Living with Canine Anxiety Guest
Canine anxiety is not easy to deal with. For the good of your dog, don’t ignore it – handle it. Trust me, I speak from experience. My dog Nala has separation anxiety and some general anxiety too, but we’ve managed to work through it. Here’s how.
We first noticed Nala developed a new routine when my fiancé and I got home from work. The new routine looked like this: greet us at the door, gulp half a gallon of water, get sick. After it happened a few times in one week, we consulted a vet. Since it didn’t happen every time she drank or when she ate, it wasn’t a digestive issue. It only happened when we arrived home.
The vet gave me a lot of information and ideas for dealing with Nala’s separation anxiety. First step was to scale back the clinginess that was making Nala so anxious every time we left. To do it, I stopped indulging her constant need for attention. She was confused at first, getting more demanding at times, but eventually learned to be on her own.
Second, I made departures a non-event. I walked around in shoes, packed my bag ahead, and wandered around the house with keys in hand. The lack of routine gave her fewer clues that I was leaving. With no warning, she couldn’t work up her anxiety.
The final piece was making my leaving a positive event. Each night before bed, I spread a tablespoon of peanut butter inside a Kong, then froze it overnight. Nala got the frozen Kong just before I walked out the door. She was so distracted, it didn’t matter that I left.
Today, she no longer cares when I leave – whether or not I give her a frozen treat – and she doesn’t get sick when we return home. Success!
With that success under our belts, we moved on to her general anxiety. It showed itself in strange places, around other dogs, and during noisy storms. The solution came in the form of something I saw on TV.
Last night, a loud, blustering storm rolled in. Nala followed me from room to room, laying at my feet and staring outside every few steps. I put on her thunder jacket for dogs and suddenly she was okay. Nala’s ears went from back and tense to forward and playful; she stopped laying at my feet and instead starting jumping around, begging for a game of chase.
How does it make a difference? These jackets are like swaddling clothes for babies – they wrap snugly to provide gentle, relaxing pressure. I can’t deny how it’s worked for us. Last night’s storm was one example; another was a recent vet visit. The jacket helped Nala get through a crowded waiting room where anxious dogs jumped at her. Nala’s response: nothing. She walked calmly past those dogs to the exam room.
What would I recommend to others struggling with their dogs’ anxiety? Try these steps:
1) Identify the trigger of the anxiety. Is it separation? Other dogs? Storms? Vet visits? Identifying the cause will enable you to determine a course of action fit for your dog.
2) Talk to your vet. They will be able to tell anxiety from other issues which may have drastically different treatments. Knowing the triggers from step 1 will help you have a productive conversation with your vet.
3) Be patient. Anxiety takes time to overcome, and the first solution may not be the best. For the good of your dog, be patient and be willing to try multiple solutions. It may take a combination of them to get the best result.
Anxiety wasn’t easy to deal with, but seeing Nala calmer and happier is worth all the work we’ve put in to find the best solutions for her. If your dog has anxiety, please don’t ignore it. It may take work, but you’ll feel rewarded when you see your dog happier too.