Dealing with Dog Anxiety without Medication

Dealing with Dog Anxiety without Medication

When people think of dogs as pets, they think of happy, fluffy puppies playing with each other, or healthy adults running and playing, enjoying life, keeping our feet warm at night. The loyalty and joie de vivre we associate with dogs is one of the main reasons they are so popular as pets and companions, but as any dog lover (or animal lover in general) knows, these creatures are not simply affection robots. They are complex beings with an internal world we can often only guess at. When you pick up that puppy, you often have no idea what kind of personality he will develop as he grows up.  So what do you do if your dog is the nervous, anxious type?

Please don't leave me!

Please don’t leave me!


We’ve all seen Anxious Dogs. Whether it’s a thunderstorm, the vacuum, loud music, or other animals, they react with undesirable behaviours when faced with certain situations. Like humans, they engage in repetitive patterns like pacing, endless grooming, whimpering, and digging. Sometimes they will relieve themselves in inappropriate places, or attack furniture. Our concern for our property is secondary to our concern for our beloved pet: We can’t talk to them to explain what’s happening, and that powerlessness to comfort them is often the worst of it. While some might advise you to medicate your dog to get them through stressful situations, medication should always be a last resort. Besides, you want to solve the root of the problem, not just knock your dog out. Here are three strategies to try first.


1. Thundershirt. Results have varied with the Thundershirt, but it’s worth trying. The Thundershirt is a garment that wraps around your dog’s torso, secured with Velcro, and applies constant pressure to the abdomen. Similar to swaddling a baby, this pressure is comforting to most animals (and people). While not effective on every dog, often the Thundershirt can reduce or eliminate anxiety to a surprising degree.


2. Desensitisation Training. If you can identify the exact cause of your dog’s anxiety (for example, thunderstorms) you can attempt to desensitise the animal. This involves replicating the disturbing noise at a very low level, and then training your dog to focus on something else, like you. Using treats to reward calm, appropriate behaviour and staying with your dog through this process while slowly upping the volume and intensity of the trigger noise can teach your dog better ways of dealing with their stress.


3. Music. Research has shown that music can have an affect on dogs, with classical music being the most soothing. While high volumes may only exacerbate your dog’s anxiety, playing music to drown out the trigger noise can be an effective way to get your dog through the experience with minimal anxiety. It’s best to try and gauge how your dog reacts to different music before trying this “live” – during a thunderstorm is no time to discover that jazz actually makes things worse!


Remember, yelling or punishing a dog for things it does when clearly alarmed and anxious will not solve the problem, it will only make it worse! Never punish or hurt a dog that is displaying anxious behaviour, it’s already scared and scaring it more won’t do any good. Also remember that your dog shouldn’t be left alone when in a highly anxious state, unless its behaviour is so destructive that you have no choice – although some dogs actually take comfort from being in their crates, so this may be something to keep in mind.


The world must be a mysterious and alarming place to a dog, sometimes – put yourself in your dog’s position, and suddenly your can understand why thunderstorms are so scary!


About the author: Jackie McLellan and her family are based in Scotland and are animal mad, living with dogs, cats, rabbits and sheep. Jackie breeds beautiful Australian Labradoodle puppies and regularly has standard, medium and miniature labradoodle puppies for sale.

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