Fewer things can tug at your heart strings quite like a dog who is painfully shy or anxious. Dogs who are generally fearful or uncomfortable can be especially challenging for owners who are not familiar with such behaviors. Many anxious dogs express their fears in destructive manners, further exasperating their frustrated owners. Sadly, too many dogs are relinquished to shelters or simply abandoned because of these behaviors. If your dog is exhibiting anxiety or fear, this doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause. Here are a few ways you can help.
Know The Signs
For most dogs with anxiety, the behaviors are severe enough for the owner to know that something is not right. If you think your dog is behaving strangely but can’t quite put your finger on it, look for the signs. Yawning, lip licking, and avoidance are all signals that your dog is stressed. Pay attention when you notice these signals and do your best to determine what may be triggering them.
If you notice that your dog is stressed or fearful, be patient. It will take time to desensitize them to the trigger. Once you’ve determined the trigger, go at your dog’s pace when working to resolve the problem. If you force your dog to face the trigger before he is ready, you could worsen the situation and lose his trust.
Try Classic Conditioning
Classic conditioning is when you associate the stress trigger with something your dog loves. For example, let’s say your dog gets very anxious and fearful when he hears loud noises and that you live close to a marine base where there is no shortage of loud noises. First attempt at desensitization could include giving your pup pieces of chicken during all that booming. If all goes according to plan, your dog’s anxiety of loud noises will dissipate and eventually, there will no longer be an issue.
Seek Professional Help
If you’re dog ‘s anxiety is severe and classic conditioning won’t work, you will want to consult with a professional. Do your research and interview several different kinds of trainers to make sure you hire the right trainer for your dog’s needs. Some trainers specialize in aggression while others focus on basic command training. Find a trainer who understands behavior issues, such as anxiety and fear, and work with them to help ease your dog’s stress.