Just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety, a state of mind characterized by great restlessness, nervousness and insecurity. When we adopt or welcome a new pet into our home and family, we not only become responsible for satisfying their basic needs, such as food and shelter, but we also must ensure their well-being, which includes their mental health.A Dog suffering from anxiety will try to get rid of their discomfort by developing new habits. These alterations to their behavior can significantly change the dynamic of your relationship and affect your lives together. Click To Tweet Anxiety can also cause dogs to harm themselves, feel unwell, displaying symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, get sick more often, and possibly develop other, more serious health problems.
There are many possible reasons and signs of anxiety in dogs. Some of the most common are:
1. Lack of socialization
Socialization is the process through which a dog is exposed to and learns to interact with people, other dogs, and their environment. The pack spirit is a trait that they inherited from their ancestors, the wolves.Dogs are social animals, who need to feel part of a group to feel safe, because the group increases their chances of survival. Click To Tweet
Therefore, it is very important for dogs to begin to socialize at a young age i.e. between the first and the fourth month of life, to avoid them developing anxiety later on in their lives, which can result in aggressiveness towards humans or other dogs. It is also crucial to avoid leaving dogs home alone for extended periods of time.Lack of interaction with their humans can cause dogs to get bored and suffer from stress. This can encourage them to seek attention through excessive barking, groaning, howling, tremors or nervousness. Click To Tweet
Spending so much time on their own can also create separation anxiety. As puppies grow, they become more independent and their tolerance for separation increases. Dogs who have experienced abandonment, have been separated from their mother before 8 weeks or have suffered abuse often have a harder time managing or tolerating the separation from their owners.
2. Lack of exercise and activity
A dog’s need for exercise can depend on their age, breed, size, and health status. Nevertheless, physical activity is crucial to avoid putting on too much weight as well as a lack of endurance, which can lead to obesity. It can also prevent them from becoming withdrawn, bored or frustrated and thus releasing pent-up energy in undesirable ways, such as destructive behavior or hyperactivity such as excessive jumping and running.
3. Fear of noise
Many dogs have a fear of strong and loud noises, such as fireworks, traffic noises, thunderstorms, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, etc. It might stem from a dangerous or scary event occurred in the past. Dog's phobia to loud noises can occur even when the animal has not suffered a traumatic situation associated with that loud sound. Click To Tweet
Dogs with fear of noise are able to able to remember past events and by associating related particularities to a sound, they can anticipate noises or be weary of their possible occurrence. Such particularities could be, for example, seeing the vacuum cleaner, the television, or hearing a group of people in the street. This leads to them being constantly tense, vigilant and alert.
Fear of noise is frequently associated with destructive behavior, such as breaking house furniture, clothes and everything they can find, especially when he or she is alone. In the worst cases, trying to hide or escape the situation to reduce their anxiety can result in a dog running away from home and getting lost.
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4. Cognitive dysfunction
This problem, similar to senile behavior and dementia in people, appears in elderly dogs, especially after the 10 years of life, and mostly at night. It is caused by changes in the brain that slow the mental functioning of dogs.
The symptoms of cognitive disfunction include:
- Reduced motor function;
- Abnormal sleeping patterns;
- Loss of memory.
A dog affected by a cognitive disfunction could display an inability to recognize their family, to respond to calls and commands, or reverse behaviors learned early in life as for example going to the bathroom outside or in their usual spot.
5. Changes in the environmentIt is important to pay attention to what causes your dog stress and look for options to ease their anxiety as soon as possible. Click To Tweet
You may need to seek professional help from your trusted veterinarian or an ethologist, who studies behavioral disorders, in order to find the right treatment and address the issue before it gets worse. It might take some time to identify the particular triggers and you may need to try different treatments. But with information, dedication, and love, you can help your dog overcome anxiety symptoms and have a better quality of life.