Dogs can also get stressed if left alone too long during the day, with unhappy results for owners and pets: without socialization, exercise or mental stimulation, you are apt to get develop a dog whose patience for entertaining himself runs out and George becomes anxious waiting for you to arrive home.
Canine experts say dog anxiety falls into three categories: noise anxiety, separation anxiety, and social anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety can include excessive barking, pacing, panting, trembling, excessive licking, hiding, climbing up onto the owner, exhibiting destructive or aggressive behavior.
Noise anxiety is just what you think: the dog reacts to thunderstorms, fireworks, sometimes even vacuum cleaners. Our Spinone, Radar, a jolly fellow most days, was in his pen one evening when a flash storm arrived. Lightning hit a tree near his doghouse. At night he still won’t run down into his pen without encouragement–and this is three years later.
Separation anxiety occurs when owners are absent and the dog destroys objects in his immediate area; they can even hurt themselves.
Social anxiety happens when a pup hasn’t received enough socialization at an early age. Rather than exhibit curiosity to new circumstances, these dogs become fearful of people, which can lead to aggressive behavior, usually a sign of fear.
What are natural remedies to relieve these symptoms and make life easier for Rufus and you? There are plenty of options, once you decide which kind of anxiety has your pup in its grip.
First off, exercise your dog more. This is especially key for separation anxiety. Increase walk time and include tossing a ball or stick. Find out what kind of play your dog likes and give her a daily session in addition to walks. A tired dog is less likely to be destructive.
Next, increase training. Stressed dogs often lack enough mental stimulation. Dogs like to have “work” that translates to obedience or agility training. Find out what your breed’s natural inclination is and highlight that. Our Spinone is a bird retriever with webbed feet for water retrieval, so he swims almost daily in our river, and has been known to chase ducks away!
Herbal supplements. Some dogs do well with calming herbal supplements, such as chamomile, passionflower, skullcap, or valerian root. There are over-the-counter formulas available and may help noise stress and social anxiety. These often work for dogs getting used to car travel, too, without resorting to prescription medications.
Nutritional supplements such as melatonin, a sleep aid in humans, and tryptophan, an amino acid, have been shown to decrease dog aggression without the same effects they have in humans. Always consult your vet before adding anything to your dog’s diet. Never give your dog a human product without consulting your vet for proper dosage.
Try relaxation techniques. Ever think you’d give your dog a massage? Let that big hunk of love loll on his side and rub his back along with the spine, massage those hind quarters, rub his neck. Some dogs love Epsom salt baths. Water and touch can be calming.
Pheromones are available as sprays and plug-ins and mimic a scent from a mother dog in puppies. Available online and in pet stores, these may reduce behaviors in all categories.
Finally, pressure garments, which have been getting a lot of press lately, are used to give a dog the same swaddling effect we use on infants. These work especially well on noise anxiety, as when you hear a thunderstorm approaching, or for those dogs who lick excessively. They look like tee shirts the dogs wears at pertinent times that put pressure on acupressure points on her body.
Reducing owner anxiety can be helpful, too, as dogs empathize with their owners’ mood. But it’s crucial that as a responsible dog owner, you create a friendly atmosphere for your dog, one filled with exercise and stimulation.
A stressed dog needs a patient owner, willing to find the right combination of training, exercise and natural remedies to find relief. However the most important ingredient in your pet’s life? Quality with time with you, his human owner.