Does Your Dog Suffer From Anxiety?

Does Your Dog Suffer From Anxiety?Several of my dogs have some kind of anxiety. Jack is scared of loud noises. Gypsy doesn’t like it when the oven is on. My Corgi, Simon, was frightened of umbrellas. Penny seems to be scared of everything.

Fears, phobias and anxieties in dogs are quite common. According to PETMD, “Fear is the instinctual feeling of apprehension resulting from a situation, person, or object presenting an external threat — whether real or perceived.”

Some fears are completely normal and protect both humans and animals from danger. But “persistent and excessive fear of a specific stimulus is referred to as a phobia,” according to the article. The most common fear in dogs is loud noises such as thunder or fireworks.

When I was a young child, I was terrified of thunderstorms. I was often comforted by my large German Shepherd dog, Rinny. He would come to me and we would cuddle to wait out the storm. I didn’t realize at the time that he was just as scared as I was!

“Anxiety, meanwhile is the anticipation of future dangers…” When a dog is overly anxious he may exhibit behavior such as urinating in the house or become destructive. Separation anxiety is the most common. My son’s dog, Ella has separation anxiety. An otherwise well-behaved dog, she becomes very destructive when left alone. She once ripped up a rug in my house when I went out for a short time. Ella was abandoned as a puppy, and she is frightened of being alone. Her daughter, Penny (who lives with us) was born in the shelter and most likely has many fears because she was not properly socialized.

“Dogs that are deprived of social and environmental exposure until 14 weeks of age become habitually fearful.”

This explains a lot about their fears. I understand now why Penny is often frightened by the slightest changes in her environment.

Sometimes the dog’s anxiety is so acute, a vet’s visit is warranted. Last week Gypsy was acting so strangely, I thought she was ill. My happy little girl would not leave the bedroom and was trembling. This went on for several days. I called my vet and took her in for a check up. I explained her symptoms and he said that it sounded like anxiety. It never occurred to me that she was anxious. And then I thought about all of the activity that had occurred in the house previously. Gypsy has associated the loud fire alarm sound in the house with the oven being turned on. It took only one time to imprint her with this fear. I seldom cook but I had used the oven a few days before her episode.

The vet did a thorough examine to rule out any physical illness. She was quite healthy and the next day she went back to being her old self. If your dog is acting oddly, it is important to rule out any health issues. If the dog’s anxiety is profound there are medications your vet can prescribe.

Dogs are very sensitive creatures and we don’t always understand why they behave the way the do. It is important to be patient and avoid any problems if you can. If the behavior is unusual, call your vet.

According to the ASPCA, common symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Urinating and defecating
  • Barking and howling
  • Chewing, digging and destruction
  • Escaping
  • Pacing
  • Coprophagia (eating their excrement)

And what can cause it? Situations such as change of guardian or family, being abandoned, change in schedule, change in residence, and change in household membership may all be contributing factors.

While it’s important to rule out medical considerations, Ceasar Milan offers 5 tips to help your dog ease separation anxiety:

  1. Before you leave the house, take your dog for a walk.
  2. No touch, no talk, no eye contact.
  3. Say goodbye to your dog long before you leave.
  4. Stay calm and assertive!
  5. Start out small by leaving your dog alone for just five minutes.

Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety or have specific phobias? Let me know as well as what you do to help the situation.


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5 Alternative Approaches to Dog Separation Anxiety UPDATE! A reader submitted this useful article as a resource for our topic. David King, from Natural Puppies, writes about 5 Alternative Approaches to Dog Separation Anxiety. He presents a very thorough guide comparing and contrasting five alternative approaches to dog separation anxiety from different authorities in the space, including information from Cesar Millan, Zak George, The Humane Society, Doggy Dan, and WebMD. It’s definitely worth a read!

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