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How To Manage Extreme Fear and Anxiety In Dogs

dog with anxiety ears down

Fear and anxiety are normal and even healthy emotions in dogs. The severity differs between each dog and dog breed. In extreme circumstances,  it’s manifestation in some dogs has led to unfortunate events like injuries or owners having to give them up. 

Fear, Anxiety and Phobia In Dogs

Fear in dogs is an unpleasant reaction or dread to perceived threat or danger. It elicits the fight or flight responses which are normal and beneficial for the survival of the dog. It would be termed as extreme if the dog’s response is disproportionate to the situation.

Phobia is excessive and persistent fear of specific stimuli. A dog may for example exhibit a phobia for thunderstorms, fireworks even clowns.

Anxiety in dogs is unease or nervousness over unknown eminent danger.

 Signs Of Anxiety In Dogs

An anxious dog will exhibit certain behaviors like;

  •       Panting
  •       Drooling
  •       Pacing
  •       Compulsive repetitive behavior
  •       Urinating and defecation in the house
  •       Excessive barking and howling
  •       Aggressive and destructive behavior

Different symptoms may show up depending on the kind of anxiety affecting the dog. For example, a car ride might cause excessive panting, while being left home alone may result in excessive barking and howling. 

 Causes of Anxiety and Fear

  •       Putting the dog in unfamiliar or scary experiences
  •       A past experience of not being able to escape the fear inducing situation
  •       Prior neglect, abandonment, having multiple owners
  •       Lack of exposure of a pup to social environments until the age of 14 weeks


How Anxiety Manifests in Dogs

Your pooch may exhibit one or both of the following manifestations of anxiety;

  •  Fear: Some dogs have a disproportionate negative reaction to normal things like grass, wood floors, other animals, hats, umbrellas, loud noises such as thunderstorms. Your pooch could react by panting, barking, destroying things, whining, cowering, or running away.
  • Aggression: is the more dangerous behavior as it can result in serious injury to the dog, the owner or third parties. It can either be direct aggression towards the stimuli or indirect aggression on any one who comes in between the dog and the perceived threat. 


How To Deal With Fear Related Anxiety in Dogs

As a dog owner, it is important to read your dog for the signs that he is anxious to intervene before it is too late.

  • Desensitization- Using this method, you can gradually expose your dog to the fear-inducing stimuli. If for example, he has a noise phobia, you could introduce the noise in small doses in a safe environment. For dogs who have a fear of thunder, choose music tracks with natural sounds including thunder. Keep the volume low and snuggle with your pooch. You can gradually turn up the volume but don’t over-do it. With time the dog learns to remain calm in the presence of the stimuli. It might be a good idea to do this with the help of a qualified dog handler.
  • Counterconditioning- Here, you replace the dog’s anxious or fearful response with positive behavior. For example, if your dog is nervous and barks or growls around other animals, you can teach him to stay or sit instead. Reinforce the positive behavior by rewarding him with treats.
  • Anxiety Medication For Dogs- At times if you are dealing with extreme fear and anxiety, the methods above may need to be accompanied with natural remedies like NaturPet Home Alone. This natural liquid remedy relaxes nervous tension and balances cerebral excitement, which will help your pet cope with separation anxiety, loud noises, new environments, as well as help your dog be more responsive to the above methods. Home Alone can be placed directly into your dogs mouth or mixed into their food. 

naturpet home alone information

Separation Anxiety In Dogs

Some dogs experience anxiety when they are separated from their guardians for extended periods of time. They display the flowing traits;

  •       Being agitated as the guardian prepares to leave
  •       Trying to prevent the guardian from leaving the house
  •       Soon after the guardian has left, they may bark, howl, scratch and destroy furniture, urinate, defecate, pace or even attempt to escape
  •       When the guardian returns, they are so excited as if they have not seen him for ages.


Reasons For Separation Anxiety

  •       Change in the guardian’s schedule. For example if the guardian gets a job after being at home for long. The extended period away could cause the dog to be anxious.
  •       Change of guardian. If the dog is surrendered to a shelter or given to a new family, it may trigger anxiety.
  •       Moving to a new neighborhood
  •       Addition or departure of a family member

Diagnosis Of Separation Anxiety

The veterinarian will want to rule out the following problems before making a separation anxiety diagnosis.

  1. Medications: Certain medications cause frequent urination and may cause your dog to soil.
  1.   Health conditions: Incontinence is a condition that causes the dog to leak urine. It can be caused by a urinary tract infection, diabetes and abnormalities in genitalia of the dog.
  1.   Submissive behavior: Dogs while greeting the guardian or being punished sometimes display submissive behavior like crouching low, bowing, hiding their tail or showing their belly. This behavior can also be accompanied by small amounts of urination.
  1.   Boredom: A dog that has been left alone in the house may destroy stuff because they have nothing to do and they are bored. Such a dog will not display anxious behavior.
  1.   Marking territory: Dogs use urine to mark their territory. Male dogs will do this on vertical places around the house.
  1.   Incomplete house training: If the dog is not properly house trained, or the training was inconsistent or involved punishment he could have an ”accident” while the guardian is away.
  1.   Juvenile Destruction: A young dog could chew or scratch furniture around the house even when the guardian is in the room.


Once you have ruled out the above conditions, you can go ahead and implement the following interventions.

Interventions For Mild Separation Anxiety

  •       Give the dog a treat like a stuffed toy when leaving the house and taking it away when you get back
  •       Keep your arrival and departure low key without excited greetings or good-byes
  •       Leave a piece of recently worn clothing, such as a t-shirt, with your dog

Intervention Of Serious Separation Anxiety

For a dog with a more serious case of separation anxiety, desensitization may work well. Since the dog starts getting triggered by your departure routine like picking up keys, putting on your coat and shoes, you can do these actions then still sit in the house.

Secondly, gradually increase the amount of time spent outside rather than suddenly spending several hours away. This will give your dog time to get used to your absence.

Lastly, ensure your dog has enough exercise and mental stimulation. Take them for a walk or play a game of fetch before your departure. This will release their energy, enabling them to relax once you have left. 

 Natural Remedies For Separation Anxiety In Dogs

Just like with fear-induced anxiety, separation anxiety can also be helped with natural remedies like Home Alone. It’s calming effects help your pooch cope with being alone or with new environments such as daycare. 

Age Related Anxiety

In older dogs, cognitive dysfunction syndrome which is similar to early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans can occur. It causes a decline in memory, perception, learning and awareness leading to confusion in the dog. This could cause anxiety in senior dogs. To ensure your senior lives out his or her later years in their best health possible, provide high quality foods along with an omega and vitamin supplement such as Dr. Maggie Skin & Coat

The Bottom Line

Anxiety in dogs is a natural response to real or perceived danger or unpleasant situations. It can be fear, age or separation-related. When it is excessive, it calls for interventions. Above all, the dog should never be punished for anxious behavior. Rather, modification can be done through natural remedies, desensitization, and counterconditioning.