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How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety?

How to train your dog with anxiety is a common concern for many pet parents.

Dogs, much like humans, can experience anxiety.

Stress and anxiety can impact a dog’s quality of life.

So, what should you do?

A great way for pet parents to start is to address your dog's anxiety.

Today's blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to train your dog with anxiety.

We have practical tips to help your canine companion lead a happier, more relaxed life.

Click the links below to go to that specific section:

How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety

What is Dog Anxiety?

Common Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs

The first step is for you to know the signs and symptoms of anxiety in dogs.

The common indicators include:

  • excessive barking
  • destructive behaviours
  • panting
  • pacing
  • drooling
  • attempts to escape

Some dogs may show more subtle signs.

They might have decreased appetite or body language changes like tail tucking or avoiding eye contact.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety

Causes of anxiety attacks in dogs can be any of the various factors:

  • genetics
  • environment
  • past experiences

Some dogs are more predisposed to anxiety due to their genetic makeup.

Some reports mention that these dog breeds are naturally anxious:

  • German Shepherd
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Border Collie
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Bichon Frise
  • Toy Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • German Shorthaired Pointer

Environmental factors like chaotic household environments or lack of socialisation can also contribute.

Also, a traumatic event or negative experience in a dog's past can boost anxiety levels.

Types of Anxiety

  1. Separation Anxiety:

This occurs when dogs become anxious and distressed when left alone.

It often results in destructive behaviours and excessive barking.

  1. Noise Anxiety:

Loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks can trigger intense fear and anxiety.

  1. Social Anxiety:

Some dogs may experience anxiety in social situations.

This could happen when meeting new people or other dogs.

  1. Rescue Anxiety: 

Rescue anxiety in dogs often arises from the stress and trauma of being in a shelter environment.

It may also arise from past experiences of abuse and neglect.

These dogs may appear calm but exhibit signs of anxiety after settling with their new family members.

  1. Illness-Induced Anxiety: 

Illness-induced anxiety in dogs occurs when a medical condition or chronic pain causes stress and anxiety.

This type leads to behaviour changes like increased irritability, restlessness, and avoidance.

You'd need to identify and treat the underlying health issues to manage this type of anxiety.

Related: What Is the Best Dog Bed for Arthritis?

Preparing for Training Sessions

How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety

Importance of a Calm Environment

Creating a calm and safe environment is a good idea when training anxious dogs.

This helps reduce their anxiety level and makes the training process more effective.

A designated safe place, such as a cosy crate or a specific room, can provide a sense of security for your dog.

Tools and Supplies You Might Need

- Calming Aids:

Products like anti-anxiety beds can help reduce the anxiety symptoms of fearful dogs. 

These beds provide a sense of security by mimicking the feeling of being cuddled, which can be soothing for anxious pets.

Additionally, the soft and comfortable material can help dogs relax and feel more at ease during stressful situations.

- Treats and Toys:

High-value treats and interactive toys are excellent tools for positive reinforcement training.

Try a food toy filled with peanut butter or a puzzle toy.

 

- Routine and Consistency:

A consistent daily routine can help your nervous dog feel more secure and less anxious.

Basic Training Principles

Positive Reinforcement Techniques

Positive reinforcement training is the best way to train an anxious dog.

Rewarding good behaviour with treats, praise, or toys helps build positive associations.

In turn, these encourage your dog to repeat those behaviours.

Building Trust and Confidence

Building trust with your dog is crucial.

Spend time with your dog, engage in fun activities, and ensure that your dog feels safe and loved.

This will help in building their confidence over time.

Gradual Desensitisation and Counter-Conditioning

Gradual desensitisation means exposing your dog to their source of anxiety in small, manageable doses.

Counter-conditioning pairs the source of anxiety with something positive.

You can use treats or play to change your dog’s emotional response.

Specific Training Techniques

How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

  1. Creating a Safe Space:

Ensure your dog has a designated safe haven where they feel secure.

  1. Gradual Departures and Returns:

Practice leaving your dog alone for short time periods and increase the duration.

You can try giving them a long-lasting treat when you leave them for longer periods.

  1. Using Interactive Toys and Distractions:

Provide your dog with an interactive toy to keep them occupied during alone time.

Noise Anxiety

  1. Identifying Specific Triggers:

Recognise which noises cause anxiety and work on gradual exposure.

  1. Gradual Exposure to Noises:

Play recordings of the triggering sounds at a low volume and increase it over time.

  1. Providing Comfort and Reassurance:

Stay calm and provide comfort during stressful situations to help your dog feel secure.

Social Anxiety

  1. Controlled Exposure to Social Situations:

Slowly introduce your dog to new people and environments.

Try to do leash training to prevent your pup from running away.

  1. Positive Interactions with Other Dogs and People:

Encourage positive experiences by rewarding calm behaviour.

  1. Encouraging Calm Behaviour:

Reinforce calm behaviour during social interactions or in public places with treats and praise.

Rescue Anxiety

  1. Building Trust:

Spending time with your dog builds trust.

Give them treats and praise to build a strong bond and ease anxiety.

  1. Providing Structure:

Create a daily routine with regular feeding times, exercise, and quiet periods.

Consistency helps your dog feel secure and reduces anxiety.

  1. Gradual Desensitisation:

Introduce your dog to new environments, different sounds, people, and situations.

Start with low-stress scenarios and increase exposure as they become more comfortable.

Illness-Induced Anxiety

  1. Pain Management:

Work with your veterinarian to manage any pain or discomfort your dog may be experiencing.

They might recommend medication or alternative therapies.

  1. Comfort and Support:

Give your pup a calm and quiet environment.

Give them a comfortable resting area and familiar surroundings to lessen stress.

  1. Behaviour Modification:

Use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage calm behaviours.

Avoid situations that exacerbate their anxiety, such as loud noises or excessive activity.

More Tips and Strategies

- Exercise and Mental Stimulation:

Regular exercise and mental stimulation can aid in reducing anxiety levels.

- Monitoring Diet and Health:

Ensure your dog’s diet is balanced and consult a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions contributing to anxiety.

Related: Dog Training 101: How To Make the Most Out of It!

When to Seek Professional Help

How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety

Recognising When Anxiety is Severe

If your dog’s fear and anxiety are severe and do not improve with training, it may be time to seek professional help.

Signs of severe anxiety may present themselves through:

  • constant distress
  • destructive behaviours
  • an inability to calm down

Benefits of Professional Trainers or Behaviourists

A certified professional dog trainer can provide custom training to address your dog’s specific needs.

Through their specialised knowledge and skills, they offer:

  1. Tailored Training Programs:

Customised plans that address specific behavioural issues or training goals.

  1. Effective Techniques:

Utilisation of proven methods to change behaviour positively and reinforce desired actions.

  1. Expert Guidance:

Professional insights and advice to enhance communication and understanding between pets and owners.

  1. Behavioural Evaluation:

Comprehensive assessment to identify underlying issues and develop appropriate strategies.

  1. Long-Term Success:

Support and tools for sustained behavioural improvement and a harmonious pet-owner relationship.

Exploring Other Treatment Options

In some cases, anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a veterinarian may be necessary to help manage your dog’s anxiety.

Related: Puppy Obedience Training: What You Should Know

Go back to the top

How to Train Your Dog With Anxiety

Conclusion

Pet owners should be patient and consistent when dealing with their dog's anxiety disorder.

Remember, it’s important to be patient and encouraging throughout the training process.

For severe cases, seeking professional help can provide extra support.

With time and effort, you can help your anxious dog lead a happier, more relaxed life.

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