Like human beings, dogs react to stressful situations. Dogs show their anxiety through altered behavior, by becoming clingy, acting out, or even withdrawing. Unlike human beings though, dogs cannot express their anxiety in the verbal ways we do. It is up to a responsible pet owner to pay attention to the physical and behavioral cues their dog exhibits, and respond accordingly to help their dog calm down and deal with the situation that is giving them stress and anxiety.
Touch and contact helps both humans and dogs relieve anxiety, fear and stress. When a dog feels cut off from their human, their anxiety level is likely to increase. If they are hurting physically, just being close to you may help keep them calmer. Petting and cuddling your dog will help take away some of the anxiety.
Anxiety can create energy that can’t always be controlled. Humans are told to get exercise to help relieve stress. It works for dogs too. Burning off some of that tension by going for a walk, a run, or playing in the yard or park is a great anxiety reliever for a dog. It will tire him out, perhaps enough to calm him down when he comes back inside after the exercise. Unless the vet says no exercise, or an injury or illness makes it impossible, exercise is good for both of you. Your dog will enjoy the time spent with you.
Dogs often sense what is going on with their humans. If you are tense and reacting to their anxiety and the bad behavior they show when stressed, they will feed on your anxiety as well. It becomes a cycle of anxiety and anxiousness feeding itself until no one is calm. Take a step away and take a few deep breaths, then come back and deal with the acting out with a calm voice and calm demeanor to break the anxiety cycle. Just like a human child, your dog reacts to how you are behaving as well as how they are feeling. Take the lead, and help them patiently.
Check with Your Vet
If your dog seems overly anxious too frequently or can’t seem to relax or calm down, it might be a good idea to take her to visit the vet. Take note of the times and situations when your dog seems most anxious or is acting out of the norm, and bring that information with you to share with the vet. Even if your pet has no injury or illness that you are aware of, there may be something physical the vet can spot that you aren’t trained to notice.
A stressed dog may act out by becoming destructive. They don’t know how to channel that energy. They can only show you that something is not right. A good chew toy can give your dog something to focus on that won’t destroy your household items or personal belongings. If you have ever seen a worried dog, they pace, get anxious and sometimes take it out on whatever is handy, even though they may have learned that is not how to behave. When in pain or very anxious, those carefully taught lessons may go by the wayside. Having some solid chew toys around will give your dog an acceptable way to relieve some stress.
Like any child, a dog may simply get so anxious or wound up that no amount of calming, praising or reward will work to bring them down. Sometimes they just need a quiet space with no stimulation where they can turn off all the input and simply unwind.
Don’t treat it as a punishment, though. Give them a CANIDAE Pure Heaven biscuit and gently lead your dog to their crate or any comfortable resting spot away from the noise. If a dog is in physical pain, a good rest may be just what they need to relieve the stress and anxiety they are feeling. Think about how you feel after a rough day, or if you are in any kind of pain, and how good quiet and relaxation feels to you in that situation. You can feel the anxiety and stress drain away when you feel at peace. Your dog does too.
Anxiety in all its forms alters the normal way a dog behaves and reacts. You are the best resource to help your dog cope with something out of the norm. Your dog trusts you and loves you enough to want you to take the lead.
Top photo by Tom Newby
Middle photo by Randi Hauskens
Bottom photo by OakleyOriginals
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch