What is fear and anxiety
Fear is a feeling that is common for dogs, it is the response of their nervous system prepping their body for the freeze, flight or fight mode. Most abnormal reactions to fear is learned and can be unlearned with the proper exposure. On the other hand anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers. Common behaviors of anxiety are excessive barking, crying, destruction, and using the bathroom in inappropriate areas of your home. Separation anxiety is the most common reason for dogs to experience anxiety. Around 12-36 months of age, dogs start to develop most fears and anxiety.
Types and symptoms
- If your dog is showing actions of trembling, tucked tail, hiding, passive escaping behavior, and/or withdrawal, he/she is expressing feelings of mild fear.
- If your dog is showing actions of active escaping behavior, and/or potentially injurious activities, he or she is expressing feelings of panic.
- If your dog is showing actions of constant licking and/or biting of self, lesions, he/she is expressing feelings of anxiety.
What causes this?
- Illness/psychical pain
- Scary and/or unfamiliar experiences
- Deprived of social interactions (with humans or other pets)
- History of inability to escape (locked in crate for hours w/o breaks, love, and attention)
Helping your pup with fear and anxiety
If your fur babies’ fear and/or anxiety is stemming from lack of social exposure, you must start out slow. Having a large group of people at once can make your pup very nervous but this doesn’t mean to not expose him/her at all. Get Fido used to 3 or 4 people at a time, if he is starting to show signs of being overwhelmed take him to a quiet room and comfort him. Once Fido seems comfortable take him back to the group of people for praise and play. If he is doing well, give treats to encourage the positive behavior. However, if your pup continues to show anxiety bring him back to a quiet room and countinue for another day.
For social exposure with other pets, you should only introduce one pet at a time and monitor the situation to avoid bites and fights. If the pets are playing well encourage with praise and treats but as soon as one pet is trying to harm the other, separate them immediately. Firmly tell the aggressive dog NO with out yelling and explain why that action is inappropriate.
Dogs that have been abused by previous parents may need a little more time to adjust and build trust compare to a pup you’ve raised from day one.
tip1: only give treats for positive behaviors.
tip2: your dog can sense fear and nervousness, so if you’re expressing these emotions it will only intensify your dogs anxiety. So be calm.
Medication and training
In the event you start to feel overwhelmed or just don’t have the time, turn to a professional trainer for help. Another option is consulting with your vet for the right prescription. Before your vet signs off for a prescription, he/she will rule out any neurological or thyroid issues that may be associated with toxics such as lead. If medication is the best option for your pet, make sure to follow-up with your vet for any abnormal side affects or chemical imbalances.
tip1: medication isn’t for every pet and should only be used as a last resort.
tip2: There are pet insurances out there that can help make treatment affordable.