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What Owners Should Know About Dog Anxiety

What Owners Should Know About Dog Anxiety

Dogs may suffer from much of the same problems we do as humans. It's not limited to breed or age and can occur in any dog that you have. Your dog may be suffering from anxiety, but you might mistake it for something else. Misdiagnosis makes it more difficult to pinpoint the problem and suggest solutions. If you don't realize your dog is suffering from anxiety, it may grow, and before you know it, your pet may develop a disorder. How can you tell if your dog has anxiety? How can an owner treat their dog's anxiety? This article looks at some of the telltale signs that can inform you about your dog's anxiety, and offer you simple ways to deal with it.

The Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Dog anxiety may come from several factors. Among the most common ones you may encounter are:

Aging Anxiety

Older dogs suffer from anxiety related to their advanced age. As dogs get older, they may start losing their cognitive ability. The term for this malady is cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Dogs with CDS become anxious because they don't know why they can't think straight. It's much like humans that are suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Separation Anxiety

Typically, when pets are left alone, they aren't much bothered. However, if a pet became abandoned earlier in life, they develop separation anxiety when they can't see or hear their owner. In such a case, the pet may start displaying all sorts of undesirable behavior, including urinating and aggressiveness towards furniture or other fixtures.

Fear-Related Anxiety

Dogs that are startled by loud noises may demonstrate anxiety as part of their response mechanism. Strange people or animals may also prompt this anxious response. Specific situations such as a vet's office or car rides might also trigger their anxiety. While some dogs might only have minor anxiety episodes, their impact may be longer-lasting and only show up after a long time.

Typical Symptoms of Anxiety

One of the most common ways to spot anxiety in your dog is aggressive. There's no specification as to whether it's targeted aggression or not. They may just lash out at anything in front of them, including your pillows or other household items. Direct aggression happens when your pet aims its ire at a particular person or animal. If you have other pets, you might find that they start acting aggressively towards other animals in your home. Indirect aggression happens when a person gets between the dog and the target of its direct aggression. Both of these situations can be dangerous for the owner.

One of the most common fallouts of separation anxiety is urinating or defecation within the house. Separation anxiety leads to a dog working themselves up about their owner, not coming back for them. This sort of mental anguish can lead to them letting go, the fear causing them to urinate or defecate in their enclosures. Getting a calming pet bed can help them deal with separation anxiety. However, if they keep up this behavior, it may be more deep-seated than simple separation anxiety.

Destructive behavior also happens with separation anxiety. As an owner, you're likely to see this destruction near the entry and exit points of your home. While you might not care if your pet destroys some of the less critical stuff near your doors, there's something else to worry about here. Dogs that engage in destructive behaviors are also a danger to themselves. When they're kept in dog crates or enclosures, they might try to break out of them and injure themselves in the process.

Treating Anxiety in Dogs

The first step to treating your dog's anxiety is checking in with your veterinarian. They'll be better suited to diagnose the type of anxiety your dog suffers from and suggest potential ways to help them cope with it. A trained vet will spot what's triggering your pet's anxiety and help you deal with the root cause. Between counterconditioning and medicine, your dog will be back to its regular self in no time.

Counterconditioning is a type of training that replaces the anxiety response with something else. Instead of acting aggressively when the trigger prompts them, their response behavior might be something like sitting or focusing on their owner. Desensitization is another method of helping your dog cope with anxiety. This method sees the owner introducing the stimulus for the anxiety in small doses. Over time, the dog becomes desensitized to the trigger and doesn't pay it any mind. Obviously, these training techniques are only useful in some cases. Aging anxiety, for instance, may require medicine to help soothe the dog's emotions.

The drug selegiline is the most commonly used medication for dogs suffering from CDS. It reduces some of the symptoms of the disease and is even used extensively to treat anxiety in Europe. If your dog suffers from a severe anxiety disorder, then you may need to look at SSRIs and antidepressants. If your dog only acts up during certain events, such as thunderstorms, your veterinarian may prescribe benzodiazepine alongside other antidepressants to help them deal with the stress. Some dog owners have stated that they've seen some improvement in their dogs' condition while using CBD oil. While the therapy is still new and experimental, anecdotal evidence suggests some validity in its use. However, owners should be aware that CBD products are not yet regulated, so you're unsure what your furry friend is getting per dose.

Do What's Best for Your Dog

Most owners see their dogs as significant members of their family. Helping them deal with their anxiety is essential to keep them healthy throughout their lives. As a responsible owner, it's up to you to determine if your dog's suffering from this problem and how you can help them get over it. Pet anxiety is something that they can only overcome with your help. With training and the right medication, you'll both see an end to this problem.

Making the Most of Your Dog Training Sessions

Making the Most of Your Dog Training Sessions

Training a dog can be a time-consuming but ultimately rewarding experience. We all enjoy seeing our pets be well-behaved. It saves us the time and effort of picking up after them if they do something wrong. However, how an owner approaches training can have a significant impact on how well-trained your pet is. Session-based activity is typically how owners approach training their dogs. However, with so many different ideas about training a pet, it can be challenging to figure out which training methodology is best for your fur baby. In this article, we'll look at how you can maximize the effectiveness of your pup's training while remaining flexible and teaching them all that you can.

Why Session Training?

Scientifically speaking, the more often you train your dog, the faster he or she is likely to learn. Sessions are the best way to train a dog, but there is such a thing as overtraining. Ideally, as a pet owner, you'd want to dedicate a short period during the week to train your pet. Many owners opt for a single hour on the weekends, followed by an hour during the week. Dogs tend to prefer this type of training, as experiments have shown that overdoing this type of training can lead to dogs taking longer to learn certain behaviors.

Sessions can be any length of time you decide, but you should be consistent with how you schedule training. Many dogs don't have the mental stamina to think about a particular task for more than fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. Others may be able to work for a solid hour on a task. How you break up the training time depends on how well your dog operates during a particular period.

Being consistent can be useful, as well. Dogs get used to routines quickly, and setting up sessions that can teach your dog about the practice will have them excited for the lesson. Each session should be focused on helping your dog learn a specific task, and when they manage to accomplish that task, they're rewarded. Training sessions can be used as a precursor to obedience training or even reinforcing basic commands that the dog should be used to. You should keep these sessions standard and try not to cut them short or cancel them since it would send the wrong message to your fur baby.

Focus On a Single Goal

You may want to teach your dog several things over their lifetime, but trying to fit all of those tasks into a single training session will confuse them. As smart as pups are, they aren't, they aren't known for their ability to keep multiple ideas in their head simultaneously. Pick a focus that you want to deal with during your training session and work on it. Picking a single command will help the dog stay focused and keep you both on track. If your training session is elaborate and your dog isn't doing well, you have the option of falling back on a previously learned behavior. Using this method can help your pet know that the end of the session is coming and might be used as rewarding behavior.

Use Areas Without Major Distractions

Pups can be easily distracted. As any dog owner knows, all it takes is a single loud noise or strange sound to make your pup look away and take an interest in something that isn't their concern. Even those that have a lot of discipline can be distracted in some situations. This distraction can prove costly if you're trying to get your dog to learn a new trick or command. The best way to deal with this situation is to start your first learning session for your pup in a quiet location that won't add distractions to the session. An excellent option for this is starting in your living room. This location gives your pup a friendly interior space with a minimum of distractions. After you've got the basics of the command or trick down, you can take them to the dog park for your next session and put them through their paces.

Use Positive Reinforcement to End Sessions

Depending on how you set out to train your dog, you can choose several ways to end their training with each session. Offering them a particular soft toy can give them a reward to look forward to. However, if you go this route, it should be a special toy that they don't play with all the time. They'll start associating playing with this toy at the end of their training session. Alternatively, some owners use a clicker to train their pets. The clicker offers a robust, sharp sound that lets your pet know that they've done something right. The difference between the click and the behavior is so close that your pup can usually associate one with the other. Treats can also work, but they have the downside of lag-time between the puppy performing the behavior and then getting the treat. If your pup can't seem to get the hang of a particular trick or behavior, you may want to switch to something they've learned before towards the end of the session.

One of the most important things owners can do to help their pups learn important lessons is to reinforce them during daily life. Your dog will start using their behaviors during the day, and it's up to you to show them that what they did was what you wanted them to do. Dog training sessions can introduce new behaviors and have them practice in a controlled environment. By themselves, they're just a place for your dog to learn something new. You have to let them know how to apply that learned behavior to their lives. Toys and treats are great ways of helping them reinforce this behavior.

Your Dog is Smarter Than You Think

Many owners know their dogs are smart, but they don't realize how deep their learning potential goes. However, dogs work far better with positive reinforcement than negative. Trying to beat a specific type of behavior into your dog won't work. The failure of this method isn't because your dog is not smart. Instead, it's because your dog needs that positive reinforcement to learn. Don't think that your dog will discover a new skill overnight either. More complex skills take time to teach, and you'll need to have patience before your pup learns them. Even so, it's well worth the time you spend training them on proper behavior.

Do Calming Dog Beds Really Work?

Do Calming Dog Beds Really Work?

Shopping for dog accessories over the last few months must have introduced you to the idea of calming dog beds. These pet beds claim to help your dog deal with issues like separation anxiety, but do they really work? Pet psychology is a complex topic. Many researchers have chimed in on their opinions of whether pet beds work, and the results are pretty surprising. To help pet parents make a more informed decision, we've decided to delve into the science of this phenomenon and see if calming pet beds really fulfill the claims they make. What we found turns out to be quite interesting.

Calming Pet Beds DO Work...Somewhat

Before we delve into the exceptions, the science behind the calming pet bed is sound. Have you ever witnessed puppies right after they're born? They don't have many senses, but the sense of smell and touch are the most well-developed at the start. Their first moments in the cold, cruel world are dominated by seeking out their mom's milk. Usually, this means sidling up to a teat snuggled warmly between their littermates. At this point, they're both warm and fed, and it's their very first moment of happiness. This first moment sticks in their minds through the rest of their lives and shapes their world.

Dog psychologists have noted that dogs associate sense with feelings, much the same as humans. It's not a wonder we're so close to them as a species. That scent of fur and the warm, snuggling feeling of being amongst their littermates is a feeling they associate with calming. Using this principle, the manufacturers of dog beds can simulate that calming feeling and give them a sense of being at ease.

Your Cuddling Also Helps

When your pet is stressed or anxious, and you cuddle them, they tend to burrow into you and try to escape the world. Does that burrowing seem familiar? It's the same sort of behavior that happens when they're just wee puppies, looking for comfort from their mom. As a per parent, this shouldn't come as a surprise that you're the person they look to for protection and comfort. When you hug them, you impart the same feeling that they associate with calmness and safety.

The downside is that while you provide a safe-zone, you don't smell like what they associate with protection. Your clothes don't have that inherent scent of their mom's fur or any fur in particular. Now, this isn't a failure on your part. But for your dog, it could ruin the feeling of comfort and could lead to them getting mixed signals from their furry brains. The result is that they're half-calmed and half-anxious. This disassociation could lead to any number of problems, from snapping at you to having an accident right there.

Pet beds handle this better than you do by giving your pet a nice, warm spot to snuggle up into and enjoy that has that fur scent. What's more, it has that pressure and warmth that they associate with their time of comfort. These elements are essential to help them simulate that comfort and calm their nerves. If you've ever seen your pets go crazy on the night of the Fourth of July where the fireworks are going off all over, you know how necessary this sort of thing is for them. However, you should be aware that not all calming pet beds are built along the same lines.

The Elements Of a Good Pet Bed

When we look at the science, a calming pet bed that works at what it suggests only needs to have two things - raised edges to provide just enough pressure and fur for the warmth and scent. Many pet beds these days use faux-fur and scent it accordingly. With time, it'll adopt your pet's natural smell and make them feel even more at home. It's essential that you get a calming bed that doesn't stifle your pet with raised edges that take too much effort for them to climb out of them. If you're looking for a pet bed to help with their anxiety, these are perfect. However, not all of them are made the same way.

We've seen pet bets that claim to be calming beds, but their construction left us wondering how they came up with that classification. Synthetic materials shouldn't have any place within a pet bed. They don't add to the feeling of comfort and, instead of comforting, introduces new scents that will serve to confuse and agitate your pet even more. The worst thing you could do for your furbaby is to get them a pet bed that has an entirely plastic-covered interior. This material isolates them from the pet bed and can provoke anxiety even more.

Many manufacturers making these beds don't seem to understand the basic premise. We've seen beds with memory foam inserts that might seem really good for a human but are really bad for a calming pet bed. These foam inserts provide a soft spot for your pet to lay, but they can trap heat and become unbearably hot in the summer. They would also need to be washed regularly. If your pet has an accident on it or lies on it with their muddy fur, it could permanently stain or damage the insert. Memory foam also doesn't provide any actual calming benefits to your dog.

Your Responsibility As a Pet Parent

Calming an anxious dog can be a challenging prospect. Some dog owners use medication to sedate their pet, but this isn't the type of solution you should look at as a responsible pet parent. Instead, your dog should have a place where he or she can run to ease their anxiety. The bed provides a safe space built just for them, made out of materials and scents that they associate with their happiest times. Just like humans, dogs associate their feelings and senses with memories. That's why choosing a calming pet bed needs to take these sensations into account. Keep the synthetics down to a minimum, but the warmth, pressure, and comfort should be an integral part of the bed's construction.