Animal Anxiety: Bringing Peace to Your Nervous Pet’s Mind
You may have noticed your dog radiating nervous energy from time to time: biting herself, pacing, defecating or urinating in the house, howling and whimpering, or even exerting destructive behaviors (ASPCA). Many dogs actually experience anxiety, and it’s not so different from the anxiety we feel!
The most common cause of anxiety in dogs is separation from an owner. No matter how temporary, your dog is never certain of your return, and therefore, she might get upset when you leave her alone. Many dogs experience anxiety. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help reassure your four-legged-companion and help her to feel safe, secure, and loved.
Your dog may have separation anxiety if she has spent long periods of time in shelters or has lived in multiple homes. The lack of stability in her life may prevent her from feeling totally comfortable and certain that she will not be uprooted and have to adjust to a new home again every time you walk out the door. Additionally, a sudden change in a schedule to which your dog has become accustomed or a move to a new residence could cause the development of separation anxiety, as your dog relies on familiarity to feel safe.
If your dog is exhibiting the symptoms of separation anxiety, there are a few things you can do to ensure her that she is in a loving, safe environment, even when you aren’t home. A great first step would be giving your dog something to concentrate on while you are out. For example, a KONG® is a great solution: when filled with interesting ingredients, such as peanut butter, frozen banana, dog treats, cottage cheese, or canned dog food, your dog will have something to focus on for a while. Giving a KONG® to your dog directly before you leave can keep her from focusing on your absence, and often makes the transition to being alone easier. This also creates an association in your dog’s mind between receiving treats and spending some time alone. Dogs with more serious anxiety issues will often not eat while you are not home, however, and will require more concentrated therapeutic measures.
A dog with severe anxiety issues might require a little more attention. For example, your dog may begin displaying signs of separation anxiety when she sees you putting your shoes on. Teaching your dog that putting on shoes does not always mean that she’s going to be alone could help dissociate behaviors with triggered anxiety. If your dog has severe anxiety, you should consult with your veterinarian. She may recommend a variety of products you can purchase at your local pet store, such as a Thundershirt Dog Anxiety Shirt® or various types of soothing pills, chews, and toys.
Your dog can become anxious for a variety of reasons, ranging from phobias to lack of early-exposure to social influences (Canna-Pet). Ultimately, it’s important to make certain your pet always feels like she can trust you. Incorporating a few extra measures into your daily routine to help reassure her and assuage her anxiety can go a very long way.