When You Have an Anxious Puppy
Advice for When You Have an Anxious Puppy
Bringing a new puppy into your home is an amazing experience with a lot of fun and cuteness.
But it is also a big responsibility and you need to make sure you can keep your new dog healthy physically but also emotionally.
Behavioral Issues in Puppies
When raising a dog there can be many behavioral issues that you will be faced with throughout their lifetime.
Separation anxiety can be one of these issues and having a better understanding of this condition can help you to better identify and treat it.
Separation anxiety usually occurs in younger dogs, although it can affect older dogs too.
So be mindful not to dismiss the symptoms and just put this down to a puppy's immaturity, try and prevent separation anxiety before it starts.
What is Separation Anxiety
Whether we are talking about separation anxiety in a young or an elder dog, it is the same. Basically it can be likened to a panic attack.
Separation anxiety is extreme stress from the moment you leave your dog until the moment you return. Your dog has become hyper-attached to you as pet parents.
Difference Between Separation Anxiety and Normal Behavior
Separation anxiety in dogs is not the same as boredom and is unlike a little mischief when your dog is left alone. It is a legitimate stress for your dog.
Where younger dogs are concerned it is sometimes difficult to know if returning home to damaged household items and pee on the floor is down to having an anxious dog or a dog that is not understanding good manners yet and is also not 100% toilet trained.
One good way pet parents can gain a handle on this and work to identify if your pet is suffering from dog anxiety is to set up a video recorder in the house for times when you are not there.
Signs of Separation Anxiety In Puppies
The signs of general anxiety that dogs exhibit are varied. People should look out for multiple symptoms from the below list happening frequently.
If it is just one or two of the symptoms happening occasionally, this may not be down to dog anxiety.
- Escape attempts- trying to leave the confinement of your home
- Excessive drooling or panting
- Excessive barking and howling
- Inappropriate urination/defecation
- Pacing and trembling negative body language as you start to leave the home
- Destructive behavior
The Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Your dog's personality can play a role in how susceptible they are to dog anxiety. More clingy dogs are at a greater risk of separation stress than independent ones. So what can cause a dog's anxiety?
This can be a simple as your dog has never been previously left alone before. They could also have experienced a traumatic abandonment for example at the dog shelter. In addition, traumatic experiences when being left alone can impact upon an anxious dog.
Dogs tend to thrive upon regularity, therefore a sudden change in schedule or living environment can throw them off of balance easily. Examples of this may be where a divorce occurs and your dog loses contact with one of his pet parents.
Alternatively, a family member going off to college can affect the dynamic of the household and your dog's anxiety levels may increase. A change to your schedule can indeed have a great knock-on effect for an anxious dog.
You not being there when they are used to can bring on anxiety. New studies even reveal that there is a link between lack of exercise and separation anxiety.
So with many potential causes of separation anxiety, it is important to pinpoint the trigger so that effective management of the condition can be put in to place.
What Steps can People Take to Reduce Anxiety Displayed By Your Puppy
Pet parents can definitely take steps to help calm an anxious dog, the end goal being that your pup begins to enjoy being left alone or at the very least starts to tolerate it.
- Exercise- Getting enough age-appropriate exercise is vital for wellbeing and a great help in managing your dog's anxiety. A tired dog that has just been on a walk or played with you is more likely to settle down when being left alone, rather than a dog that has lots of pent up energy to expel.
- Mental stimulation- In the same way as a physical workout can benefit an anxious dog a mental workout can also help to reduce anxiety dogs are experiencing. Cognitive games, puzzle toys & discovery mats all help to stimulate your dog in your absence, but also tire and use energy.
- Discourage Clinginess- When you are around the home it can be a beneficial practice to encourage your dog to stay in a different room to yourself for extended periods of time. Start with a firm stay command and then after your dog has learned to stay for several minutes you can leave the room, working up to long periods of time in different rooms. It is also important not to go over the top when you return home from an outing. Greet your dog nicely but don't go mad with emotion. Otherwise, the result may be that your dog sees your comings and goings as major events to get worked up over. When you do return home if there is damage or urine around the house don't yell as this extenuates the feeling that there was something to worry over in the first place.
- Counter-conditioning- Whilst raising a puppy you should reinforce positive associations with new experiences. This can be done specifically where separation anxiety could potentially become a problem. So, try leaving your dog for increasingly longer periods of time, and if and when they start to go into panic mode, bring out the high-value treats. This may counter-condition your dog to the point whereby they actually look forward to you going out as they receive a treat prior to your departure.
- Medication & supplements- Sometimes counter-conditioning is not effective, particularly if your dog is so stressed and anxious that they are no longer capable of learning. In this case, your veterinary behaviorist may recommend the use of medications or natural supplements to take the edge off of the anxiety and smooth the road during your puppy's training program. You should be cautious when using over the counter products to help a very young pup particularly if they are on prescription medications also. Side effects can hit smaller, younger dogs harder, prescription medications only tend to be used in extremely severe cases of anxiety dogs suffer from.
- Safe zone training- People should encourage their dogs to go somewhere where they feel safe within the home, during times of anxiety. This may well be in their crate or another area that they find secure. The use of a calming bed for dogs as the focal point of your pup's safe zone can work wonders. These beds not only mimic the feeling of having a cuddle with their mom as a pup but offer an enclosed feeling due to their cleverly designed shape.
Anxious dogs are not always easy to treat. Anxiety isn't always preventable despite your best efforts.
People generally have to first work out what is the initial stimulus for the anxiety and pet owners take the necessary steps to alleviate the state of panic that leads to anxiety.
The treatment of dog anxiety takes a lot of perseverance and patience from the owner. But approach with a positive attitude and the help of a trained veterinary behaviorist and you may well be able to put puppy anxiety behind you.
According to the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, the outcomes of a dog suffering from anxiety such as urinating, defecating, trying to escape, and destruction of property are amongst the most common reasons for people to give up on their dog and have them re-homed.
This of course is very disruptive for already anxious dogs and may well further compound the problems.
It is important to remember that dogs that suffer from anxiety are not simply acting out for the sake of it or being mischievous.
Separation from the person whom which they have become hyper-attached to causes a panic attack type state where dogs may not be in control of their actions.
Yes your dog may urinate or destroy furniture but at this moment they are not in control, so overrun with stress is their mind.
Dogs are more sensitive to domestic environment factors than humans, you should take the time to ensure that your home is as safe and comfortable as is possible for your dog.
Make them a little safe zone incorporating all of their favorite things there. Indoor toys for stimulation and of course a calming dog bed in which your dog can nestle, feeling enclosed and protected.
Other Triggers of Anxiety to Consider
There are indeed other forms of dog anxiety that too may come in to play. Triggers such as loud noises for dogs with a noise phobia or sensitivity may be alleviated by music therapy or the use of white noise
Older dogs can suffer from stress and anxiety there could be cognitive decline resulting in confusion and anxiety.
So, even if your puppy seems not to suffer from anxiety, this could start to take effect as they age therefore, perhaps consider using some of the preventative techniques aforementioned, regardless.
Your dog can seem to have a wide range of unexplained emotions. It is difficult for dogs to communicate with us their struggles with anxiety.
It is a real problem nowadays, however, and some 14% of dogs are thought to experience separation anxiety.
Puppies and younger dogs that are less sure of themselves and more clingy definitely are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety. Therefore, be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of anxiety in your canine friend.
Dog anxiety if untreated can escalate quickly, therefore be sure to put in place all of the appropriate preventative measures outlined in this article and seek advice from your vet in the instance of multiple regular signs of anxiety.