Woman’s Day (New Zealand)


Getting on top of the problem early will help your pup feel and behave better


Dealing with anxiety is tough if you’re a human, but when you’ve got four legs and a tail, it becomes somewhat trickier. Since dogs can’t tell us when they’re experienci­ng anxiety, we need to watch for the telltale (or tell-tail!) signs that they’re struggling emotionall­y.

Vet Dr Claire Stevens, author of Dr Claire’s Love Your Dog (available at bookstores and online), says anxiety is common in dogs, but spotting it isn’t always easy. In fact, you could easily mistake signs of anxiety for misbehavio­ur – especially if your dog is barking excessivel­y, being aggressive, chewing, digging destructiv­ely, or going to the toilet inside. These can all be signs of anxiety, along with pacing, panting, drooling, shivering, cowering, depression and running away.

“Separation anxiety is the most common form of anxiety and we see it daily,” says Dr Stevens. “Thunder and firework phobias are also extremely common.”

Anxiety can also be triggered by loud noises, the outdoors, strangers or people of a specific gender.

“Less commonly, some dogs chronicall­y exhibit signs of anxiety regardless of their situation,” Dr Stevens adds. “These pets may have generalise­d anxiety disorder (GAD), which is more likely in neglected shelter dogs.”

What to do

Getting on top of anxiety early means you’ll be more likely to help your dog manage it successful­ly.

“It’s important the owner makes changes to support an anxious dog,” says Dr Stevens. “Not doing anything is likely to exacerbate unwanted behaviours.”

When your dog is showing signs of anxiety, you can try

calming them with touch and cuddles, playing calming music (try “calming dog” playlists on YouTube or Spotify) and giving them a quiet, dark space where they can go to hide, such as a dog crate covered in blankets. Some people find calming coats (called ThunderShi­rts), room sprays and herbal drops help. Dr Stevens recommends working closely with a vet, as well as a profession­al dog trainer or animal behaviouri­st. They might suggest strategies such as countercon­ditioning, which teaches your dog to have a more pleasant response to the anxiety source. For example, if your dog has separation anxiety, give them food when you’re leaving the house.

Densensiti­sation can also be helpful. “The owner slowly introduces the dog to the source of anxiety, in small doses and at a decreased intensity,” explains Dr Stevens. “Repeated exposure and rewarding positive behaviour can go a long way.”

In some cases, a vet will prescribe medication such as antidepres­sants.

On the prevention side, making sure your pup gets loads of regular exercise means they’ll get a constant hit of feel-good brain chemicals and use up a lot of energy, making them more likely to relax later.

It might take time, but with patience and love, you can help your pooch feel calm and safe.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Cuddles are a great mood booster for both owners and upset pets!
Cuddles are a great mood booster for both owners and upset pets!
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Ignoring the signs of anxiety can make your pup’s behaviour worse.
Ignoring the signs of anxiety can make your pup’s behaviour worse.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand