these behaviors in your dog could indicate that they are feeling anxious, although it is, of course, not the only explanation. You will need to look for context clues too. For example, a dog licking their paws could indicate anxiety or an allergy or a few other things, as outlined in this post by Native Pet.
The Next Steps
After you have learned how to spot whether or not your dog is feeling anxious, you can begin to look for patterns in their behavior. Finding patterns can help you to identify the triggers for their anxious feelings. Try to keep track of these situations. You could then either choose to make an appointment with your vet to discuss what has been happening and perhaps even rule out any medical conditions or factors. A vet may also choose to prescribe some anxiety medication or suggest that you take your dog to a behaviorist. If the triggers are pretty cut and dry, then you could choose to forgo the vet’s appointment and make a few lifestyle changes instead.
Keeping Your Dog Calm
Once you are aware of your dog’s body language and you have a better idea of its patterns of anxiety, you are far better equipped to keep your dog calm and happy. As mentioned above, the first thing that you should do is remove all of your dog’s triggers as best you can. In some instances, you might not be able to remove them in their entirety, but you can do your best to lessen or minimize them. For example, if your dog is anxious around other dogs, then you probably should avoid the dog park or other popular dog walks. If your dog has separation anxiety, then you can begin to work up to leaving them for longer periods of time and working on this.
You could also try a few different products designed to calm dogs, like synthetic dog pheromones. They are available as plug-ins and are really easy to use. They are designed to release pheromones which are akin to the ones released by a nursing mother. This can really help to keep your dog calm and happy. A lot of dog owners tend to use these to keep their dogs calm in the home – especially for dogs that experience separation anxiety. The old adage that the devil makes work for idle hands is true regardless of the species. To simplify it a little, anxiety is often a build-up of excess nervous energy. Sometimes, ensuring that your dog is getting enough exercise throughout the day can help to decrease their levels of anxiety.
Lastly, it might also be worth giving your dog a safe space within your home that they can retreat to if they are feeling overwhelmed. This could be a bed in a separate room like the laundry room, or a crate in the living room, or whatever. The space should be theirs and theirs alone; whenever they enter it, you should leave them alone until they feel ready to come back out. If they have never had a safe space before, then they might be a bit reluctant to begin with because they will likely see you as their safe space, but this can lead to separation anxiety and resource guarding, so you should do your best to create a physical safe space for them.
All dogs have their own personalities, quirks, and foibles; just like people, and as such, they can experience a full spectrum of emotions too. Some dogs do experience feelings of anxiety, and it can be incredibly detrimental, affecting their quality of life. Dealing with an anxious dog can be a little overwhelming at times because, obviously, you want to do what is best for your pup, but you might not know where to start. As outlined above, there are a few things that you can do to help your dog. The consistency of your efforts is crucial, do not give up. If one thing doesn’t work, then there are always more tips and tricks for you to try. If you have tried everything, then you can always work with a professional behaviorist or dog trainer for advice.