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You can’t help but feel terrible for them. After being together all day, every day, many of us leave our dogs at home as we go about our normal routines.
Well, it’s normal for us – every time we leave the house, it’s scary as heck for some dogs.
Perhaps you’re already dealing with this situation. Or maybe you’re anticipating trouble on the horizon. But rest assured – there are ways to deal with canine anxiety.
Below, we’ll reveal what causes dogs to become anxious and how you can address this condition. Let’s get started.
What Makes Dogs Anxious?
What happened to that cute puppy you brought home from the animal shelter? Unfortunately, as with most real-life situations, there isn’t one universal explanation for canine anxiety.
So, to get to the root of the problem, we’ll go over several common causes of this condition.
When you or your family is around, all is well. Your dog obeys commands, lays at your feet, and generally appears happy. But when everyone leaves, everything changes.
Your dog barks, howls, and damages your property. In some cases, they may even use the bathroom inside. Then, when you reappear, your pal is thrilled – even though you aren’t. Although these actions may indicate a lack of house training, they are often signs of separation anxiety.
Why does this happen? Well, dogs are pack animals – because of this, they are incredibly social. On top of this, they are also creatures of routine. So when their favorite pack members suddenly leave, dogs don’t realize you’ll be back soon. Instead, they believe you’ve abandoned them – forever.
Don’t feel bad about this. Separation anxiety is a common problem for dog owners – you’re not a terrible person if your pet suffers from it. With training and other interventions (mentioned later in this article), your pup can overcome this condition.
Dogs have feelings just like their owners. Like us, they feel excitement, joy, and contentment. But canines can also be sad, feel fear, and accumulate emotional trauma.
When a dog gets sent to an animal shelter, it’s no different than if you were sent to jail. Often, it can be a traumatic experience. Similarly, dogs raised in puppy mills or those with a history of police/military work may also have emotional baggage.
In other words, canines can suffer from PTSD. If yours is super vigilant at times, avoids certain places/situations/people, and is chronically nervous, past emotional trauma may be the cause.
Sudden Loud Noises
Has a friend ever pranked you with a sudden loud noise? Shortly after, you realized it was just for fun. But at that moment, that sudden disturbance triggered a fight-or-flight response. Even minutes after, you still felt adrenaline coursing through your veins.
Canines are no different. Now, remember that dogs are creatures of routine. When thunder claps and fireworks explode, these sounds are outside the realm of their everyday experience.
Just as when our friends scare us, those loud noises put your pet into fight-or-flight mode. Except in their case, they lack the reasoning ability to realize that thunderclaps/fireworks pose no threat.
So, they’ll run away and hide. They’ll moan, whimper, or bark. Sometimes, they’ll lose control of their bladder. Because of this, it’s important to be mindful of severe weather or when a firework display is scheduled to occur in your area.
Last week, your dog was fine. But now they are a nervous wreck, and you have no idea why. This usually rules out PTSD and separation anxiety (unless you changed your schedule or moved to another house).
So if your dog suddenly becomes anxious (and remains that way), see your local veterinarian. Often, nervousness is a symptom that something deeper is going on. For example, conditions like hypothyroidism, hearing/vision loss, or the onset of diabetes can trigger anxiety in dogs.
Some dog breeds are naturally anxiety-prone. For example, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers are very social – even by canine standards. Often, these characteristics have been emphasized by breeders, as past owners preferred devoted animals.
So, if you have one of the breeds mentioned above, they might not be able to help it. They’re just REALLY into you.
How Can I Help My Anxious Dog?
Dealing with an anxious pet can be overwhelming. Of course, you love your pooch – but constantly fixing damaged furniture and cleaning up accidents is tiring you out.
Realize that you are not alone. Millions of dog owners before you have dealt with these issues. As such, there are proven ways to address canine anxiety. Let’s run through a few remedies that may work for your pup.
You can train a dog to do tricks – but can you train them to be less anxious? In many cases, yes – with the correct approach, you can build confidence in your canine.
Start by identifying the source of your dog’s anxieties. For example, anxiety rooted in past trauma will require different strategies than separation anxiety.
To treat separation anxiety, conditioning your canine to tolerate ever-longer absences is usually a successful approach. But to overcome past trauma, strategies like BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) may be more effective.
In either case, always use positive reinforcement. Do not punish your pet for unwanted behaviors – this will only make their anxiety worse.
Buy Them An Anxiety Bed (or Other Anti-Anxiety Products)
Training may reduce anxiety in dogs, but it may not eliminate it. However, if you give your pooch something to channel their nervous energy through, you can limit impacts (like damaged couches).
Toys often suit this purpose well. Made of durable material, they can take a beating in place of your favorite love seat. Other products can also help calm your canine’s nerves. For instance, anti-anxiety beds and vests engender feelings of security and reassurance through the pressure and envelopment they provide.
Getting your dog a crate (and training them to use it) can also help with anxiety. Associate it with positive outcomes (positive words, stroking, treats, etc.), and they’ll eventually come to view it as their “happy place” – even when you aren’t around.
Sometimes, all the training and toys in the world won’t help. If a medical condition is causing your dog’s anxiety, you may find yourself in this situation.
In these cases, medication may be your sole dog anxiety option. Xanax, Sileo, and Trazodone are just a few options your veterinarian may recommend. Note that you cannot get these drugs over the counter – apart from selling natural anti-anxiety remedies, PetSmart has yet to get into the pharmacy business.
Do CBD Dog Products Work For Anxiety?
As effective as some anti-anxiety meds are, you may not be comfortable with them. Some prefer to treat their dog’s anxiety naturally. Lately, many pet owners have adopted CBD products like oils and chews.
In Canada, CBD for dogs is ordinary since its been legal nationwide for years. Because of this, a growing range of pet-appropriate products is becoming available. But if you’re not familiar with them, you may be wondering what CBD is. In short, CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the main active ingredients in hemp.
Now, it’s important to realize that CBD is not THC. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a high. Rather, it’s theorized that it produces therapeutic effects in humans. And since it works for us, some owners have experimented on their dogs in an effort to relieve their discomfort, anxiety, and other conditions. Some swear by it, feeding a growing body of anecdotal evidence.
On some fronts, scientific evidence appears to support this stance. According to a recent study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, CBD doses of 2 mg/kg appeared to treat osteoarthritis discomfort effectively.
However, studies on CBD and dog anxiety have yet to produce strong evidence of the compound’s effectiveness. For example, a research paper on noise-induced fear gauged CBD’s effects on various anxiety measures. Unfortunately, CBD didn’t trigger the same therapeutic responses as trazodone, a conventional anti-anxiety dog medication did.
Nonetheless, the body of scientific evidence is currently too thin to rule out CBD as an anti-anxiety treatment for dogs. Until more follow-up studies are completed, we can’t say whether this compound works for canine anxiety or not.
Your Dog Loves You More Than You Love Yourself
Our four-legged best friends would do anything for us. Unfortunately, certain aspects of human society can make them nervous, sad, or even depressed. But, by implementing the strategies mentioned earlier, you can help them adjust to your absence or to whatever makes them anxious.