How to Deal with a Nervous Dog
North Paws Ranch knows it can be hard to make the decision whether to go to doggy daycare or boarding kennels if you have a nervous dog but we have put together our top tips on how to deal with a nervous pooch!
The automatic and natural way to respond to your best friend’s fear is to make a big fuss of them or to comfort them, but did you know reacting this way could be enabling your dog’s fear and increasing their stress levels? There are other ways to get around it, don’t worry. Especially if you are thinking of leaving him with a dog watch kennels.
Identifying where the anxiety is coming from can often be difficult, and often there are a lot of reasons that are out of your control. It can especially be complex if you haven’t owned your dog since he was a puppy as it may have something to do with his previous life before you.
Causes of fear and anxiety in dogs:
- An illness or physical condition may increase anxiety and contribute to the development of fears. phobias, and anxiety.
- Fear from a terrible experience; he may have been forced into an unfamiliar and frightening experience.
- Dogs that lack social and environmental exposure until 14 weeks of age may become habitually fearful.
- The inability to escape or get away from the stimulus causing the phobia and panic, such as being locked in a crate for a long time.
- Separation anxiety: a history of abandonment, multiple owners, rehoming, or prior neglect is common; exacerbating the condition may be that the dog has often been abandoned or rehomed because of separation anxiety.
Signs can Vary
The signs of anxiety are vast and will most likely change over time. “Some symptoms may include pacing, trembling, or shaking, hyper-vigilance, lip licking, frequent yawning, and decreased appetite,” said Susan Konecny, RN and DVM medical director of Best Friends Animal Society. “Physiologic effects may include increased salivation or drooling, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, and panting, or skin lesions from self-trauma or over-grooming.”
Some anxiety behaviors may lead to property destruction, may cause harm to us, or things around us.
This may include:
- Aggression to people, dogs, and other animals.
- Eating his own poop.
- Pooping or peeing in places they shouldn’t.
- Chewing up furniture, walls, shoes, garbage, and anything else in sight.
- Non-stop barking.
Punishment will not help prevent these behaviors in the long-run, because punishment doesn’t address the main source of the problem.
One of the main ways to help your dog get over nerves and anxiety is to make sure he has his full trust in you. Even if you’re not sure of his past, you can gain his trust by showing him unconditional love and reassuring him that everything is going to be okay. You’d be surprised how much they can understand the tone of your voice! Make sure that you have taken the time to build a special and strong relationship with your pup, and that they’re happy around you, takes your direction and listens to you when you give cues and commands; this will enable you to work on their anxiety.
Expose them to the fears and give him treats
Calming treats and chews can also help minor anxiety. Some are given as little treats to calm your dog during thunderstorms or fireworks, and others are more long-lasting chews to help keep your dog calm while you’re away or even during scary events as well.
Expose your dog to the scary thing in a gradual and systematic way. For example, if your dog is afraid of the toaster, try feeding him treats at a distance while another person uses the toaster. As your dog becomes more comfortable, move him closer. However, never force your dog to come face to face with a trigger if it is seriously scaring him. If you do, you could make things worse or lose your dog’s trust.
Here are a few other ways you can calm your pup’s anxiety:
- Play music. Playing music specifically developed for pets can help ease nerves and anxiety, especially if your dog suffers from separation anxiety and the songs are left on a loop while you’re at work etc.
- Aromatherapy and essential oils. There are some balms and sprays available at pet stores that help utilize the calming properties of aromatherapy.
- Physical contact. Petting your dog or just simply sitting next to him can help ease his nerves. Physical contact helps both humans and dogs relieve anxiety, fear, and stress.
- Exercise. Anxiety can often create uncontrollable energy. Exercise helps us and dogs relieve stress.
- Give them a time out. If it gets to the point where nothing is working, give them a quiet space with no stimulation where they can turn off all the input and rewind.
- Check yourself. Maybe your stresses and worries are reflecting onto your dog.
What if it’s not working?
If all else fails, speak to your vet. They will suggest and prescribe many different anti-anxiety medications, some being used in human medicine. By combining these drugs with specific training to reduce the stress reaction to the offending situation and/or sounds, your dog could develop the confidence to ignore the stressors, and eventually, medication may no longer be needed. So, don’t worry if you think that your dog will be on meds for the rest of his life.
Veterinarians may also recommend dog appeasing pheromones as they have been known to help ease anxiety; the smell is reminiscent of the pheromones mothers release a few days after giving birth. These odor molecules a sense of security, and when it’s used as an anxiety reliever, it can produce the same sense of calm and safeness. There are sprays, collars, supplements, treats and even diffusers that utilize this form of pheromone therapy.
Support your dog, be patient and don’t give up. The solution may not be easy. But with dedication, patience, and the right medical input, you can help your dog get through his anxiety symptoms. Always make sure that you seek medical help for your best friend if things become uncontrollable.