How To Deal With Anxiety And Phobias In Dogs

 

Anxiety and phobias in dogs are not uncommon. Being a dog owner, you and I know dogs can be very human in their emotions, their ability to feel fear and anxiety is no different. Many different things can trigger anxiety and phobias in dogs; very common causes can be loud noises such as  thunderstorms, fireworks, feelings of being trapped such when travelling in  a car or separation anxiety, like a child would feel when parents have gone away.

 

How can we tell if our dogs are anxious or have developed a phobia? Some common signs of anxiety can be shivering, panting, pacing, hiding or cowering (this is not a complete list). Each dog is an individual and may have their different ways of showing fear. When trying to understand if your dog is anxious, it’s important that we discount another reason why your dog might show certain signs, for example, if your dog is panting and pacing, are they hot?

 

How should we think about treating anxiety in our dogs?  If you are worried or unsure of the cause, of course go to your vet and get a professional diagnosis.

 

If the situation is affecting your or your dog’s life significantly or just if you are worried: a vet’s advice will always be better than this blog’s. So, how should I take action? From what I’ve read the best approach is counter conditioning. The basics of this method are to expose your dog to a low-level version of what your dog fears or is anxious about and to reward them for withstanding the situation and then to increase the intensity of what your dog fears and repeat until your dog is can withstand the normal intensity of the stimulus which causes them to be scared or anxious.

The key with this method is to be slow and not overwhelm your dog with the thing that scares them; this process can take months. Do not make the gaps in between intensity levels too big and make sure your dog is completely comfortable with the lower level before increasing the intensity.

A second method is to use certain natural products to calm your dog down, for example you could use Dorwest’s Scullcap & Valerian Tablets. These are the only herbal product to be officially authorised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to help anxiety and nervousness and you can find more information about them (including how and when to use them) on the page.  

Hope this helped but always seek professional advice if you are concerned.