Not understanding where your dogs anxiety came from can be challenging when living with an anxious dog. You may feel as if you have done all the right things in regards to handling and training your dog, but he still displays signs of anxiety and stress. This can be extremely upsetting to witness as a dog owner. You want what's best for your dog right?
The first thing we want to tell you is to stop worrying. Dogs are highly sensitive to our mood and emotions and your dog will notice your frustration, which will worry him and make him unsure how to cope. We also understand that not everyone want to medicate their dog. So, maintaining a relaxed approach will help your dog to manage his anxiety a little better. Hopefully this post about natural anxiety treatment for dogs will help you to help your dog.
Tackle each stage of your training and management of the problem with care. The worst thing you can do is to ‘flood’ the dog. Some trainers still use this method and it can be highly dangerous. The process of flooding is when you ‘force’ the dog to confront the thing he fears. Can you think of anything that scares you, perhaps a phobia or fear? Perhaps you hate spiders or snakes.
Imagine for a moment that you fear spiders. You are with your best friend who takes you into a room and shuts the door. You trust your friend, you feel safe with her. Now, imagine the horror when she walks over to the corner of the room and releases hundreds of spiders from a box. The fear would be unimaginable for you.
Yet, people think nothing of doing the equivalent to a dog!
Flooding a dog can cause him to break free of his lead and run away. His nervous system will be in overload and all he wants to do is get as far away as he can from the thing that frightens him. He may run and run until he can run no more. If he is safely restrained, he may show displacement behaviour and attack whoever is near him. He has no way of coping so his fear has to channel elsewhere.
This is a horrible situation for a dog to find himself in. Avoid it at all costs.
Coddling your dog when he is in a state of fear will reinforce the issue. Dog psychology is not the same as human psychology. Put your dog in a safe place. Make certain that he is warm and away from anything that may further stimulate his fear. Other than that, ignore the behaviour.
If you don’t make a big thing of it, your dog will gradually have a lesser response to the stimuli.
“We took the advice not to cuddle or soothe our dog during fireworks night. This was hard, as we felt so sad for him. However, we stuck with it and put him quietly into his crate before the fireworks started. We covered the crate but he could see us so he knew we were close by. We carried on watching TV or doing whatever we were doing at the time.
At first, donut was just as stressed as he had always been but gradually he calmed down and just looked a bit wide-eyed. That was an improvement on him trying to climb the walls. We got a noise CD and practiced with that, playing it quietly in the background and gradually increasing the volume over a few weeks.
Over about six months, we noticed a big difference in Donut’s confidence. He seems like a much happier dog now.”
There is an old saying that if you expect something to take an hour to complete, you will do it in less time but if you expect to do something quickly, it will take twice as long.
Make a plan and be glad of even the tiniest improvement in behaviour. Never rush your dog, let him choose his safety zones and respect his boundaries towards the triggers for his fear.
Allow a little time each day to practice. Several short sessions are better than one long session.
Dogs learn by latent learning which means that they process training based on incentives and reinforcement, so lots of praise and yummy treats for when he gets it ‘right’
Play games with your dog and give him problems to solve. You could hide treats in the room and teach him to ‘find it’ and, once he has mastered that, take the game out into the garden. Teach him to jump small obstacles – join an agility class if that is possible.
There are good books available to buy that feature a range of tricks to teach your dog. The great thing about that is that you can use a trick to teach your dog a replacement behaviour. For instance, you could teach him to hide his head in your lap instead of lunging at other dogs. Teaching a ‘down’ or ‘sit’ is often a good behaviour to teach, as they are both calming behaviours.
There are some amazing products that can help with dog anxiety. We have featured many of these anxiety wraps in other articles, but here is a reminder.
The Thundershirt – a dog vest/wrap that works on the acupressure points to help alleviate anxiety. The lightweight, breathable material stretches over your dog to provide him with a feeling of security.
The Petcalmz System – an innovative vest with a gadget fitted that vibrates, plays soothing music and releases relaxing aromatherapy oils.
Natural calming chews, drops or liquid – used daily, these supplements help to soothe the nervous system, calming your dog and helping him to relax.
Plug-ins – this system plugs into the wall and releases pheromones that replicate those that the dog experienced in the womb before he was born. This can make him feel safe and more confident
Helping your dog to overcome his anxiety will strengthen your bond as he learns to look to you for his confidence and security. Make a simple plan based on the above criteria and follow a positive, reinforcing path to give your dog structure and understanding of his world. As he gains in confidence, his anxiety will reduce and you will have a much happier dog in your home.
Last update on 2019-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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