Are your neighbours annoyed with your dog barking all day? Or do you come home to find your favourite cushion shredded?
Your dog might have anxiety.
Here are some behaviourial changes to look out for:
- excessive barking for no apparent reason
- hiding or avoiding interaction
- decrease or loss of appetite
- chewing, panting or pacing
- trying to escape
- drooling, trembling or shaking
- destructive behaviour
To help your dog, you need to get to the bottom of what's upsetting them. Here are some reasons why they might be anxious.
1. You go to work
Separation anxiety is a big issue for dogs. To fix it, try to make your dog as comfortable as possible before you leave for the day.
Maybe take your dog for an extra long walk in the morning, which will tire them out when he gets home, and leave a toy for them to play with while you’re gone.
You could also take them to a class to build up his confidence.
2. Your dog has a new family
If your dog has been abandoned or given to a new family, they could get anxiety. To help your dog, give them a place of their own – or, a dog crate.
“I'm a fan of crate training," says Nicole Ellis, pet lifestyle expert at Rover.com.
“It's not mean. It gives them a den where they can curl up and calm down.”
Add your dog’s favourite toy and blanket that smells of you. Then place a treat inside the crate for a few days in a row and your dog will start to feel calmer in their new home.
3. Your dog was a fearful puppy
According to Psychology Today, there is a narrow window of opportunity to socialise your dog. After eight weeks of age and between five and eight months of age, "dogs become fearful of strangers and will often single out certain groups, such as children or men, as the target of their fear."
"Fortunately, the process of socialization is really quite easy and enjoyable.”
The idea is to safely and pleasantly expose the puppy to all sorts of different people and places, like different rooms, paved streets, grass, public buildings and any other place your dog is likely to encounter.
Give your pet lots of treats while you socialise them so they have a positive experience with each encounter.
4. You make a fuss when you leave
If you’re feeling hyped up when you leave or come home, your dog will mirror your emotions.
"The calmer you are leaving for the day, the calmer they'll be," explains Ellis.
When you get home, continue to keep it simple and low-key.
5. You’ve move house
Until your dog feels settled in their new environment, give your dog plenty of toys to play with when you're not home.
"That could be anything from a frozen Kong toy with food inside to a snuffle mat where you hide his breakfast," says Ellis.
Building your dog's confidence could also help.
"Taking a scent class is a great way to build confidence—and a confident dog isn't a nervous dog," says Ellis.
6. Your dog is scared of noises
Loud and unexpected noises like fireworks and machinery can terrify your dog.
"Noise phobia is not a training issue, nor is it an obedience problem," The Australian Veterinary Association spokesperson and animal behaviour specialist, Dr Jacqui Ley said.
"It is an overwhelming fear. It’s a medical problem, which is why it’s important for owners to speak to their veterinarian if their animal displays signs of noise phobia."
According to The Australian Veterinary Association, dog owners should take the following precautions to protect their pets:
- keep dogs inside and close all the doors and windows
- prepare a safe and comfortable place like an interior room or under a bed
- allow them to hide if they prefer
- provide toys to help change their emotional state
- consider playing background music or white noise to muffle the noise
- for dogs and cats, pheromone products may help
"The important thing is to help your animal cope with the noise and to comfort them," explains Dr Ley.
"Never punish fearful behaviour as this will only make the situation worse. In some cases, medication is needed to help reduce anxiety in pets and the earlier you seek veterinary help the better."
If your dog's anxiety is severe or doesn't improve, head to the vet for a treatment plan.