It's Dog Anxiety Awareness Week and we wanted to write a blog on canine anxiety and what it may mean for you and your furry friend. It wasn’t too long ago that this condition was not acknowledged. In recent years, canine mental health has been much better recognised. We now know that our dog’s mental health is something we need to be aware of and support.
Being over-excited, acting nervous and separation anxiety in dogs is not uncommon. We know that every dog is different, so will react to situations in different ways.
Canine anxiety comes in many forms and can incorporate:
This is a great question. Unfortunately, we don’t always know the answer. Those who have been poorly socialised when younger are at a higher risk of becoming anxious adults. Without exposing them to different situations when young, they may be spooked by them when older. It is also true that those with little to no routine or training may find the world harder to cope with.
Some dogs are genetically predisposed to being nervous nellies.
Many owners who have taken on rescue dogs assume they have been neglected or abused due to their behavioural issues and anxiety. However, this is not always the case. For many, it will simply be that they did not have proper socialisation and exposure during key phases of their early life.
While we can all recognise the anxious dog quivering in the corner of the vet’s waiting room, some signs of stress are more subtle than this. Be on the lookout for:
Your dog may show a range of the above symptoms and can show different signs depending on the level of their anxiety. For some, they may initially go quiet and watchful and this can then progress to more obvious symptoms with time.
If you have recognised that your dog is showing signs of anxiety you will be keen to remedy the issue. While there isn’t likely to be a quick fix, there are plenty of available options.
They key is identifying your dogs triggers and putting yourself in their shoes. The more we understand the behaviour, the better chance of us treating it successfully.
Consider the use of training methods such as desensitisation and counter-conditioning. It can help to work with a behaviourist who will make a tailored plan that is specific to your dog’s needs. Some will do well with prescription anxiolytic drugs prescribed by their vet.
Many ‘stress heads’ benefit from calming products such as an Adaptil collar or plug in. The release of dog appeasing pheromone sends a calming message and helps dogs relax.
Do not under estimate the important of a solid routine. Dogs love predictability and feel comfort in getting up and being fed and walked at the same time each day.
Work hard on keeping your dog’s mind busy. As is true with us, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Bored dogs can have too much time to overthink and become anxious. Provide them with lots of interesting training, long walks and games.
As with any kind of training, dogs’ brains work by association. Separation anxiety in dogs is very common but helping your dog get used to the situation can help them cope better. Remember, a sleepy pooch is a stress-free pooch: ensuring your dog is well exercised is always important, but it’s especially helpful when prepping for stressful or exciting times. If your dog is trained to bring the ball back, playing fetch is a fun way to get rid of excess energy! When your dog is tired out and ready for a nap, they’re less likely to show signs of separation anxiety. You’ll usually find dogs that can be left alone are content because they are well exercised, so feel more relaxed. Practice makes perfect! Invest some time to get your dog used to being left alone by instigating a positive routine when you’re leaving:
Have other family members who are usually in your home encourage the routine as well, so your dog becomes comfortable with the experience no matter who is settling them in and leaving. Practising this routine every time your dog will be left alone will help creative a positive association with the experience!
Dog barking is a natural behaviour and it can be a sign of stress. While dog barking shouldn’t be rewarded, it’s important your dog understands when it’s ok to bark. Dog barking is common when there’s a knock at the door; your dog does this to alert and protect you! If this is a common occurrence, it might drive you barking mad…
Your dog may be restless due to excitement, nervousness, or stress. Natural remedies are a great way to help keep your dog happy and relaxed; herbs such as chamomile and lavender are naturally calming:
We get lots of positive feedback from our customers for our calming products. Calming Crunchies, which contain stress-busting chamomile, make the perfect bedtime treat. If your pooch is generally anxious or excitable, take a look at Pooch & Mutt Calm & Relaxed grain-free food. Rich in serotonin boosting L-Tryptophan, the dry food contains natural ingredients to help keep your dog relaxed and happy. We recommend using the food as your dog’s main meal source for up to 6 weeks to see full benefits.
Here at Pooch & Mutt, we are proud of our Calm & Relaxed range; food and treats which can form an important part of the multi-modal treatment plan to aid anxious pets.
Importantly, nervous nellies should be fed on calming diets constantly, rather than the day of the anxiety-inducing event. They work best over time and are very safe to feed life-long.
Our Calm & Relaxed food is packed full of natural ingredients which help to settle the nerves and reduce hyperactivity.
Of course, as with all of our range, the Calm & Relaxed diet is nutritionally complete and is appropriate for long-term feeding. Made with 45% high-quality turkey and plenty of sweet potato as a source of slow-releasing carbohydrates, your excitable pooch will feel satisfied after every meal.
Calm & Relaxed Mini Bone Dog Treats are ideal to use when on the go and as rewards during basic training.
If you want to find out more on how calming supplements help with anxiety read this other article here.