Tips for Living with a Nervous or Anxious Dog
When someone comes to your front door, does your dog bark excitedly or does he run into another room and hide? How does your dog react when you are out on a walk and another dog approaches to greet him? If your dog seems timid or nervous around other dogs and people it might simply be an aspect of his personality, or it might be something more. It is your job as a dog owner to uncover the underlying cause of your dog’s nervousness and to help him deal with it so he can become a happy and well-adjusted dog.
The first step in dealing with your dog’s shyness is to identify his triggers – the situations or events that cause him to feel nervous or frightened. For example, your dog might be completely comfortable at home around his family but as soon as someone new enters the room he becomes anxious. In addition to identifying the cause of your dog’s nervousness, it may also help for you to assess the degree of his anxiety. Signs of mild fear or anxiety include trembling, tail tucked between the legs, hiding, or passive attempts at escape. Signs of panic include active escape attempts, increased activity, and potentially injurious behaviour.
There are a number of things that could cause anxiety or nervousness in dogs. For one thing, if your dog is sick or injured he will feel very vulnerable and he might avoid contact with other people and dogs as a result. It is also possible that your dog has been traumatized by some kind of negative experience in his past – if your dog experienced something very frightening he might still be dealing with the trauma of it. Another possibility is that your dog wasn’t properly socialized at a young age. The first few weeks of a puppy’s life are incredibly formative – the experiences he has will affect the way he reacts to new situations as an adult. In addition to these causes, it is also possible that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
If your dog is very nervous or anxious, it is probably a good idea to take him to the vet to rule out any underlying conditions that could be responsible for his behavior. In the event that your dog’s behavior isn’t due to some kind of medical problem, you should take the time to observe his behavior so you can identify the triggers and determine the underlying cause. Once you know why your dog acts the way he does, you can start coaxing him out of his shell. Do not force your dog to do anything that makes him uncomfortable, but work with him to reduce his anxiety.
Below you will find a list of ten tips to help your nervous or anxious dog:
- Stick to a stable routine as much as possible so your dog feels comfortable at home.
- Try pairing your nervous dog with a confident but relaxed dog for walks and playdates.
- Praise and reward your dog when he steps outside his anxiety and does something new and brave.
- Take steps to slowly desensitize your dogs to the things and situations that frighten him.
- Try to stay cool and calm when your dog is nervous so he doesn’t pick up on your anxiety and become more fearful himself.
- Talk to your veterinarian to see if certain medications might help your dog manage his anxiety.
- Try out some Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) by spritzing it on your dog’s collar.
- Have your dog wear a thundershirt or another pressure wrap to soothe and calm him.
- Speak to an animal behaviourist for an in-depth analysis of your dog’s behaviour and suggestions for behaviour modification.
- Make sure you spend plenty of time with your dog so he doesn’t feel neglected.
Every dog is different and some dogs are simply a little more timid than others – it all depends on your dog’s individual personality. Although some dogs may never completely get over their nervousness, there are a few simple things you can do to make your dog feel more comfortable. The ten tips listed above will help you deal with your dog’s nerves, helping him to become a well-adjusted and happy dog.
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