Anxiety is a disorder that affects many humans day in and day out.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can create a massive impact on the quality of life a human has when they are suffering from attacks.
Nowadays, we are gaining more and more insight into the issue and what we can do to treat the disorder…but what do we do when it is prevalent in our dogs?
How do we ease their stress and anxiety throughout the different stages of their life? For many, identifying and understanding anxiety in their pets is difficult, so to help pet owners, we wrote this blog to help you help your pets through all phases of their life.
Puppy Stage (6 weeks to 20 weeks)
When you bring home a puppy, it can be hard to look past the excitement of this new phase in your life. However, for the puppy itself, it can appear quite daunting. They have been ripped away from their mother, are in new surroundings, and have no idea who on Earth they are or where they are. To them, the routine they were fostering for the last 6-8 weeks has turned upside down.
Dogs are a creature of habit, innately instilled within them from the first day they are born. Although they haven’t been Earth-side for too long, they still had their comfort back at their mother’s side. So how do we ensure a safe and comforting environment that will ease their stress from the start?
The first 8-20 weeks are imperative for development, so it is important that your puppy feels safe and comfortable in their new home. Here are a few things to do to set up their welcome to make their homecoming a success.
- Puppy proof your home. This way, the puppy isn’t getting into anything that they shouldn’t, as it could be either harmful or possibly frustrating for you. To prevent a situation of reprimand, as this could easily scare a puppy that isn’t quite used to you or trust you just yet.
- If you have children, teach them the best manners to play with a dog. They can get overly excited (who wouldn’t?); however, this can easily scare and be harmful if their excitement turns into something physical. When it is time for the children to meet the dog, have them sit down with a small treat in the palm of their open hand, and one at a time, they may call the puppy over. Then take the focus off the dog by giving the children another activity. This way, the dog can get to know the children at a pace it is comfortable with. If the puppy is just not interested or signs that they are scared, do not force the interaction. Try again at another time.
- If the puppy is used to a blanket or a toy from the breeder/foster carer/shelter, ensure that you bring that home with you so that they have something familiar.
- The first few nights, sleeping alone can be challenging for the puppy; they may begin to cry and fret. Ensure they are placed in a secure place, such as a crate.
20 weeks to 2 years
During COVID, the label COVID puppy or COVID dog has been coined. Why? Because more and more dogs are becoming anxious and scared of their shadows. They have been cooped up inside, and although they love the time they get to spend with you when it comes to the outside world, they instantly feel overwhelmed and charged with stress.
Socialization is super essential for your dogs; they are, in fact, social creatures. It is good to help your dog get used to other people, other dogs, and their reflection (not really, but we thought we’d add this one in any way).
Some great ways to encourage this is by going out on walks. Instead of keeping to the paths you know, try a different direction. Consider visiting a dog park or two to allow your dog interactions with other dogs. Just be sure they have had all their puppy vaccines before going.
If dog parks are overwhelming for your puppy, consider registering it in a puppy socialization class where they can learn, grow, and become comfortable with other dogs their age.
Doggy daycare can do wonders for your pup for those dogs craving excitement and are a natural social butterfly! They will ensure that your dog expends their energy, interact with different team members and befriend other dogs!
It can be hard to go back to work or leave the house; this is when COVID puppies become the most stressed; finding new and exciting ways to get their social interaction meter up will help ease your anxiety also.
Just because your dog is an adult does not mean that they will not face being anxious. It’s in a dog’s nature to feel anxiety as they are so in tune with their surroundings. Dogs are creatures of habit, so your dog will not be happy if something stirs that routine.
Traveling, moving, separation from their owners, losing their four-legged partner, and more can heighten a dog’s anxiety, but what are you supposed to do? How do you help alleviate it and show them that it is okay?
When it comes to moving and or traveling, remember that your dog needs time to adjust. They may go on a hunger strike; they may start howling, whining, soiling, or even showing signs of aggression. Your best bet is to create a safe space for them in your new home with all their creature comforts, such as their bed, toys, food, and water bowls.
The best way to keep on your dog’s good side is to understand their triggers and provide options to prevent them.
Like adults, when dogs become elderly and fragile, it is as if they have transformed back to their puppy state.
One common cause of anxiety for dogs when they reach old age is losing their eyesight. Older dogs can show signs of stress when furniture is moved when they begin bumping into things.
In saying that, to help eliminate this stress and to put them at ease, do not move the furniture. In your dog’s mind’s eye, they can still be spatially aware. Imagine if you had closed your eyes, you could still get a sense of where the furniture is if this moves, and you find out the hard way (ouch!) your panic and the world you once had known gets skewed.
Senior dogs are more likely to get anxious around new people as they didn’t have the same tolerance they once had when they were younger. They may not enjoy getting pets from strangers and, more so, can only trust those whom they live with. As they start feeling unfamiliar with their area and their hearing begins to degrade, senior dogs tend to become more vocal. A way to ensure that your aging dogs feel right at home, comfortable and safe is by first checking in with yourself whether you are aggravating the problem and in what ways you can show them that they are safe around you and your home.
Dogs can be mighty anxious; however, as their responsible guardian, it is our duty to ensure that we help with their anxiety at every stage of their life. However, it is all right to take that break that you may be needing.
If you ever feel the need to take a break, don’t tune into the guilty thoughts; instead, leave your pets in good hands who are educated to handle these situations and more; book a call with us today.