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Dog Behaviour Problems a Result of Dog Anxiety

Dog anxiety can be experienced by a dog left alone, even for a very short time. But loud noises such as thunder, gunshot sounds or fireworks can also cause anxiety in dogs and is said to affect up to 50% of dogs.

Many dog owners complain about ‘bad dog behaviour’ not realising that it is the result of dog anxiety and instead blame themselves for having a poorly trained dog. This misunderstanding can lead to an approach to the problem that is only going to make the anxiety worse.

Many dog owners who come home to find their dog has pooped in the house will assume their dog needs more house training rather than a cure for their anxiety. another example is owners thinking they have a destructive dog because their dog chewed the rug while they were out rather than understanding that the dog is only chewing to soothe their anxious feelings.

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Dog anxiety symptoms can be put into 3 main groups. Not all dogs suffering with anxiety will experience the same sypmtoms, because just like us they haved different personalities and characteristics and respond to anxiety in different ways.

Group 1. Excessive Noise Making: Including barking, howling and whining when left alone, but also dog crying and yelping for long periods of time.

Group 2. Anxiety Driven Behaviour: Including in extreme cases behaviour like destroying furniture or chewing through plasterboard walling, and more frequently, scratching doors and skirting boards to try and get out, pooping and urinating in the house, chewing your possessions, or themselves.

Group 3. Physical Symptoms of Anxiety: Including pooping and urinating in the house, manic behaviour when you return home, pacing, trembling, salivating, hiding and refusing to go out of the house or get in the car.

What Causes Dog Anxiety

Some people assume that a dog suffering from anxiety has either been badly treated or is neglected, but the truth is that too much of the wrong sort of attention can be the trigger for anxious feelings. However, major change in a dogs life can often trigger anxiety, events like:

*You moving house

*New people arriving or others leaving

*You getting another dog

*The arrival of a baby

*A change in their health (feeling vulnerable, ageing)

*A major incident in early life (like abandonment)

*Changes in your own health

Study of the wolf pack also suggests that a dog that takes on the role of pack leader within your household will also suffer with anxiety as this role will make them responsible for safeguarding the rest of the pack. This is something they cannot do if you go out and leave them home alone, hence the anxiety.

Treatment for Dog Anxiety

There are a number of different approaches to dog anxiety which include the use of training, non-prescription medication, prescription anxiety meds, and use of a range of products specifically designed to reduce anxiety.

Dog Anxiety Training Programmes

A specific training programme based on behaviour modification and desensitisation can get rid of a dogs anxiety completely. The techniques used for desensitisation will gradually expose the dog to their anxiety triggers in a controlled way, teaching the dog to be calm at low levels of exposure and then gradually increasing their tolerance to that trigger.

This might sound complicated but in reality can be as simple as starting by leaving your dog alone for a few seconds until they do not get anxious when you do and then increasing the time they are left by a few more seconds, each time waiting until they are calm and relaxed before moving on.

Training needs a consistent approach, and must not be based on punishment for their behaviour as it is likely to make it worse, nor should it be based on comforting the dog for their behaviour as this could encourage the dog to use their anxiety symptoms as a means of attention seeking.

Dog Anxiety Medication

Naturally based, non-prescription meds are designed to calm your dog using ingredients that will not cause the dog any harm. They are easily available through pet shops, or on the internet, though the effects are not often long lasting.

You will need to see your vet to be prescribed anxiety medications. These dog drugs can have a seditative effect on your dog and may alter their general mood. You need to allow a few weeks to get the level of medication right for your dog and need to watch out for side effects which can include lethargy or depression, sickness or diarrhea, allergic reactions and in some cases the potential of liver damage.

Many vets advice using a training programme with the medication to get the best results.

Products Designed to Help Dog Anxiety

There are numerous products that are used to alleviate anxiety, including toys stuffed with food to distract your dog or favourites for them to play with. There are also a range of other products including a pheromone plugin that works like an airfreshner, and pressure wraps that work physically to keep the dog calm.

Solutions for Dog Anxiety

Dog anxiety is highly unlikely to go away if just left alone, in fact over time it is more likely to intensify and for the behaviour to get worse. And while the problems of dog anxiety can seem too big to tackle for some dog owners, by investing some time and patience into understanding anxiety, identifying the symptoms in your dog, and then using the training and products available to you, you can get rid of your dogs anxiety.

The Author has experienced dog anxiety directly with her own rescue shelter dog and has been learning about the consequences of anxiety and the most effective ways to reduce anxiety for the last 2 years. Find out more about dog anxiety by visiting her blog.

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