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A lot of us forget that dogs aren’t always happy-go-lucky creatures without a care in the world. Stress and anxiety among our furry friends is a lot more common than you may think. If it’s affecting your dog, you need to take action!
Recognizing stress and anxiety
One of the best ways of recognizing stress and anxiety in a dog is by knowing how your dog looks and acts when they’re relaxed. Dogs that are relaxed and comfortable in their environment usually show this through their behavior and posture. Their eyes will be rounded or slightly squinted, their mouth will be relaxed, and their ears – unless they have naturally floppy ears – will be semi-erect and pointed forward.
An anxious dog will often be stiffer in movement, with lowered ears and the whites of their eyes being more pronounced. They may seem hypervigilant in their scanning of their environment. They may also engage in odd or even aggressive behavior; they may pant or drool excessively, or pace restlessly, or scratch a lot, or even engage in destructive behavior.
The types of anxiety
There are three types of anxiety that are common in these sort of situations. While there can be a plethora of causes here, the most common causes are called noise anxiety, separation anxiety, and social anxiety. They’re fairly self-explanatory, and there can often be fairly clear solutions to them. Using a pet resort such as Rover Oaks when you’re going away for a while, for example, can help reduce the onset of separation anxiety.
But only applying these categories to the issue can oversimplify things. Your dog may have a genetic disposition towards the heightened anxiety often found in intelligent, high-energy breeds such as Basset Hounds and Dalmatians. Certain medical issues can also lead to anxiety, as can past traumas that lead to the development of phobias. This is why it’s important to speak to a vet about such problems.
Stress feeds on stress. A stressed or anxious dog is going to need comfort in some form. Comfort may very well come from cuddling, stroking, and more attention in general – but excessive amounts signal some kind of change in their environment, which may make matters worse. Comfort can come from their master remaining in control and not worrying too much. If you show signs of anxiety, then it will communicate to your pup that the situation isn’t in control – heightening their anxiety!
Your dog is going to pay close attention to you in times of stress and anxiety. Some would suggest that a firm voice with a hint of disapproval may actually be the best thing to deploy if your dog exhibits mild forms of anxiety such as trembling or whining. As odd as it sounds, a dog’s anxious behavior may actually be reinforced if you soothe them too much!
It’s best not to take this into your own hands too much. Speaking with professionals is ideal; vets and even dog trainers may be able to help you out. There are also natural remedies out there that have been known to calm dogs down!