Anticipating Canine Anxiety
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Your dog is your best friend. He helps you be happy when you’re sad, loved when you’re lonely, and calm when you’re anxious. Because you love him too, you can make sure he’s happy and loved. Dog anxiety – especially separation anxiety – is a problem your dog faces that you have the tools to help with. So how do you recognize dog anxiety, and how do you help your good boy feel calmer when you’re gone?
How can you tell if your dog is struggling with separation anxiety? Dogs are rarely subtle, so if there’s something wrong, they’re probably communicating it to you in an easily identifiable way.
- Destruction. Destruction is one of the easiest to identify symptoms of anxiety. An anxious dog might chew up shoes or furniture.
- Howling or crying. If your dog wails for you while you’re gone, that’s probably a sign of anxiety (and definitely a cause of unhappy neighbors).
- Housebreaking failures. If your dog is perfectly housebroken most of the time but has constant accidents when you’re gone, it’s often a sign of anxiety.
- Compulsive behaviors, such as scratching or chewing.
- Trembling. A dog that trembles when they’re not cold might be suffering from emotional upset.
- Aggression. Aggression can be a sign that things are not okay in your dog’s life. Aggression is a very big deal, as your dog can get in serious trouble for biting someone. It can cost dog owners a lot of money in vet bills. Dog bites are also a leading cause of homeowners insurance claims, which can affect your insurance costs. At worst, you might have to give up your dog.
- Escape behavior. If your dog is making like he’s Steve McQueen trying to dig his way out of your home, he might have anxiety.
Oftentimes the causes of your dog’s anxiety is pretty easy to spot. Separation is one of the biggest reasons for anxiety. Your dog can become distressed when you’re away, even for short periods of time. They get lonely or worried without you.
Another big reason for stress is major changes in their living situation. This can kick in if you worked from home previously and now go to the office everyday. If one of their humans (or dog friends) moves out or passes away, it can cause anxiety. Moving can also cause your dog anxiety. Such a drastic change in their environment can upend their whole idea of what is normal and okay. Moving pets traditionally requires extra care. Some dogs enjoy rides in the car, while others may need to be soothed through it. Keep your pet nearby; you can be their anchor, or security blanket. Make sure to give them extra affection, just to let them know everything will be okay.
Just like you have self-care techniques to keep you doing okay, you need care techniques for your dog’s anxiety so he can feel happy, safe, and loved.
- Downplay departures. Don’t make a big deal out of it when you leave or return. Normalize coming home by ignoring your dog for a few minutes after coming back. Popped out to the grocery store? Put everything away, then address your dog when you’re ready.
- Leave them with comforting stuff. Toys or busy work treats can help keep them distracted. You can also leave them with dirty laundry or something else that smells like you to keep them company.
- Give them their own space to prevent rampant destruction. Section them off in a room so they don’t have full run of the house (and access to your valuable stuff).
- Look into over-the-counter relaxing treats or take them to the vet for prescription medications designed to help them stay calm.
- Schedule a visit from a friend or hire a dog walker/dog sitter. There are a lot of professional companies that can pair you with a qualified walker to give them a little boost midday.
- Love them. Their anxiety means that not all is well in their world. Give them affection and show your love by helping them work through their issues. Improving their quality of life not only makes your life easier, it shows how much you care about your best pal.
Noah Yarnol Rue is always looking where his next trip will take him . When he’s not traveling the world, he’s writing articles on the new things he learns. Noah also enjoys a good meme from time to time. You can find Noah on LinkedIn.