Deal­ing with anx­i­ety in dogs

Own­ers need to take time to so­cial­ize their new pet to en­sure a suc­cess­ful adop­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - Jes­sica D’Amico

Adopt­ing a dog is a re­ward­ing and ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for any­one look­ing to en­rich their lives through the ad­di­tion of a pet and who wants to pro­vide a home and a fam­ily to an an­i­mal in need of both.

The com­fort and sta­bil­ity of a safe home is mon­u­men­tal, es­pe­cially if the dog has had a rough past. Un­for­tu­nately, many dogs ac­quire anx­i­ety is­sues be­fore or dur­ing their time spent in a shel­ter. It is won­der­ful to wit­ness a pos­i­tive change in an­i­mals with phys­i­cal, be­havioural or men­tal health is­sues.

Anx­i­ety dis­or­ders in dogs can arise for many dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Th­ese in­clude short term mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, long-term stress­ful or abu­sive en­vi­ron­ments, phys­i­cal ill­ness, chronic pain, or breed dis­po­si­tion. What­ever the cause, the dis­or­der can pose dif­fi­cul­ties in adopt­ing and car­ing for a dog. To in­crease the like­li­hood of a suc­cess­ful adop­tion, there are sev­eral things you can do to help a dog with anx­i­ety:

So­cial­ize the dog on his or her own terms. Ex­pos­ing your dog to peo­ple and new sit­u­a­tions can help with their be­hav­iour, but re­mem­ber to go at the right pace. Forc­ing a dog into an un­favourable sit­u­a­tion can make them more anx­ious. Take your time, use your judge­ment and al­low your dog to gain trust through pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences with new peo­ple and en­vi­ron­ments. Con­sult your ve­teri­nary clinic or an­i­mal shel­ter for ad­vice. There are many prod­ucts made to help dogs with anx­i­ety.

While some are ef­fec­tive, they mainly pro­vide short-term so­lu­tions and some may not be ef­fec­tive at all. The Thun­der­shirt is help­ful in some cases of sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety and the use of the spray D.A.P (Dog Ap­peas­ing Pheromones) may help to al­le­vi­ate stress in anx­ious dogs with travel or noise pho­bias. Ad­di­tional prod­ucts in­clude dog chews con­tain­ing in­gre­di­ents that may help to al­le­vi­ate anx­i­ety such as L-thea­nine, L-tryp­to­phan, chamomile and some oth­ers.

In ex­treme cases, the vet­eri­nar­ian may pre­scribe anti-anx­i­ety med­i­ca­tions. It is al­ways a good idea to speak to a vet­eri­nar­ian or trainer re­gard­ing your par­tic­u­lar dog be­fore try­ing a prod­uct.

Take your dog to train­ing classes. Ba­sic train­ing meth­ods can go a long way to­wards pro­vid­ing sta­bil­ity for an anx­ious dog. Find a trainer that you trust and their as­sess­ment will let you know what spe­cific meth­ods may help your dog.

Be pa­tient. Con­sis­tency and rou­tine are very im­por­tant. From learn­ing to han­dle nail trims to ap­proach­ing strangers, th­ese changes take time and com­mit­ment.

Some things will im­prove, but anx­ious be­hav­iour is un­likely to go away com­pletely.

You need to rec­og­nize and ac­cept this pos­si­bil­ity from the be­gin­ning. If you do not, you should re­con­sider your choices, be­cause adopt­ing an an­i­mal you aren’t fully pre­pared to care for may lead to a worse sit­u­a­tion for both you and the dog.

Jes­sica D’Amico is a sec­ond year stu­dent at the At­lantic Ve­teri­nary Col­lege. An­i­mal Talk is a monthly col­umn in The Guardian pro­duced by the Com­pan­ion An­i­mal Wel­fare Ini­tia­tive (CAWI), the goal of which is to im­prove the wel­fare of owned and un-owned com­pan­ion an­i­mals on P.E.I. CAWI con­sists of the P.E.I. Hu­mane So­ci­ety, SpayAid, Cat Ac­tion Team, P.E.I. Ve­teri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, P.E.I. de­part­ment of agri­cul­ture and forestry, P.E.I. 4-H and the Sir James Dunn An­i­mal Wel­fare Cen­tre at AVC. For more in­for­ma­tion, see­cul­ture/CAWI. Read­ers may send ques­tions re­lated to the well­be­ing of owned and un-owned com­pan­ion an­i­mals to


Chuchu the Chi­huahua was found in a box in Mon­treal by the SPCA in Novem­ber 2012 and adopted by Jes­sica a few days later. She had se­vere anx­i­ety is­sues con­cern­ing meet­ing peo­ple and other an­i­mals, but with so­cial­iza­tion and train­ing has over­come some of that anx­i­ety. She still has a pho­bia of thun­der­storms and loud noises, which D.A.P and anti-anx­i­ety dog chews helped to al­le­vi­ate.


Nala, the Pomera­nian, was a puppy mill dog most of her life. Jes­sica adopted the 10-year-old ca­nine in Au­gust 2012 when the Mon­treal SPCA seized the dogs. She ac­quired sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety af­ter quickly be­com­ing at­tached to Jes­sica, but with train­ing and time she has be­come less anx­ious when Jes­sica is not around.

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