Doggy Destressing: Ways to soothe canine anxiety
Canine anxiety is a difficult condition to live with for dogs and dog owners alike. Incessant whimpering or barking, chewing of furniture, aggression, uncontrolled urination and defecation, and desperate attempts to escape or hide are just some of the more obvious signs of stress in dogs. These can cause an undue strain on the pet-owner relationship--and in some cases, even cause it to break irreparably, in which case abandonment may occur.
However, there are many interventions that can be done to soothe stressed-out dogs. Acting sooner rather than later is the best way to keep the condition from getting worse. With time and patience, fur parents can manage canine anxiety and give their dogs a happy, healthy life.
Rule out medical conditions.
There is overlap between symptoms of stress and symptoms of pain and disease. Your dog could be vocalizing because something hurts. They could be forgetting potty training because they’re experiencing gastrointestinal upset or urinary problems. They could be chewing and eating random objects because of nutritional deficiencies.
Going to the vet is the best way to determine if the cause for the stereotypical behavior is infection, injury, or disease. This way, you can cure the condition with the right therapeutic and supportive regimen instead of wasting your time (and prolonging your dog’s agony) pursuing non-medical forms of treatment.
Identify the trigger.
Canine anxiety is usually a response to a stimulus or an event. Common triggers include loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms, separation from their owners, and being exposed to unfamiliar places, people, and animals.
Identifying what’s stressing out your dog would require quick recognition of signs of anxiety and fear. Perhaps the only good thing about overt manifestations like aggravated barking, potty accidents, furniture destruction and aggression is that it’s easy to tell when it happens. Whatever happened right before the behavior is often the trigger.
It can be a little trickier with less obvious manifestations of canine anxiety. The key here is to know how your dog behaves normally, so you know when they are behaving abnormally. Pay attention to your dog’s habits and body language. Ears lying flat on their head, eyes wide with much of the whites showing, and cowering postures are all indications of fear. Excessive salivation, grooming, and long, intense yawning are signs of stress. Once you learn how to recognize the signs, look for patterns when they exhibit the behavior. Does it occur right after a certain event? Is it something that always happens in a particular place? These questions will guide you to identify the cause of your dog’s anxiety.
Stick to a routine.
Never underestimate the power of sticking to a routine to help meet your dog’s behavioral issues. Providing a set schedule for feeding, potty, playtime, training, and exercise makes sure that all your dog’s needs are taken care of every single day. Dogs thrive on predictability, so a constantly changing routine could be stressing them out. When they know how their day is going to go, they can rest easy instead of being restless.
Establishing a routine is also crucial for the success of the next tip-behavioral training. When your dog is hungry, bored, or needs to use the bathroom, they’re much more likely to listen to commands and give you their full attention. In addition, training is most effective when it’s done consistently, so setting a time slot every day to focus is key.
Provide training that uses positive reinforcement.
Desensitization involves the gradual exposure of the dog to the trigger, starting from very short interactions with a mild version of the trigger and progressing in longer duration of exposure to more intense versions of the trigger. Counterconditioning is the process by which you change your dog’s response to a trigger by associating it with positive events.
These are just two techniques out of many that can be used to help deal with canine anxiety. Do your own research from legitimate sources to find out what works for your situation--and it’s best to use a training technique that utilizes positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Using fear and pain on an already stressed dog is more likely to make things worse. On the other hand, rewarding positive behavior helps them feel happy and calm.
Training can take months to years of patience and consistency, but your efforts will be well-rewarded. If you feel like you are getting nowhere, you can consult a professional dog trainer--but be sure to be as involved as possible in the training so you can learn too!
Consider calming supplements.
There are natural pet supplements made specifically to help dogs destress, and to complement behavioral training and physical exercise. Many of these boost the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes moods and regulates sleep cycles. For older dogs whose behavioral problems may stem from the canine version of Alzheimer’s, supplements containing anitoxidative properties have been shown to assist.
You may also consider giving an immunity boost for dogs, as stress often predisposes them to inflammation and makes allergies act up all the more. alchemypet’s Dog Immune Booster can help regulate the immune response and carries significant antioxidative properties.
Provide a safe space.
Sometimes your dog just needs a place where they can feel safe from whatever they are afraid of. This works best on dogs who exhibit phobic reactions to thunderstorms and fireworks. Keeping them in a dim, enclosed room, to snuggle in their bed and all their favorite toys can help them calm down. You may also opt to buy anti-anxiety dog coats which provide a reassuring pressure around their body. Giving them cuddles and kisses wouldn’t hurt either!