The recent changes to people’s everyday lives may have caused some disruption to your dog’s daily routines, resulting in them feeling overwhelmed or anxious. For many dog owners, it may be difficult to know when your dog is experiencing anxiety, and different situations may trigger some dogs in different ways.
Dogs can become distressed for many reasons, whether it’s loud noises, being around unfamiliar people or pets, a trip to the vets or being apart from their owners for long periods of time. Whatever the cause of the anxiety is, you need to look out for any sudden changes in your dog’s behaviour to try to prevent it going forward.
Here are some tips to help you spot when your dog is experiencing anxiety and what you can do to help them overcome this.
Adjusting to being apart
If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety they may howl or bark, urinate or defecate indoors and chew or destroy furniture. These are common behavioural signs that a dog is suffering from separation anxiety. As more people start returning to work and school with lockdown restrictions easing up, dogs will have to adapt and change their daily routine once again which can lead to them feeling anxious.
There are things you can do to ease your dog back into a routine where they will be alone for longer periods of time. Leave the house for 15 minutes, then increase this gradually each day. When you leave and return home, do so calmly without any fuss.
Keep your dog distracted with a special toy that you only leave out when you are not home. Things like a stuffed Kong will keep your pooch mentally stimulated, and chew toys will help prevent them chewing furniture.
Even if your dog isn’t showing signs of separation anxiety, it may be worth investing in a camera that allows you to monitor them while you are away from the home. This is a great way to find out if your dog is howling and barking when you are out. The camera connects to your phone via an app so you can check in on them anytime to ensure they are happy and safe.
Familiarising with the unknown
Many dogs are likely to experience fear anxiety at some point. If your dog is feeling scared they may show signs of pacing, shaking, lack of appetite, panting, unable to settle and in some serious cases, growling and aggression. This could range from your pooch being scared of loud or unusual noises to being unsure of other people and animals.
It’s common for dogs to become anxious around bonfire night and new year when people set fireworks off as these are loud and unpredictable and can leave your dog feeling restless. You can minimise the stress levels by creating a safe place for your dog, like a doggy den – a crate that has a blanket or bedding inside with their favourite toy. Having music or the TV on in the background can also help keep your dog calm as it reduces the noise levels.
Each dog has their own personality, just like people, and while some dogs are curious about strangers, others may be shy around people they’re not familiar with. Until your dog gets used to those they’re shy around, keep them on their lead if outside, or use a crate or baby gate if indoors. A great way to help boost your dog’s confidence is to teach them new tricks. This can be basic training or if you want to try something a bit more advanced, why not try rally obedience or agility.
Hopefully these tips will help prevent your dog from feeling anxious and stressed. If these problems persist, seek advice from a behaviour expert who can help your dog overcome their anxiety.