Like many owners, I’m sure you can tell right away if your dog starts acting odd. If you notice your dog is often pacing, whining over nothing, or is holding their head lower than normal, then your dog may be developing some sort of anxiety. Anxiety is not uncommon in dogs, and many owners find themselves assuming “My dog has separation anxiety”
Although dogs can be anxious about many different things, separation anxiety is what owners assume their dog is going through. So today, we’ll look at the causes and effects of your dog’s anxiety, as well as some simple fixes!
How To Tell If My Dog is Anxious
Certain behaviors in your dog can look at lot like anxiety when they’re actually caused by another issue. For example, whining and being especially needy are both symptoms of anxiety. However, this can also happen if your dog is sick, or if they’re trying to show sympathy because they think you’re sad.
Simply seeing anxious behavior does not mean your dog has anxiety. Instead, look for patterns in your dogs mood. Anxious dogs will be driven by certain triggers. So, if you can figure out what makes your dog behave in an anxious way, you can know what type of anxiety you’re dealing with.
Different Types Of Anxiety
Generally, there are three main forms of anxiety that your dog may have. These three categories are:
- Separation Anxiety
- Age-related anxiety
- Fear-based anxiety
Age related anxiety is easy to spot – If your dog is starting to age when their anxiety develops, then you may not be looking at separation anxiety at all. However, if you have a younger pup, then you’re most likely looking at fear-based or separation anxiety. Both forms will appear the same, but the cause and cure will be completely different.
Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs can easily get over attached to their humans. If you leave them for long durations, there is a possibility that they might suffer from separation anxiety.
This is especially prone to happen if your dog doesn’t socialize with other people often. If you have a large family or regularly have people over, your dog is less likely to be anxious when they’re alone. Separation anxiety is a result of dogs being afraid their owners may not return.
As mentioned before, age-related anxiety is common in older dogs. Like humans, they feel more fragile as they age, and this can cause anxious behavior. This form of anxiety usually shows itself if your dog is unwilling to do things it used to do – Such as tricks or physical activity. Usually, this form of anxiety will make your dog feel uncertain of themselves, and will cause them to need extra comfort.
The most common reason for your dog to get anxious is because of something that traumatized them in the past. For example, if your dog was raised by an abusive owner, they may be afraid of people that remind them of their owner. However, the cause of fear-related anxiety is not always clear.
Unlike the abusive owner example, a lot of fear-related anxiety may not be the result of obvious trauma. Puppies especially can become traumatized by small events that just happened to have a very negative on them. For example, if several of their first car rides were to the vet, they may be scared of riding in a car, even years after their anxiety started.
What To Expect When Your Dog Is Anxious?
With anxiety in dogs come a series of symptoms. These include the following:
- Excessive barking
- Disruptive behavior
- Urination around the house
These are the more common symptoms found in a dog that’s dealing with anxiety. Again, these symptoms alone do not mean that your dog has anxiety. If you think anxiety is the cause of these symptoms, pay attention to your dog’s environment when they experience these symptoms. If you notice something particular happens before your dog’s symptoms, then you may have found the anxiety source.
How To Calm Your Anxious Dog
If you’re constantly worrying that “My dog is anxious, what do I do?”, you’ve come to the right place. My dog has anxiety issues as well, so I’ve dealt with this issue first-hand. The process of getting rid of your dog’s anxiety will take time and patience, but it will be worth it!
Because anxiety-related issues are so common in dogs, a lot of research has gone into this problem. While we mostly understand why dogs experience anxiety, a one-size-fits-all solution remains elusive. However, the Journal Of Veterinary Behavior has extensively reviewed several treatment methods that have been successful for other dogs. With this list, at least one method will help with your dog separation anxiety.
Recently, music has been a top choice for dog therapy experts. Just like you, a relaxing song can calm your dog and alleviate their anxiety. However, not all songs will put your dog at ease. Even songs that sound slow and relaxing to you may be unnerving for your dog. Because of this, you will have to play around with different songs to find what works best.
While guessing a song and seeing how your dog reacts is one way to do this, it is certainly not the best way. Our friends over at Dogmusic have created an entire approach to treating your dogs anxiety via music. This is one of the internet’s top music therapy guides, and has already helped thousands with their dog’s anxiety!
Massaging Your Anxious Dog
Just like a good message can put you in a better mood, it can do the same for your anxious dog. While relaxing their muscles is important, the massage has more to do with simple physical contact. By massaging your dog, you create a stronger bond with them. Especially in cases of separation anxiety, this bond will help them to stay calm if they are away from you. For fear and age-related anxiety, massages assure your dog that you will protect them.
Praise and Cuddle
Just like massages, praising and cuddling your dog regularly will reduce their anxiety. You want to praise them and reassure them that everything is going to be okay when they’re anxious. Dogs obviously cannot understand your words, but your touch and body language can fully reassure them if they’re anxious.
As you’re petting your dog, be sure to talk to them in a soft tone. In addition, be sure to move and talk slowly to make sure they calm down. By seeing their own calm and collected, they will feel calmer themselves. Anxiety is simply a result of some sort of fear, so do everything possible to simply reassure your dog that they are safe.
Creating A Safe Space
If your dog has regular anxiety related to a specific issue, you may want to create a safe space for your dog. This does not have to be an entire room dedicated to your dog. All you need is a defined space where you bring your dog to calm down. Ideally, this space will be quiet, and have either a dog bed or blankets for your dog to lay on. If your dog has a favorite toy, you should bring this into the safe space as well.
Your dog’s environment will have a big impact on their anxiety. So, by changing the environment, you can completely change your dog’s mood. If you have a space that your dog is always safe, comforted, and loved in, then eventually that room alone will comfort your dog.
How To Create A Safe Space
While the setup of the safe space is important, simply having blankets and toys around your dog does not create a safe space. You will need to create an emotional connection for your dog in that space. The first few times that you take your dog into your newly created safe space, they may not react any differently.
I created my own safe space when I found out my dog has separation anxiety. I set up his bed with a soft blanket as well as some toys. Then, when he would experience some anxiety, I would take him into this bed and sooth him until he calmed down.
Getting Regular Exercise
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on the breed itself. However, all dogs will need regular exercise. Exercise works both as a way to prevent anxiety as well as cure some of the anxiety your dog has. Physical activity will release serotonin and dopamine in your dog’s brain, which are crucial to stopping their anxiety. In addition, dogs that lack regular exercise are more prone to anxiety, because they are generally more restless and bored.
Get an Expert Opinion
The easiest method for treating a dog with anxiety is to simply take them to a vet. Your vet will be able to listen to your specific story and figure out solutions that may not be obvious. From there, the two of you can work to cure your dog’s anxiety. The benefit here is that you have somebody who has dealt with this problem one hundred times already.
However, the vet is not for everybody. Because is will be very expensive, it is worth it to try solving the problem on your own first. Personally, this would be a last resort for me. While it will give you an answer faster, it is probably not worth involving a vet unless your dog’s anxiety is severe.
Getting Another Fury Friend
The biggest cause of anxiety is simply lonliness. If you’re away from home for long periods of time, the chances of your dog having anxiety goes up. If it is practical, getting a companion for your dog can easily solve their anxiety problems. When you’re away, both of your pets will keep each other company, which will keep them from getting bored or restless. However, this solution works better for fear-related and separation anxiety than age-related anxiety.
So, Which Is Best If My Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
As with everything, it is going to vary depending on your situation. If your dog only has mild levels of anxiety, and you can figure out what is causing it, then simply providing extra love and support may do the trick. However, if you’re away from home for long periods of time, and your dog has severe anxiety, you may have to consider going further. In this case, consulting a vet or considering adopting another pet may be the best approach.
Hopefully, this has answered your dog anxiety separation questions! My dog is anxious as well, and so I spoke a lot from experience here. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to comment below or contact us directly!