Anxious dogs are not uncommon, and an anxious dog is not always a rescue. An anxious dog becomes difficult because of the way he manifests that anxiety. You might not recognize behaviors like chewing or destroying household items or furniture, as signs that your dog is anxious. Non-stop barking, self-grooming, and even aggression are signs of an anxious dog. Too often, these behaviors are not seen as troubling anxiety-driven actions, but as nuisances and behaviors that require punishment.
If you suspect anxiety is the root of your dog’s behaviors, know that punishment will not address the problem, or fix it in any way. Most of the time, dog owners wonder why they have an anxious pup if the dog was not a rescue. Usually, we assume that only rescue dogs with a troubled past can have anxiety, but that’s just not the case.
Humans exhibit anxiety for a variety of reasons, and so do dogs. You may find that when you’re anxious, you bite your nails, twirl your hair, shake your leg or tap your foot.
Simply understanding the anxiety is the key to beginning to address it.
A few common reasons for an anxious dog:
You are unknowingly rewarding him every time he is scared. If you see that your dog is scared, you begin to hold him and give him plenty of love to make him feel safe. But in reality, the dog loves the attention he’s getting in this moment, and he will begin to know when he acts scared, he gets his owner’s loving attention. Dogs are reward driven, and they learn to follow patterns of cause and effect.
Your dog could be reacting to your anxiety. Dogs can be little empaths. They can feel the emotions of their humans, especially ones that they have bonded with. You might notice your dog comes to comfort you when you’re crying or upset. Dogs are sensitive to human emotion, so if you are nervous, afraid, or panicky, your dog can pick up those emotions and be afraid too. It’s important to not judge yourself for this! Just know that if you are calm and peaceful, it is likely that your dog will feel at ease too.
An anxious dog may not have been socialized. As a puppy, if your dog wasn’t familiarized with other people or dogs, or loud noises like thunder and the vacuum, your dog can become anxious when new things are introduced. They become afraid of the unknown.
Some ways to help your dog cope with anxiety:
Don’t reward fear. Using those sweet phrases and attention when your dog is anxious can deepen the anxiety or cause him to continue the pattern.
Remain calm and assertive. Your dog looks up to you! Remain calm during times when you know your dog might get anxious. For example, while walking in the park, another dog comes to greet yours. Instead of being nervous about your dog’s interaction, remain calm and give your dog commands, so she has you to focus on and not the dog approaching. If you’re nervous, your dog might get nervous too.
Socialize your dog. If your dog is a puppy, then begin to socialize him to make him familiar with the world. Show the dog that loud noises aren’t scary, and other humans are friendly too. Older dogs may also require more socialization. By this, I do not mean that you should begin taking your puppy or your senior dog to the local dog park. If you believe your dog needs socialization give us a call here at Training Tails so that we can consult with you about your particular situation and the best remedy for your anxious pup.
Reward good behavior. When socializing your dog to new situations, give treats for non-anxious behaviors. If you see your dog tense up in fear, remain calm and withhold the reward until he is calm again.
Maintain a calm environment in the home. Maybe play a little soft music and always have a comfortable place for your dog. Crate training is recommended for this very reason; the crate becomes a safe-haven, the place to go when he begins to feel anxious. All dogs thrive with a routine, especially the anxious ones. With a routine, your dog knows what he can expect. Every morning he can expect going outside and playing, and in the evening he expects getting fed and taken for a walk. Knowing what to expect every day can ease a dog’s anxiety.
Exercise & Training is an excellent way for your dog to release pent-up energy daily. A sense of security in a calm environment is best for canine anxiety. Give your good-boy lots of love and affection when he is quiet and peaceful.
We’re talking about anxiety that’s associated with the unknown, loud noises, thunder or new people, places, and objects. You may be experiencing a deeper and more troubling situation with an anxious dog. We recommend that you enlist a professional to help you sort out the situation so that it can be addressed properly with the best techniques to help your dog learn alternative ways to cope with things that make him anxious or to desensitize him from the association.
For a consultation, please get in touch.