Does my dog have anxiety
How to spot the signs your dog is stressed


Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 1

Anxiety can be a crippling condition affecting over 8 million people across the UK.  But it isn’t confined to the human race – no, our canine friends can also suffer with anxiety and it is thought that upto 80% of dogs are scared of something.

As with humans, the causes of anxiety are vast and there may be many reasons why your dog is appearing stressed.  But it may be the case they are displaying signs that are sometimes unnoticeable.

March is Pet Anxiety Month and I wanted to delve a little deeper into the topic and educate myself more about anxiety in dogs whilst spreading the word on how to spot the signs your dog is under stress, what causes there are and the main thing – how we all as dog owners can help.

Types of Anxiety in Dogs

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 2

Separation Anxiety

It’s exactly what it says on the tin – your dog doesn’t like to be away from you and is the most common form of anxiety in dogs.

It is considered that dogs associate the good things in their life, like toys, food, play, going for walks, with people – and as such, when there are no people around, there is nothing good to enjoy.  It is important that your dog is ok with his own company, if they aren’t there is a risk they will suffer from separation anxiety.

The easiest time to get a dog used to being on their own is when they are young, and as they get older it becomes more and more difficult.

 

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 3

Fear of Loud Noises

This is another common type of anxiety in dogs with things like thunderstorms or fireworks triggering stress in your dog.

Loud noises are a natural fear to dogs and they will find it particularly frightening and look for somewhere safe to shelter whilst the “storm” blows over, increasing the risk of them becoming lost if they are outdoors.

 

 https://pennylou.co.uk/blogs/news/does-my-dog-have-anxiety-how-to-spot-the-signs-your-dog-is-stressed

Changes in Environment and Resource Guarding

Less common forms of anxiety involve changes in environment for example moving to a new house, going to the vet or taking a trip in a car.

Dogs are sensitive animals, and even a subtle change your routine such as a new job and different working hours can prompt anxiety in your dog.

Resource guarding and displays of aggressive behaviour designed to scare away other dogs and/or people can also become apparent if a dog becomes anxious about a valued item being taken away.

Spot the Signs of Anxiety in your Dog

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 6

We may think that its easy to spot the signs of a fearful or stressed dog, but it’s important to consider that there are signs of anxiety that can be mistaken for “normal” behavior.  An example of this could be your dog not eating his food, which may be put down to a poorly stomach, however it could be a more subtle sign of anxiety.

I will stress however, it is also important to consider your dog’s overall behavior in conjunction with any possible symptoms of anxiety.

Common signs of Anxiety in dogs can include: 

  • Barking or Howling when left alone
  • Panting and pacing
  • Shivering
  • Drooling
  • Running away or cowering in the corner of a room
  • Aggression
  • Digging
  • Escaping from the garden
  • Destroying furniture
  • Self-harm such as excessive licking and/or chewing
  • Not eating
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Not being able to settle down

There can also be more subtle signs that your dog is anxious such as 

  • Showing the whites of the eyes
  • Lifting a paw
  • Lip licking
  • Looking away from you

If you pick up on these more subtle signs it could give you a heads up to prevent a more deeper anxiety from developing further down the line.

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from anxiety, book an appointment with your vet who will be able to advise on the best course of action, and rule out any other conditions that may be causing behavioural changes such as brain, thyroid or adrenal disease.  Normally a simple blood test will be able to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Treating Anxiety in Dogs

As mentioned above, the sooner you spot the signs of anxiety in your dog, the greater success you will have in treating it.

In the short term, there are several ways in which you can help your dog to relax and work through the anxious situation they find themselves in.

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 7

Treats and Toys

Did you know that licking is a soothing activity for your dog, so giving them something healthy they can lick not only keeps their brain occupied, it also helps them relax. 

You could try a lickimat or a soft toy with low fat cream cheese (just make sure to account for these calories in their daily intake – as a guide treats should make up 10% of your dogs daily calories.

Safe Spaces

Create a space where your dog feels safe and relaxed, you can then take the same bed or blanket with you to a potentially stressful environment so that your dog has something familiar with them.  At home, reinforce the relaxed behaviour by rewarding your dog and do this frequently.  Doing this will give them a safe space to relax in whilst you leave them home alone, when you visit the vet or experience any triggers for fear or stress.

Using a crate can be helpful to anxious dogs as they love their own space and treat it as a safe place to retreat to when feeling stressed.  However, it isn’t advisable to introduce a crate to a dog who is experiencing anxiety if it hasn’t seen one before.

Also, make sure you don’t use a crate as a punishment for your dog, it should always be their safe space and associated with calm, comfort and possibly treats.

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 7

Picture courtesy of Emily’s Canine Crew

Distraction

If your dog is in a situation where they are particularly stressed but they are not responding to offers of treats or food to distract them, you may want to try engaging them in trained behaviors such as sit, paw or roll over – whatever they usually respond best to.

Try enrichment games such as snuffle mats or snuffle balls – We recommend Emily’s Canine Crew who have some fantastic ones.  This helps your dog to focus on something fun, distracting them from the stressful situation.

Physical Touch

A simple but effective tool – sometimes all they need is a hug and a little bit of attention – so tickle their tummy or give them a rub behind their ears.

 

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 8

Audio Stimulation

If your dog is used to a noisy environment, it can be quite stressful if when left alone they are in silence.  Playing some music can help and streaming services such as Spotify even have some specially crafted podcasts and playlists tailored for your pups ears.

If your pup is suffering more severely, over the longer term there are things you can do to help.

Medication

If your veterinarian has diagnosed a simple fear, anxiety or phobia, they may prescribe some anti-anxiety medication for your dog in addition to recommending management techniques and behavior modification exercises.

However, do keep in mind that there are many ways to successfully treat anxiety, and that prescription medication will not be right for every pet – some vets will only give them as a last resort.

If your dog is placed on anxiety medication, your vet will want t carry out periodic blood tests to make sure your dog can process and eliminate the medications appropriately.

Desensitising

One way to help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs is to desensitise them of the triggers that cause it.  This may be as simple as identifying the routine you have just before you leave the house – if your dog has separation anxiety, you could start doing these activities when you aren’t leaving the house, so they aren’t always associated with a stressful event for your dog.

With the end of lockdown in sight (fingers crossed)  I am particularly concerned that Penny may develop separation anxiety.  She always knows that when I pick up my handbag from my bedroom, I’m probably about to go out – so I’ve started picking up my handbag and just bringing it downstairs, showing her its less of a big deal when it happens.  Try picking up your keys, putting on your coat or putting on your shows, then doing nothing.

You can then slowly increase the desensitisation by leaving the house for short periods of time without your dog and over time, increasing the length of time you are away.  They will eventually be accustomed to you leaving the house by the time lockdown ends.

Counter Conditioning

Basically, this is tricking your dog to see the anxiety triggers as good things – well, a little less bad at least.  Give them a treat when the trigger happens so that they start to enjoy it instead of dreading it.  This can work for loud noises, when your dog is scared by a loud noise, give them a treat and praise them with touch.

Stress Relief Products

There are a lot of products now available on the market which assist to relieve stress in our pets.  You can get over the counter supplements and stress relief products such as plug in diffusers such as ADAPTIL Calm, which use natural ingredients to calm your pet in stressful situations.

Be sure to talk to your vet before giving your pet any medications or supplements as they can be hit and miss and may not be the best solution for you and your dog.

 

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Training

Sometimes, with all the will in the world, your dog will simply need professional help.  Some extra assistance from someone who has dealt with their situation before.

Consulting with a behaviourist or a trainer may be the best solution.  Anxiety in dogs isn’t a quick fix, and you must bare in mind that there isn’t a switch that can be flipped and resolved with one training session.  You may have a rescue dog that has suffered for years with anxiety and as such it will take a lot of work to undo the damage done.

However, with consistent training and dedication from loving owners you will be able to overcome their anxiety and help them live their very best life.

Why do dogs wear yellow?

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Pic 10

Picture courtesy of My Anxious Dog – www.bellascollars.co.uk

I finally wanted to discuss the colour yellow – not because it’s nearly spring, or I’m a massive Tour de France fan – not, did you know that there is a reason why some dogs wear yellow?

You may see a dog wearing a yellow harness that says “anxious”, or a lead that says “nervous” or it may be as simple as a yellow ribbon on the dog’s collar – but it is a big signal to other dog owners that this dog needs some space and you should proceed with care.

There can be many reasons why a dog needs space, not only anxiety: - 

  • The dog may have an infectious disease such as Kennel Cough;
  • It is a working dog in training;
  • It is a bitch in season;
  • It is a dog recovering from a recent operation;
  • It is an aggressive dog which the owner is trying to keep under control – remember not all dogs are able to be muzzled, particularly short nosed breeds such as shih-tzus, pugs and border terriers.

So if you see a dog wearing yellow – whether it’s a harness, collar or ribbon – please respect and acknowledge that these dogs need space and be a part of their solution by approaching the owner (with caution) before letting your dog approach them.

If you’d like to know more about dog anxiety, or pick up any yellow products for your anxious pup – why not check out “My Anxious Pet” who are a great source of information and advice on living with an anxious dog.  Sarah was inspired to help anxious pet owners after her own dog, Bella suffered with anxiety and she saw a massive difference in her when she started to wear yellow out and about.  The reaction she got from other dog owners really helped her situation – she is now determined to raise awareness of the reason why dogs wear yellow and to help other owners of reactive dogs.

Does my dog have anxiety – How to spot the signs your dog is stressed | Penny Lou UK - Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - The Penny Lou Blog Back to Basics Yellow Set

In honour of Pet Anxiety Month, we have 10% off our Yellow Back-to-Basics Collar and Lead and if you let us know in the notes section at checkout, we will be happy to add “NERVOUS”, “ANXIOUS” or any text you want onto the item for free (throughout March only)

**Discount is automatically applied at the checkout**

Let us known in the comments if you have a dog that suffers from anxiety.  How have you coped?  Are they receiving treatment? How has it affected you?  We’d love to hear from you.



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