Separation Anxiety, Isolation Anxiety, Stranger Anxiety, Dog to Dog Anxiety, Noise Anxiety, Object Oriented Anxiety are just some of the types of anxieties that training and behavior modification can improve and resolve.
As dog owners and trainers we have owned anxious, fearful and phobic dogs. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking as you want your dog to be at ease and be happy. When we work with a dog working with a dog that is stressed or anxious, it’s important to determine whether a dog is suffering from fear, a phobia and/or anxiety. While related, fear, phobias and anxieties are different reactions. At the same time the net result in the same; an unhappy, stressed dog.
Fears, Phobias, and Anxieties in Dogs
Owning a fearful, phobic and/or anxious dog is tough on the dog and the owner. Most dogs can improve but owners need to be patient and implement meaningful training solutions and behavior modification programs. Canine Path has a great deal of experience helping dogs overcome fears, phobia and anxieties. Every dog, every owner and every situation is different. A patient, consistent approach is a prerequisite when working with fearful, anxious dogs. Owners also need to be being flexible. While it’s important to give a training approach a chance to yield results, it’s important to be willing to try a variety of management and training techniques and to track a dog’s improvement.
Keeping a journal is extremely helpful. This information (note daily: your dog’s mood, any episodes, how long the dog was triggered, what triggered the behavior, what the dog did) will help you and your trainer, pet sitter and veterinarian analyze the data, patterns, triggers and effectiveness of the training and behavior solutions and help develop management protocols and solutions.
- Fear is the instinctual feeling of apprehension resulting from a situation, person, or object presenting an external threat — whether real or perceived. While you may not perceive something or someone as a threat, \your dog might. Physically, the response of the autonomic nervous system prepares the body for the freeze, fight, or flight syndrome. This is normal behavior, essential for adaptation and survival; its context determines whether the fear response is normal, or abnormal and inappropriate. Most abnormal reactions are learned and can be unlearned with gradual exposure. Keep in mind just like people some dogs just naturally startle more easily. Additionally, fear can be caused by trauma and stress but often is a result of a genetic predisposition. Studies have shown that if either parent is a fearful dog, that their offspring may also be fearful.
- Phobias are an excessive fear of a specific stimulus. Phobias can occur spontaneously but often are a result a specific stimulus, such as a thunderstorm. The most common phobias are associated with noises (such as thunderstorms or fireworks).
- Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined origins that result in physical reactions associated with fear.
It’s important to determine what triggers your dog’s anxieties:
– Meeting New People: in your home or outside your home.
– Meeting New Dogs: while on walks, on leash or off leash.
– Certain Noises: Motorcycles, skateboards, thunderstorms etc.
– Certain Objects: Blimps, trash bags blowing around, statues etc.
– New Environments and Experiences: car rides, going past soccer games, dog parks, into pet stores, restaurants (even pet friendly areas can scare your dog).
Symptoms and Types of Anxiety in Dogs
– Mild fears: signs may include trembling, tail tucked, withdrawal, hiding, reduced activity, and hiding behaviors.
– Panic: signs may include active escape behavior (running away, jumping fences, breaking out of crates).
– Excessive barking, whining, howling and yelping.
– Lunging, growling and snarling at the object of his fear (distancing behaviors).
– Pacing, destruction, clawing at doors.
– Urination and defecation when triggered.
– Lesions (hives) secondary to anxious behavior (such as licking and biting and chewing himself).