Anxiety Disorder - Dogs

By Tess Thompson

Undesirable and destructive behavior from your dog can get extremely irritating for the pet owner. It is especially unnerving if you have made sure that he is trained adequately right from the time that he was a puppy. After you are sure that your dog is fully trained, bad behavior does become difficult to tolerate and cope with.

However, it is important to understand that there are many reasons why your dog can relapse into untrained, destructive or extremely submissive behavior even after years of training. It is common for perfectly well-trained dogs to run amok at times for no apparent reason.

One of the reasons why some dogs can forget all that they have learned is anxiety. Even though dogs are intelligent animals, they are incapable of coping with stress and anxiety that they may feel due to various reasons.

Anxiety brings out the worst in a dog. There can be various reasons for anxiety but the one that is most common is separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs are known to ruin furniture, urinate in the house, break objects and indulge in excessive barking when their owner leaves them. Such destructive behavior should not be construed as revenge since dogs are incapable of that emotion. It is merely an expression of extreme displeasure at being left alone. Since dogs are pack animals and have an inherent aversion to isolation, they feel anxious at being left alone and wonder whether the owner will come back.

Anxiety disorders can be induced by other situations, too. Some dogs reacts unpleasantly when there are too many people around. They are not used to crowds and react poorly. The reaction that such situations cause can vary from dog to dog. Some may turn aggressive and others might run away from the scene. For some dogs, visitors at home can spark undesirable behavior.

Loud noises can also cause anxiety. It can start as fear from a particular kind of a loud noise, like a thunderstorm. If not corrected, this anxiety toward loud noises can extend to other noises like gunshots, engine rumble or any similar loud bang. The most common reaction to noise related anxiety is to cower or shudder. Many dogs take shelter under a bed or a sofa. Some aggressive dogs react with excessive barking, as if they were trying to out-shout the loud noise.

If your dog associates a trip to the veterinarian with a car ride, chances are that he will get anxious even if you try and take him to the park. Fear and anxiety about any trip can occur if the association is strong and if his trips to the vet have almost always been unpleasant.

Anxiety disorders are a direct result of some sort of stress that your pet feels. One needs to understand the cause behind the anxious behavior and address the specific object or situation that is causing stress. Relieving stress in pets requires patient and consistent training. You need to use the technique of desensitizing to be able to relieve your pet of the stress. Here are some useful tips for handling anxiety disorders in dogs:

  • Separation Anxiety - Use confidence building measures to convey to your dog that you will return whenever you leave him.
  • Car Trips - Lure your dog into the car rather than pushing and forcing him in. Patience and rewards will help.
  • Social Anxiety - Increase exposure to humans slowly and gradually.
  • Noise Anxiety - Keen observation is key for handling this anxiety disorder. Anticipate and be ready with dog treats and try to associate noise with rewards.


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