I will never forget the day I came home from working a long double shift at the restaurant excitedly anticipating the sweet relief of kicking off my shoes and hopping in the shower to find that my dogs had busted past my laundry room door and gotten into my trash. There was wet coffee grounds, dirty diapers, and old food scattered across my entire house! Needless to say, I was furious. Does this hit home for you? Another day that I remember so very clearly was when my pup, Zoey, had ripped up an entire couch cushion from my brand new, used, couch. It looked like the Michelin Man exploded in my living room! It didn’t take long before I knew that there was a root cause fueling these cry’s for help. It was separation anxiety.
Anxiety can affect all dogs, regardless of breed. It can lead dogs to severe behavioral problems which can wreak havoc in your day to day life.
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Does your dog have anxiety?
Dogs may show their anxiety through a variety of actions. Signs your pup may be suffering from anxiety are:
- Frequent pacing
- Cowering and hiding
- Panting / Drooling
- Excessive Grooming / Licking
- Chewing of household items
- Incontinence of bowels or urine
- Growling or snapping
So, why’s my dog anxious?
There are plenty of causes for anxiety in pups. For my dogs, it was fueled by my absence, called separation anxiety. When you leave your house, your pup has NO idea where in the world you may have gone. This is really common in rescue pups who grow highly attached to, how they view it, their savior! So let’s dig into why your dog may be anxious, and the different kinds of anxiety that may manifest.
This anxiety can be triggered by a stimulant. If there is a specific trigger that seems to spike your dog’s anxiety, he could be suffering from a fear based anxiety. My other dog, Louie, really struggles with a fear-based anxiety. It shows dramatically when he is exposed to new experiences, whether it is a noise, person, or object. Louie’s eyes will become dilated and his ears will perk up. It’s a dead giveaway that he is feeling uncomfortable. A few examples of fear-based anxiety triggers are: loud voices, unknown people, unknown animals, new noises, and new or unusual places.
This type of anxiety has been the most difficult to manage for me. My dog, Zoey, had shown signs of anxiety from the very first day I brought her home. She had her tail tucked between her legs, she was crouched down while walking, and she was glued to me. It should have been a dead give-away that she might struggle with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in dogs is the most common type and can be found more than 14% of all dogs. Dogs who are suffering from this kind of anxiety struggle to find comfort when they are left alone, or they are separated from certain members of their family. This anxiety can lead your dog to undesirable behavior such as defecating and urinating in the house, destroying furnishing and furniture and continuous barking. One addendum to this topic is boredom induced anxiety. If your pup doesn’t have stimulants to keep their mind occupied while left alone for long periods they will be more prone to stirring up trouble to keep their mind busy while you are away.
3. Senior Anxiety
Anxiety which is related to aging can affect dogs as they are getting older for a variety of reasons such as vision or smell impairment. It also can be caused by a specific syndrome which is known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Signs that your senior dog may be struggle with CDS are:
- Escalating separation anxiety
- Sudden house soiling in otherwise potty-trained dogs
- Frequent waking at night / interrupted sleep cycles
- Excessive Barking
- Changing behavior while interacting with people and pets
So, my dog has anxiety…Now what?
There are so many natural, healthy, and simple ways to help ease your pups anxiety. When it came to Zoey, and her separation anxiety it took implementing some of these points below to really see a change. The biggest change was that I had a baby and we were home so much more, but to this day if I know that I will be out of the house for a long period of time or that I am going out of town I always make sure I have high quality hemp oil to temporarily ease her mind. When it came to Louie, and his fear based anxiety I really implemented a little of each of the following points, and he has improved dramatically.
This was huge for both of my dogs. I began bringing them to the dog park multiple times a week, taking them for long walks so that both pups would see different people biking, rollerblading, and also pass other pups frequently too. Proper socialization can prevent the development of anxiety in young dogs that have not had a traumatic past. Introducing your puppy to new people, dogs, animals, places, and experiences can help them learn how to respond to new stimulants. It also provides a great outlet of energy for your pup if the anxiety is boredom induced.
Enrolling your dog in some form of obedience training is an essential tool for preventing and managing anxiety. Training your pup encourages a healthy relationship with you, stimulates their brain, and helps redirect older bad habits. It is also a great place to meet new dog friends.
Exercise, Nutrition and Supplements
Regular exercise and stimulation are crucial components of a dog’s development, and their physical and emotional well-being. A stimulated dog is less likely to pick up destructive behavior. Good nutrition is equally as important for your dog’s health and may aid in regulating your dog’s bowel movements to prevent accidents during times you are away, and while you’re sleeping. The number one supplement that really helped aid in my dog’s relief from anxiety was a high-quality CBD oil. Whether used situationally, like during the Fourth of July, or to help a dog who is struggling with chronic anxiety. CBD is a great, all natural, option for anxiety relief and many people have had huge success with this route.
If there are specific triggers that spike your dog’s anxiety take note of the stimulant and do your best to avoid it. This was something that I utilized on a lesser scale for my pup, Louie. He always acted very fearful (displayed as aggression) and anxious anytime young men would come to my house. I took note of this trigger and would create a plan of action for a friend’s introduction to my dog. Usually I would give my buddy the heads up and tell him to not engage one way or another with my dog. Eventually, being exposed to young men, and not seeing them as a threat had helped him with this fear-based anxiety dramatically. Here is a more dramatic example of situational avoidance, if your dog gets anxious when people knock at the door, give your friends a heads up and plan for your visitors to enter quietly. Avoidance doesn’t mean that you need to put your life on hold, but it can aid in reducing stress and anxiety for your dog until you are ready to work through it in baby steps.
Dealing with canine anxiety can be a very stressful experience. Learning the type of anxiety that your pup is struggling with and discovering the root causes can really provide solid insight on how to help your pup. Implementing, and sticking to, an anxiety relief game plan will provide your pup with the much-needed mental rest that they have been craving. I am so glad that I decided to dig in and really work one on one with my dogs so we can live happily ever after!