Our mission is to help fellow dog owners on how to treat dog anxiety from our experience with Watson – an extremely anxious Labradoodle that we got as a puppy from backyard breeders in Waterloo, Canada back in July, 2017. He was well known in the neighborhood as the crazy dog and our neighbors knew to stand back when they see us walking around the block. Watson was our first puppy and like children, he didn’t come with an instruction manual. We learned what works and what doesn’t through trial and error. By applying what we learned, Watson is now a much calmer and loveable dog.
Signs of Anxiety
- Tail between legs
- Dilated pupils
- Frequent Yawning
- Hunched body posture
- Licking lips/nose/drooling
- Accidents in the house even if potty trained
- Ears pushed back
- Chewing/destroying objects in the house
- Aggression/growling/showing teeth
- Excessive barking
- Pooping/Peeing in stressful situations
- Dribbles urine in the house.
- Lifting his front paw
Common Causes of Anxiety
- Puppies who were taken from their mothers too early
- Puppies who lack interaction at a young age will often become more fearful dogs.
- Misuse of Shock collars
- Yelling/physical punishment
- Saying goodbye and/or showing affection before leaving the house and arriving home(separation anxiety)
- Sudden loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, loud vehicles
- Separation from family members, addition of pets
- Routine changes in the household or moving to a new house
- Lack of socialization
- Being forcibly hugged/carried & frequently interrupting their naps
How to Stop Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety in dogs can begin early in their lives. Lack of socialization is a big factor. For the first six months, Watson stayed almost completely indoors due to the extreme cold weather here in Canada. Over the last two and a half years we have talked to a handful of trainers and spent more than $2,500 in trying to find the right treatment for Watson. As it would later turn out, we now use different tips and tricks from all of the trainers.
This is a list of what we did:
- We started going for 25 minute walks atleast once a day. Adequate exercise will burn their excess energy as well as remove the build-up of mental anxiety. A tired dog is a good dog.
- We socialized him slowly. We would sit near a busy bus stop for 15 minutes to desensitize him to small crowds and loud noises from passing vehicles.
- We stopped saying goodbye when leaving the house. It is already stressful enough for them not to be able to come with us when we leave. Talking to, or hugging them prior to leaving will only worsen their separation anxiety. We made our comings and goings as uneventful as possible.
- We always leave the radio on when we’re not home. Human voices can soothe them and various sounds can help desensitize them to noises they hear outside the house. We close the curtains to prevent unwanted stimuli like squirrels.
- We leave him something safe to chew on like frozen treats in a Kong while we’re away to keep him occupied and prevent him from destroying things in the house. Its better to spend $10 on a chew toy than $2,000 on a new couch. This is speaking from experience.
- We gave him a probiotic to help regulate his mood.
Play relaxing dog music. A natural way of calming canines. I wish i discovered this sooner.
Avoid petting your dog in stressful situations as this can train him to be fearful in nature. It is better to simply ignore unwanted behavior and to only pet him during good behavior.
- Stay calm. Dogs have an uncanny sense in picking up their owner’s emotions and feeding off them. They react to how you are feeling as well as behaving.
- Do not yell at a dog when it is barking at something. By doing so, your dog will think that you’re also barking. Instead, calmly approach him and speak softly to let him feel that there’s no threat.
- If you’re not going out for more than a few hours, keep him in his crate. It is safer for them.
- Do not call his name in negative situations. For example, if he urinates in the living room, screaming his name will make him associate his name negatively.
- We disallowed him from sleeping on our bed.
- We disallowed him from lying on the couch when we’re sitting on it.
- It must be clear that you are the master. By allowing him to sit with us on the couch or sleep on our bed, it makes the dog feel that we are on the same level. Dogs behave better when they know their place.
- When going for walks, make sure that the dog walks beside or behind you and not in front of you; do not let the dog walk you.
- Be consistent!
If possible, speak to your breeder and ask a few questions such as:
- If your puppy experienced any trauma
- Was it bullied as a puppy
- Was it ignored or neglected
- How long it was surrounded by its siblings
This may uncover some clues to your dog’s behavior.