For a short time or for as long as you can remember, you have noticed that your dog is behaving anxiously, either on a daily basis or in connection with a triggering event. I propose you today to understand why and especially to know how to reduce the anxiety of your dog.
Why it’s important to identify the cause of your dog's anxiety
This is the starting point of any problem solving: determining the cause. Without this first step, the proposed work will not be adapted, not personalized and therefore not effective at all.
Moreover, we could simply solve the symptom, but that would not allow your dog to get better, it would just allow you to be quiet.
To give you an example, I think of dogs that cry when they are alone, most people end up putting an anti-bark collar on their dog to avoid disturbing the neighbors. I recently saw a report where some owners had their vocal cords removed to prevent their dog from barking!
Well, by doing so, that is to say by treating only the symptom and not the cause, we do not solve the problem in depth! It is exactly like putting a band-aid on a wooden leg: it is useless!
Why is my dog anxious?
There are many reasons why a dog may become anxious. Here are the main ones:
- Your dog did not have a sufficiently rich development in various and varied stimulations during its first three months, a disorder developed following these lacks because it could not record in its "hard disk" enough good experiences to be able to rely on it once adult.
- Your dog did not create a detachment with you and therefore develops a hyper attachment that prevents him from living your absences serenely.
- Your dog has had one or more bad experiences in such and such an environment and/or with such and such a person and/or with such and such an object and this has traumatized him. He is then suspicious, by survival instinct, of the different situations where the object of his bad experiences appears.
What does anxiety look like?
Of course, not all dogs react in the same way to anxiety-provoking situations. But in general, the symptoms will be the following:
For anxiety related to separation from the master:
- Crying and vocalizations when the dog is alone
- Eventually messes located in an anarchic way and sometimes in diarrhea
- Destruction of objects with the owner's smell
For an anxiety related to the environment:
- The dog hides and does not explore its environment, or very little
- He is always on the alert, never seems serene
- The dog has attitudes of flight at each unusual noise
- The dog drools a lot
- The dog adopts substitute activities: excessive licking of a limb for example
For anxiety related to a specific object:
- The dog has flight or attack attitudes towards the object of his fears
- The dog shakes and drools in the presence of this element
- The dog is not at ease, he adopts specific signals such as yawning, licking his nose, etc.
There are of course many other symptoms that can be used to detect anxiety in dogs, but here are the main ones.
How can you reduce your dog's anxiety?
Tip #1: Follow the "don't see, don't take" rule
If your dog does something stupid while you're away, don't scold him! Clearly, your dog lives in the moment and doesn't understand if you scold him for something he did while you were away. You must always catch him in the act for there to be any real effect.
So, ignore your dog and his mischief, don't clean up in front of him (or with bleach for messes) and follow these tips to prevent your dog's mischief from happening again.
Tip #2: Eliminate departure and arrival rituals
When you leave and when you return, completely ignore your dog and pretend you're picking up your mail at the mailbox.
Ignoring a dog is: don't look at it, don't touch it, don't talk to it.
Furthermore, on a daily basis, when you are at home, don't hesitate to desensitize your dog to actions that mean "departure" for him by pretending to put on your coat, take your keys and your bag, etc. without really leaving.
Tip #3: Manage your dog's contact
Your dog needs to understand that he can't have your attention every time he asks for it. Simply put, if your dog always finds satisfaction when he comes to you for a treat, he'll get really frustrated and won't be able to handle the emotion when you're not around.
To do this, simply ignore your dog when he comes to you for attention. Wait for him to move on, and once he does: call him to offer contact.
Tip #4: Reduce your dog's space when you leave
Be aware that a dog that has access to the entire house or apartment when he is alone is not a dog that feels safe because he has too many places to check to see if you are coming (windows and doors).
So don't hesitate to reduce your dog's space. If you are in a house, install him with his basket, toys and a water bowl in a separate room. If you live in an apartment and you don't have the possibility to isolate him, don't hesitate to offer your dog a crate.
Be careful though, this will be impossible if your absence lasts more than 4 hours. Furthermore, it is essential to get your dog used to the crate before leaving him alone in it.
Tip #5: Frame your dog's life
A dog that is anxious on a fairly permanent basis needs a very strict and clearly defined framework. Even if the dog doesn't really have a sense of time, he needs to be able to "know" what is going to happen to him during the day.
Your attitude will also be very important, be sure of yourself for both of you and don't let your dog take the initiative, whether it's about contact or space. Decide everything for your dog so that he can trust you and not have any "pressure" on his shoulders.
Tip #6: Desensitize your dog to the elements that scare him
For an anxiety linked to an identifiable element, such as a vacuum cleaner for example, a desensitization work, and elimination of the fear will be necessary and to set up.
To do this, the work must be very progressive. Don't expect too much from your dog, offer him short but regularly repeated habituation sessions.
For example, for the vacuum cleaner, you must create a progressive positive association: first place the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the room without saying anything, congratulate him each time he approaches it. Place treats and toys that he likes near the vacuum cleaner. Then move the vacuum cleaner, start it, etc. Play with him next to it, make it a very positive moment.
Above all, always give your dog the opportunity to run away and do not reward his fear-related attitudes (running away, growling, barking, trembling) at the risk of indirectly reinforcing and validating his fear.
Be careful, this work is not done in one day and this brings us to the last advice:
Tip #7: Give your dog a comfortable bed
Your dog’s sleep is very important for his health, your dog needs to feel safe when he is sleeping to get a restful sleep. If not your dog may be tired and this will increase his anxiety, which could make him more affraid and easily irritated.
If you want to provide your dog with a comfortable bed we recommend you checking our dog beds here