There are times when your dog can act in a way you don’t understand. He may be unusually afraid or aggressive, even urinating or defecating in the house. These are all symptoms that your dog may be having anxiety. Like humans, pets can get anxious and scared. It is a part of pet safety that we as owners know how to handle when we have scared pets and anxious pets.
Anxiety can be caused many different reasons, but three of the most common causes are fear, separation, and aging. Fear-related anxiety can be caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli, a new environment, etc. Separation anxiety is something a dog experiences when he is unable to find comfort when left alone or separated from his family members, and usually leads to him urinating or defecating inside the house. Age-related anxiety affects a dog’s perception and awareness.
Anxious pets and scared pets often show one or more of the following symptoms: aggression, urinating or defecating in the house, drooling, panting, destructive behaviour, depression, excessive barking, pacing, restlessness, and repetitive or compulsive behaviour.
Here are some tips on how to treat dog anxiety:
Talk to your vet.
Your veterinarian is the person who can help you identify the type of anxiety your dog is suffering from. They will also be able to determine if the anxiety is simply situational, or if it is becoming an overwhelming issue for your dog.
Training and counterconditioning.
There are several training strategies owners can use to treat anxious pets, and one of them is counterconditioning. This is used to change your pet’s response to the stimuli that trigger his anxiety, usually by replacing the anxious or aggressive behaviour with a more desirable one, like sitting down or focusing on the owner.
This is another training strategy that can be used for your dog. This is done by slowly introducing your dog to the source of anxiety, preferably in small doses and at a decreased intensity. Repeated exposure and rewarding positive behaviour is the key to this strategy. However, it is best to contact a professional dog trainer to help you choose the best approach.
Anxiety medication for dogs.
Your vet may recommend medications if your dog develops a serious anxiety disorder. Talk to your vet before administering any medication to your pet. This is a basic rule in pet safety.
Read the American Kennel Club’s full article here for more information on how to handle anxious pets.