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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.

Correcting Bad Behavior: Stealing Food And Jumping On People

Correcting Bad Behavior: Stealing Food And Jumping On People

Dog owners run into problems with their dog's behavior, but two stand out as being the hardest to break them of: jumping on people and stealing food. Both of these behaviors focus on the fundamental nature of a dog, but as a pet, they should be trained to avoid these primal instincts. Because dogs are resilient and smart, high counters usually pose no problems in getting a bite of your food. For aggressive breeds, this type of bad habit can lead to terrible effects. Aggressiveness combined with the draw of free food could lead to a pet attacking someone else. Additionally, if you have a large dog, they can just as quickly jump on someone and knock them down, potentially leading to injuries. Combine them, and you get a recipe for disaster. These behaviors can become a problem, but you can deal with them early on with the right kind of training.

How to Deal With Food Stealing

Food stealing is an insidious habit that makes its own reward. If you've tried training dogs before, you know that the prize is an essential part of the training regimen. A dog will do anything for a treat and feel as though he or she has been rewarded. What if the behavior offers a treat itself? Dogs that steal food from the top of tables or counters see it as a "good" behavior because they get rewarde3d with a treat. Even yelling at them may not get them to stop. Dogs see loud exclamations as praise primarily and may mistake your arguments for telling them they did a good job. Luckily, an owner has a few tricks up their sleeves to help dogs unlearn this behavior.

Get Rid of the Chances

Your dog can't steal anything if there's nothing to steal. While technically, it doesn't stop the behavior, it does remove the temptation. If you have stuff on top of your counter, the best way to make sure the dog doesn't get access to it is to keep him or her out of the kitchen. You can do this by putting up a baby gate to keep your dog out of the kitchen area. Alternatively, you can put them in their safe zone and keep them separated from the rest of the house. A fur dog bed can help to keep them calm while you're letting your pies cool on the kitchen counter.

Use Behavioral Prompts

If you see your dog hanging around in your kitchen, it's not in your best interests to yell at him or her. Instead, just tell them to "go to your place" and reward them when they do. The draw of a reward is the most thrilling part of their countertop capers, and by replacing the food on the counter with a treat, you can help to circumvent their behavior. However, even if your dog is trained, you should be careful not to leave food lying around. Even the most well-trained of dogs will give into temptation if it's strong enough. Try to keep your pet out of those situations where their training gets strained because of available food.

Besides sending them to their "safe spot" in the house, you can also teach your pet to understand the command "Leave It." If you catch your dog getting into something that they shouldn't have, you can get them to put it down by using the command. This command has the bonus of being useful in situations where your dog may have something poisonous in his or her mouth. Getting them to understand the "Leave it" command can come in handy in many different situations. As a behavioral prompt, it's one of the most versatile tools a pet trainer can have in his or her arsenal.

Dealing with Jumping on People

Jumping is a behavior that comes from a pup's need to get attention. When they were puppies, leaping and barking was about the only way they'd get you to notice them. However, as they get bigger, leaping on you can be a negative behavior and one you need to break them of. When they're only a handful, jumping up can seem like a fun sight. When they cross 100 lbs. and are taller than you are, leaping could knock you down and injure you. Teaching your dog how to stop jumping is a more straightforward process than most pet parents think it is. It would be easier to teach a puppy not to jump, but by the time their jumping becomes a problem, that ship has sailed. So, how does a dog owner teach their fur baby some manners when it comes to jumping on others?

Prevent Jumping Through Proactive Methods

While this is the most straightforward approach, it's not really a very helpful one. Keeping your pet in an enclosed area where they can't get the opportunity to jump on others is a viable solution. Many dogs have their own places within their homes that they use as a safe space. Keeping them in this safe space may help them manage their jumping urges while keeping them comfortable and happy. If they're walking, you may need to keep them on a tight leash. This approach can control their jumping, but if you have an incredibly energetic dog, it could injure you in an attempt to keep their behavior in check. While these methods are viable, they aren't usually the best way to stop a dog from leaping on others.

Teach Polite Greetings

Polite greetings are those that don't result in damaging someone else or pushing them over. When choosing a polite greeting, make sure that your dog can't both jump and perform the greeting action. Typical greetings include standing on all fours on the floor with tail wags or rolling onto their pet bed. One of the more people-friendly greetings is rolling over to expose their tummy for scratches. These polite behaviors are an excellent method of replacing the jumping behavior with one that's more conducive to meeting and greeting people.

Once you chose a particular behavior, you need to pick your training times. You can't try to replace their behavior with something else when they're stressed or agitated, so choose a time when your pet is relaxed. You won't have much luck trying to train them to stop jumping if they're already jumping. When you start training, use high-value doggie treats as rewards. These are far more rewarding than the attention they'd get and are a tangible way for them to experience performing the right action. Since engagement is what these behaviors focus on, the added benefit of making eye contact with your dog to show them you're giving them attention helps reinforce the polite greeting behavior.

Use Negative Reinforcement

A lot of pet parents hear negative reinforcement and start thinking about punishing their dogs. This stereotype isn't exactly the case. Training jumping out of the dog using negative reinforcement requires a dedicated effort on your part. It does take time, but it's well worth the effort. You don't need to introduce anything that will hurt your dog. This training method relies on the most simplistic of principles - if you do what we want, we'll give you what you want.

Training using negative reinforcement starts with approaching your pet slowly while inside their enclosure or safe space. Say hi to them, and if they jump, back away and leave. If they keep all four paws on the floor, you toss them a treat to let them know that was what you wanted them to do. Add in some praise to let them know that they did well. If at any time during the treats and the recognition, they jump, turn around, and walk away.

You should consider repeating this training method a few times a day. Eventually, your pup will associate your attention and the treats with this polite behavior. However, while they may start realizing that this behavior is better, they might still become excited when in the presence of an enthusiastic person. To deal with this, you'll need to increase the intensity of the training. Approach them while talking in a more excited tone and with immediate actions. You're trying to teach them that no matter how eager the person approaching them is, there's no call for them to jump. This behavior will carry through to all of their interactions and make them a more obedient pup as a result.

Teaching Them To Be more Respectful Pets

Your dog needs to respect those around them. Jumping on someone or trying to steal food are destructive behaviors that can result in terrible fallout. If your dog is an indoor dog, especially, this sort of behavior can cause trouble with you and others within the household. The only way to approach this problem is to examine the best way to guide your pet away from this type of behavior gently. The sooner you deal with it, the more acceptable your pet's company will be to everyone.