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Tips for Calming Anxious Dogs

In today’s stressful world, many of us struggle with anxiety. Believe it or not, humans are not the only ones who have this problem! Dogs can also have issues with anxiety, which can be frustrating for their owners. Trying to calm an anxious and nervous dog can be challenging. It can end up causing even more anxiety for both you and your pet. Knowing how to calm your dog is important. Therefore, 5 Points Animal Hospital would like to tell you more about anxiety problems with dogs. When you understand the signs and causes of the anxiety, you can follow these tips for calming your dog.

What are the signs of anxiety in dogs?

According to PetMD, one of the biggest signs is when your dog repeats certain behaviors, such as licking and pacing. Your dog may even tremble and shake. Another clear sign is a decrease in appetite.

What causes anxiety in dogs?

If you have a rescue dog, you may notice signs of anxiety as past abuse is the biggest cause. Loud noises, such as thunder, can be another common cause of anxiety. Certain medical issues may also make your dog anxious. Keep in mind that if you are feeling anxious that your dog may pick up on that. Does your dog chew furniture or act out in other ways when you are away from home? If so, your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety.

How can I calm my anxious dog?

The best way to end anxiety issues for your dog is to recognize what is causing the problem and remove it from your dog. Physical contact is a great way to relieve stress, so spend some time snuggling on the couch with your dog. You can take this even further by rubbing aromatherapy oils on your hands and massaging your dog. Another good stress reliever for your dog is exercise. Help your dog burn that uncontrollable energy he may have by taking him on a long walk or by going to the dog park.

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you can help soothe your dog when you are not at home by playing music. You may want to put a playlist that you play often on repeat to make your dog feel at ease. You can even find music that is made specifically to calm dogs. 5 Points Animal Hospital is happy to help you find this type of music that has been proven to help dogs with separation anxiety.

Knowing your dog’s behavior can help you be able to calm him down when he may be feeling anxious. Contact us at 5 Points Animal Hospital to learn more about anxiety problems in dogs and tips for soothing your anxious dog!

Why Is Your Dog Barking?

Dogs bark. It’s part of their normal and natural communication and behavior. Dogs can bark for appropriate and good reasons, including when strangers approach your home, when they hear an odd noise, or (for particular breeds) when they’re herding. Most of us want our dogs to be “watch dogs” and alert us to anything out of the ordinary. But dogs can also bark at inappropriate times. Many owners complain of their dogs barking excessively. To control barking in our dogs, we must first understand why exactly they’re barking in the first place.

Dog Barking - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

Barking is a mode of communication. Many times, this may be the result of human encouragement. Certain breeds have been bred to bark as part of their watchdog or herding duties. Barking is used to alert or warn others and defend a territory, to seek attention or play, to identify oneself to another dog, and as a response to boredom, excitement, being startled, lonely, anxious, or teased. Consider the following reasons why your dog might be barking:

  • Alert/warning barks are the type of barks some owners encourage. They want their dog to alert them to the presence of a danger or suspicious stranger. Warning barks tend to become more rapid as the intruder approaches. Aggressive barks are low in pitch and may be combined with growls. We need to be able to distinguish warning barks from barks due to fear.
  • Attention-seeking barks are most often used by puppies to get you to focus your attention on them. They can become very insistent and hard to ignore, but ignore them we must!
  • Play/excitement barks are often short and sharp. These barks are common if the dog gets too excited with the game. Often a time-out is in order.
  • Self-identification barking is what you may be hearing when your dog seems to be answering other dogs he hears barking in the neighborhood. It is his way of saying, “I’m over here.”
  • Bored barkers simply need an outlet for their energy and a more stimulating environment.
  • Lonely/anxious barking occurs if your dog is experiencing separation anxiety. The barking can become self-reinforcing as he becomes more stimulated and anxious. Anxious barks tend to get higher in pitch as the dog becomes more upset. This type of barking can be especially annoying to your neighbors.
  • Startle barking occurs in response to an unfamiliar or sudden sound or movement. As with an alert/warning bark, we need to be able to control this type of barking quickly.

As you can see, there are many reasons for barking and most barking is a normal behavior. There are some instances in which barking is considered pathological.

If we want to control barking, we need the dog to obey us and relax. The dog needs to look to her owner for behavior clues. If we can call her, have her lie down (dogs don’t bark as much when lying down) and stay, we are well on the way to solving a nuisance barking problem. Teaching your puppy appropriate behavior from the beginning is far easier than changing behavior that has become a bad habit. Some behavior we may think of as cute in a puppy won’t be cute in an adult dog. It’s best to think ahead to avoid potential problems.

In short, it’ll be a lot more fun for everybody if your dog learns to communicate through a wag of the tail and looking to you for guidance rather than through excessive and relentless barking. At 5 Points Animal Hospital, we have two primary goals when it comes to the care of your pet. Our first goal is to always offer the most advanced and up-to-date diagnostic tools, equipment, and treatment options that are available in veterinary medicine. Our second goal is to always remember that our role as veterinary professionals is to partner with out clients in making informed, compassionate decisions about the health of the pets in our care. With our team, you’re guaranteed compassion, helpful advice, expert care, and top-notch medicine and equipment. We’ll help you keep your pets healthy and happy and show them the love and care that they deserve!

Are You Able to Tell If Your Dog is Anxious or Stressed?

Like their owners, dogs have anxieties and fears. A dog’s anxieties may not be the same as our own anxieties; however, they cause stress and physical reactions just the same. Many dog owners fail to recognize the most common signs of stress and anxiety in their dogs before it’s too late. Learning to recognize these common signals can help you prevent more serious problems later on.

Stressed or Anxious Dog? - Nashville TN

Some of the more common dog anxiety problems

  • Separation anxiety—a condition in which the dog gets anxious when left alone—is a huge problem for some dogs (as well as for some of their owners). Dog separation anxiety usually occurs when there is a shift in their owner’s schedule, thereby disrupting the amount of time we’re able to spend with our dogs. When faced with such disruptions, dogs may get stressed and become destructive.
  • Noise anxiety—a condition in which a dog becomes fearful when exposed to loud or unusual noises—can severely stress out a dog. Some of the more common causes of the offending noises include fireworks, thunderstorms, and garbage trucks. When confronted with any unpleasant noise, your dog may retreat to cover or simply cower until the noise subsides.
  • Travel anxiety—a condition in which your dog becomes unsure and stressed from unexpected moving—is a bit less common, as many dogs enjoy car rides. The stress in this situation comes from doing something new and unexpected.
  • Confinement anxiety—a condition in which your dog gets anxious when he or she feels trapped or confined—can have much the same impact on an affected dog as it would on a human facing the same affliction. If a threat should arise, a confined dog may be unable to escape or flee.

Symptoms of an anxious or stressed dog

When dogs become stressed or anxious, they may engage in certain behaviors to help relieve their stress. For example, when pet owners are anxious or stressed, they may begin to pace, bite their nails, or play with their hair; all of these are commonly referred to as “nervous ticks.” Dogs behave in much the same way. They may also pace, groom themselves, and much more. Some dog anxiety behaviors may result in property destruction, may cause their owners harm, or may simply be undesirable to our human sensibilities. The behaviors can include:

  • Non-stop barking
  • Chewing up furniture, walls, shoes, garbage, and anything else in sight
  • Pooping and peeing in the house, crate, or other confinement area
  • Eating his or her own poop
  • Aggression toward people, dogs, or other animals.

Punishment or other behavioral deterrents will do little to stop these anxious dog behaviors in the long-term because punishment doesn’t address the root of the problem, which is his or her anxiety. In fact, suppression of these displacement behaviors through punishment or other deterrents will only make the problem worse, as these methods will only increase stress and uncertainty levels for the dog.

From mild whining when left alone to full-scale panic attacks, many dogs suffer from anxiety and other forms of stress. While it’s often necessary to involve a professional trainer, and always a good idea to have your vet rule out physical problems, there are many techniques owners can use to address fears, anxiety, and stress in their dogs. Not all dogs will exhibit overt signs of stress or anxiety, however, the better you get at recognizing your dog’s signs, the better you’ll be able to help him or her avoid situations that could cause serious problems down the road. If your dog has been a little out of sorts lately and you’re looking for some behavioral counseling to get him or her back on track, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help!

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