Many dog owners face the problem of how to help their dog overcome anxiety. Like in people, anxiety can have different causes and triggers. This means that you probably won’t be able to get to the root of all the things that make the dog fearful, but it’s nevertheless important that you try to recognise why your pup feels so uncomfortable and scared all the time.
No matter if your dog fears new stuff, it’s genetically predisposed towards being environmentally sensitive, or it experienced some traumatic past events, it’s paramount that you help your dog gain confidence. Here are some tips on how to rehabilitate your dog and ensure it becomes tail-wagging fur-ball (once again).
Try to Identify What Exactly Scares Your Dog (and Why)
It’s important to note that no two dogs are the same, even though we can draw certain comparisons. So, the first step that you want to make sure is to take an inventory of things that frighten your dog. These could be the things that seem trivial to you, but it’s crucial that you take these fears seriously.
Your pup could be afraid of chairs, for instance. Try to figure out what lead to this fear – maybe someone moved the chair too loudly, or a chair fell on your dog. Take into consideration the fact that you weren’t even present when the particular fear started to develop, especially if your dog is adopted.
Another example of the fear that commonly occurs in dogs is the fear of people. Again, try to figure out whether the dog is afraid only of certain people, or people in general. If it’s only a specific person that your dog’s afraid of, chances are there was a traumatic event in the past that led to this. This doesn’t mean that that particular person was in any way mean to your dog. As we’ve said, it could be something trivial: she or he could’ve dropped her or his keys in front of your dog and this made it scared.
Just remember to be very patient with this process of identifying what exactly scares your dog and why. It could take weeks, months, or even years to get to the root cause of your dog’s anxiety.
Keep the Scary Things Away
Once you’ve realised what is it that makes your dog so anxious and fearful, it’s probably the best idea to keep these scary things away from your pooch. There are some theories that say that you actually need to expose the dog to the things that frighten it, but this can be counter-productive and can lead to even bigger anxiety problems. It’s essential to get informed on these things and issues as much as possible – it’s strongly advised to talk to your vet, read books on dog behaviour, or visit specialised blogs like Totally Goldens, for example. That way you’ll be in a better position to assess your particular situation and help your doggy in the long run.
We also recommend you to use methods such as white noise generators (which drown out small noises that might be upsetting your dog); window film covers (these are particularly useful if your dog gets stressed out while looking at the street); door signs that warn people to knock or call before ringing the doorbell, etc.
Use Various Calming Tools and Training Methods
Apart from implementing these methods and reading specialized books and blogs, you can also use different calming tools and training models to help your dog reduce stress and fight anxiety.
Adequate exercises are an awesome tool that can fix many dog behaviour issues. In some cases it’s enough just to take longer or more frequent walks. It’s also advised to have something that keeps both your dog’s mind and body busy throughout the day. That way your dog can slowly but surely become more active and interested in things, and less afraid.
Confidence Building Exercises
These exercises are a lot like regular ones, but they’re specifically designed to help your dog gain more confidence. When your pooch sees or hears something that stresses it out, it reacts with fear and anxiety.
The idea behind these confidence building exercises is to help your dog slowly realise that those things that frighten it aren’t supposed to be scary. Depending on the level of anxiety your dog demonstrates, there are different games that you ought to play together. For instance, if the dog is truly terrified, the so-called ’free shaping’ is recommended. Then there are also games called ’engage-disengage’, ’treat and retreat’, and several others. Find out which one of these is most likely to help your dog and exercise regularly.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with dog anxiety can be really challenging at times. One of the first things that you want to do if your pup is often fearful and stressed out is to figure out what exactly caused this agitation and jitteriness. Once you get to the root of the problem, it’s time to start implementing some of the methods and models that can help your dog deal with the fright and consternation it’s experiencing.
About the author
Sofia Alves is a volunteer with local dog rescues and a freelance writer. She treats all animals as if they were her own. Sofia’s family includes her husband, a 3-year-old daughter and a sweet 7-year-old Hungarian vizsla, Lily. Outside of loving pets and spending time with her family, she’s probably bicycling somewhere in nature.